Davide Caranchini's modern and creative sustainability at Madrid Fusión

The chef from Materia in Cernobbio focused his lesson at the Spanish congress on the interpretation of the typical freshwater antipasto misto, using every part of a trout

Caranchini during his lesson on the morning of Ju

Caranchini during his lesson on the morning of June the 1st in Madrid (all the photos are from Madrid Fusión)

Davide Caranchini is clearly nervous as he takes centre stage in the Auditorium of Madrid Fusión, the international culinary congress that took place earlier this month in the Spanish capital. Born in Como, the chef from restaurant Materia in Cernobbio was presented a few seconds earlier as one of the chefs who are most effectively innovating Italian cuisine, especially thanks to his work with vegetables: his lesson however was not focused on this part of his job, but on a contemporary take on local ingredients, especially freshwater fish, and on sustainability. 

"Pensamiento moderno" is the title of his speech: in order to explain his "modern thought" however, Caranchini started the lesson by speaking of his region. The good ambassador of Lake Como that he is, he recalled that it's not just an area of luxury villas hosting posh weddings receptions, it's not just the place where George Clooney lives, and it's not just a lake area: instead, it is varied and rich, with countryside, mountains and «its inhabitants are hard workers, who dive into all they do. But everyone that will stop and look at the lake, be it a tourist or someone who has always lived here, will notice the emotions that Lario bestows. To us it is a constant source of inspiration for our dishes».

Davide Caranchini then explained, recalling an experience that he's shared with many, how the period of forced closures imposed by the pandemic, on top of being a source of countless difficulties, has also proven to offer a chance to think and question oneself. «While I was stuck at home, I would look outside the window and wonder if, after many years in which we have made ill use of our region, the time had come to treasure it instead of just exploiting it. I started to wonder how I could make Materia more sustainable than how it already was in its first years of existence. I realised that even sustainability must be modern and creative. Another important point for us was that we must focus on people before ingredients: if I think of the small producers, the cheese producers and fishermen with whom we work, who I know  work thinking of sustainability, I realise that if you're not paid what's right, this can lead you to neglect sustainability, but only out of necessity. This is why it's very important to first think of economic sustainability and of the dignity of people's work».

The theme of his edition of Madrid Fusión was "circular gastronomy".  To present this, Caranchini used two slides that can be summed up by four elements: Knowledge – Technique - Ethics - Sustainability. But in order to interpret with a modern thought an idea of circular gastronomy, the chef from Materia suggests adding three more elements: «Mixing ideas, first of all. Sharing ideas with the team on a regular basis, exchanging ideas with chefs from other countries and cultures, getting an understanding of what can be used in one's cooking. Then Sensitivity: cooks are artisans, they put their hands and heart in what they do, they're always in contact with this part of themselves. And finally Thought: when I think of avantgarde when cooking, I don’t think of techniques, of innovative machines, but of ideas. Only if we start to think with a modern approach, we can be modern. You can have the most expensive equipment in the world, but if you don't use it with a modern perspective, you'll make little use of it».

To give a practical example of what he said during the first part of his lesson, Davide Caranchini then presented the dishes chosen on this occasion, all part of the same culinary composition that was inspired by the concept of "freshwater antipasto misto". This Italian classic, when close to a lake often becomes a mix of small dishes which in most cases make use of sea fish, and using only the noblest parts. In this interpretation, instead, this antipasto misto becomes a celebration of just one fish, trout, used in every part. 

The chef from Materia thus started with Trout liver, which he used to make a pâté, served as a small millefoglie, made of this creamy element with a crispy one, made by dehydrating some slices of trout meat, served with a sauce made with fermented porcini.

Trout skin is also dehydrated, and on top he places a tartare of trout seasoned with smoked eel butter and juice of cloves. 

IThe following dish was a contemporary take on Carpione, to overcome the overpowering vinegar, and give a new crispiness to this recipe. The meat of the trout is marinated in a powder of passion berries, that come from the northern coast of Africa. To give crispiness he adds flakes of tempura, then shallot preserved in vinegar and a vinaigrette made with Japanese rice vinegar (tosazu), lemon, oil, and an infusion of previously roasted trout bones.

This is followed by Trout cheeks, marinated for two hours in a garum of agone, then breaded and fried. They're served with sour cream made with apple vinegar in which elderberry flowers have been infused for two years, adding also capers and mountain garlic preserved in vinegar, and covered with fresh elderberry flowers.

Caranchini then presented his take on Ceviche: on the base of the dish there's the oil of smoked bone marrow, and a cream of bitter almonds, while the trout is marinated in beetroot juice and vinegar. To finish, a few drops of oil made with plum seeds. 

 Another demonstration of how freshwater fish can be rich of aromas: in the middle of the dish, there's a Mayonnaise made with oil in which he's infused the roasted bones of trout, on which he places some panko aromatised with herbs and spices, and a small salad of fresh herbs. The result is a fishless fish salad. 

IFinally, a dish that makes use of all what's left when you freshen up sourdough. This is dehydrated and powdered, and then turned into a cream. Finally, he adds Trout roe, with some lemon and chives.

Davide Caranchini's lesson ended by announcing his plans for the new season at Materia in Cernobbio: «As I said, during the stop caused by the pandemic we had time to think over what we've done in the past few years and to wonder what to do from now on. We decided to call the new menu Revolution Revival: many have told us that what we've done in Como was revolutionary, but given we don't consider ourselves revolutionary, what we've done could already become boring. So we've cut what we've done into pieces, and decided to start over. We've worked five whole months on this new menu with the team, to renew and revive the spirit with which we had begun. This is why we've chosen this title and we cannot wait to welcome those who will visit Lake Como and make them taste our new dishes».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

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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 

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