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06-02-2023

The possible pasts of Paco Morales, an archaeologist in the kitchen, at Identità Milano 2023

Starting from Andalusia the use of tasting menus to explore history, from the Arab domination to the discovery of the new world. A lesson from the chef from Noor

During his lesson at Identità Milano 2023 Paco M

During his lesson at Identità Milano 2023 Paco Morales presented the dishes in his latest menu at Noor, in Cordoba
(Photo from Brambilla / Serrani)

Paco Morales got on the stage of Identità Milano 2023 introduced by Gabriele Zanatta, who recalled his career marked by his experience in prestigious places among which two icons of Iberian avant-garde stand out: elBulli with Ferran Adrià and Mugaritz with Andoni Luis Aduriz. He had already participated in Identità Milano, a few years ago. It was back in 2009 and Morales was then considered an enfant prodige in the Spanish scene. 

In that period, Morales was starting an important adventure. With tennis player Juan Carlos Ferrero as his business partner, he became the culinary manager of the entire Ferrero group, having the possibility of fully expressing himself at restaurant Paco Morales inside Hotel Ferrero, in Bocairent, near Valencia. 

Paco Morales with Gabriele Zanatta

Paco Morales with Gabriele Zanatta

During his lesson, Morales referred explicitly to this experience, or rather to its end, recalling the exact date: the 23rd of March 2013, almost ten years ago. That day Ferrero told him he’d end their collaboration. «At that moment I thought the world was over, everything was destroyed. Instead, it was the beginning of a new and even more important story».

The story that was about to be born is called Noor (“light” in Arabic) and is in Cordoba. It’s not just a restaurant, but a unique project of culinary archaeology. Paco Morales’s approach to cooking goes beyond the simple offer of something good: through the tasting menus offered in each season after he opened, the chef took a completely new challenge, a surely revolutionary one for fine dining, as well as a very brave and fascinating one.

Paco Morales on the stage with sous chef Paola Gualandi

Paco Morales on the stage with sous chef Paola Gualandi

The choice was to tell, each year, the history of one century of Al-Ándalus, the time when Arabs dominated Cordoba and a great part of the peninsula that now includes Spain and Portugal. On the 16th of March 2016, three years after that moment of crisis that Morales recalled, Noor presented its first three menus, dedicated to the era of the Cordoba Caliphate, in the 10th Century, a time of political and economic splendour for the region. 

And so on, in the following seasons: the three kingdoms of Taifa (11th Century) in 2017, the the Almohad and Almoravid Caliphates (12th and 13th Century) in 2018, the Nazari kingdom in 2019 (14th Century); in 2020 the menus covered a retrospective that embraced the previous eras, while in 2021-2022 Morales continued the flow of history dedicating himself to the cuisine of the New Andalusian World (15th and 16th century), exploring the cuisine of the Spaniards who had travelled to America, matching the new ingredients they discovered with the flavours and recipes of their tradition. 

Seasoned cherry tomatoes with gel and soup of mandarin and semi-cured tuna

Seasoned cherry tomatoes with gel and soup of mandarin and semi-cured tuna

An example of Morales’s latest creative effort was given by the dish he presented at Identità Milano 2023: Seasoned cherry tomatoes with gel and soup of mandarin and semi-cured tuna a perfect representation of the arrival in the Iberian Peninsula of both an ingredient like tomato from the new world, and of the citrus fruits introduced by the Arabs. The materialisation of a cuisine of “possible pasts”, in the words used to describe the style of Paco Morales

Is everything so strictly consistent, in Morales’s menus? No, not completely. The chef himself explained this during his talk. It was also the only moment when Morales, who spoke very calmly, seemed like he wanted to give a stronger intention to his words: «There is no such thing as purity in this world. Not at all. So even we make some choices in this sense, like adding caviar to a dish on our menu, simply because a large portion of the people whom we address think it is necessary, for a restaurant like ours, to use some noble ingredients too. We would prefer not to, but you must make some compromises». 

Finally, on the stage with Paco Morales, a piece of Italy: young Paola Gualandi from Lecco, something more than a sous chef for Noor

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


IG2023: ladies and gentlemen, the revolution has been served

by

Niccolò Vecchia

Journalist, based in Milan. At 8 years old, he received a Springsteen record as a gift, and nothing was the same since. Music and food are his passions. Author and broadcaster at Radio Popolare since 1997, since 2014 he became part of the staff of Identità Golose 
Instagram: @NiccoloVecchia

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