Disobedience, relocations, innovation and space for young people: the testimonies of Bartolini, Beck and Niederkofler

The Auditorium was lit up this morning by a decidedly 'brilliant' Talk: the 'three-starred' trio told how they arrived at success, in between changes. Among the topics, the desire to give space to their students

Norbert Niederkofler, Heinz Beck, Enrico Bartolini

Norbert Niederkofler, Heinz Beck, Enrico Bartolini on stage of the Auditorium with Gabriele Zanatta during the last talk of the morning at Identità Milano 2024

It was a decidedly 'brilliant' talk, lighting up the Identità Milano 2024 stage around lunchtime. The event, which closed the morning's works in the Auditorium, featured Enrico Bartolini, of restaurant Enrico Bartolini at Mudec, Heinz Beck, of La Pergola at the Rome Cavalieri, and Norbert Niederkofler of Atelier Moessmer-Norbert Niederkofler, who have all been awarded three Michelin stars.

Unique figures, they are however united by their ability to 'reinvent themselves' and change, without losing their identity. As Paolo Marchi pointed out: “What strikes me about these three chefs is their ability to change and, above all, to pass on their teachings to their students. Not 'secret recipes', therefore, but a positive desire to pass on their knowledge. And, in fact, their sous chefs and their collaborators are achieving important successes over the years.”

Norbert Niederkofler, Heinz Beck and Enrico Bartolini

Norbert Niederkofler, Heinz Beck and Enrico Bartolini

Gabriele Zanatta was also on stage and led and guided the reflections. "We are in front of three chefs who are making the history of Italian cuisine. In front of us there are about 25 stars in three people,” he pointed out. “With many 'firsts': Bartolini brought the three stars back to Milan 25 years after Gualtiero Marchesi, the great disobedient, Heinz Beck was the first chef with a hotel restaurant to win three Michelin stars, Niederkofler managed to 'regain' three Michelin stars and the green star just a few months after changing location.”

The first to tell his story was Niederkofler: “The Atelier Moessmer-Norbert Niederkofler project had been in mind for many years. Then the opportunity to realise it materialised when St. Hubertus was scheduled to close to renovate the premises. It was a hectic and complex time, but also an exciting one. And you only achieve these successes with a solid team. I can rely on Lukas Gerges, who has been with me for seven years now, one of the sommeliers of the future. Another pillar is Mauro Siega, who has been with me for five years, with important experience - also in Copenhagen - and who is now building a new path. They are my arms: with them I have no secrets, they know everything, including numbers and business plans.”

Gabriele Zanatta and Paolo Marchi

Gabriele Zanatta and Paolo Marchi

The occasion was also useful to reiterate the four pillars of 'Cook The Mountain': “No greenhouses, no olive oil or citrus fruits, since we are at 1700 metres and, above all, no waste.  I started the path, today it is the young people who are 'having fun' finding new creative ways to sustainability. Today what you see in Brunico is not a restaurant, but a 'house' with a dual soul: both an ancient place, protected by Fine Arts, and a modern space, with technology and lots of natural light. What gives me most satisfaction? Seeing my students do well. At Care's I have invited more than 40 of my sous chefs who have now made careers and are really changing Italian cuisine. I couldn't be happier. I believe the future of Italian gastronomy is very good, because there are so many good young people.”

Zanatta then introduced Heinz Beck, who did not follow in the 'family' footsteps, but broke new ground: “I have always been a disobedient person,” he said. “We all make choices every day and I am happy with all my 'disobediences'. The professional ones are daily and serve to renew us, to always be creative, to stimulate our team and to feel, in turn, 'alive'. If you do not disobey, you are not alive. Disobedience allows us to give something to others who, in turn, will give something back to us.”

Beck did not want to say much about the new Pergola, as he did not want to “spoil the surprise”, but specified that the colour inspiration will come from the warmth of Rome, with "custom-made' furniture and a concept of 'timeless elegance'.

“After 30 years, the restaurant it’s time to change and we hope that there will be another 30 years of success," he pointed out. "We continue to focus on wellness, because 'we are what we eat', so not just beautiful dishes, but always with the right nutritional intake.”

"And remember, the worst decision is the one not made,' Beck concluded. “Better to be wrong than not to decide. You must constantly renew yourself. We have put on a slightly fresher outfit, but we will not lose our identity.”

The speakers with the traditional commemorative plaque of Identità Milano 2024

The speakers with the traditional commemorative plaque of Identità Milano 2024

Another example of courageous choices was Enrico Bartolini, who travelled from Oltrepò to Mudec. “There are things that happen and others that you seek,” Bartolini explained to the audience. I always liked Milan, but it was too expensive. I saw many particularly beautiful places before choosing Mudec, but I was always afraid that our cuisine would take a back seat. I was afraid that people would come for the prestigious furnishings and ancient columns. Then I realised that a museum could be a perfect place, a location still little exploited in Italy for a restaurant project. Over the years, between one move and another, I learnt to listen better and better to customers, to understand their desires. But that's not all: I have realised that, to have a close-knit team, you must gratify your employees, make them feel good and give them the right space. I constantly ask myself what people need to be happy. Fortunately, people love to go out and enjoy the joys of the table and we... are part of the band!

Once again, a thought was dedicated to young people. “Our task is to set a good example, as Marchesi used to say,” Bartolini concluded. “It is not true that young people don’t want to work. We must gather talent and motivate it. Today is full of young people with a lot of enthusiasm. Our work is special, manual and creative, but we have to teach them that there is an exercise stage that requires humility, which is not submission. We must explain to them that you need patience to get ahead. And then we must make young people understand that you don't all have to be leaders: there are many extraordinary people, even in a position of lesser responsibility, who are a fundamental cog in the wheel of the group.”

To view the full programme of Identità Milano 2024 click here

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

IG2024: the disobedience


Annalisa Cavaleri