Niko Romito's new Campus: «Good and healthy food will be available for everyone»

The chef from Abruzzo launches a permanent lab for chefs, which will open in 2022 and focus on research, training and industrialisation. «The future is in large numbers»

25-01-2021
Niko Romito with the students from his Accademia

Niko Romito with the students from his Accademia in Casadonna. In 2022 the classrooms will move to the much larger Campus Niko Romito, the lab specialised in "research and high education", on Strada Statale 17 in Castel di Sangro (L'Aquila)

Research and development in terms of diet, high education, standardisation and industrialisation of food transformation processes, with effects in every area of the catering industry: canteens, schools, hospitals... These are the key concepts behind Campus Niko Romito, an ambitious project established by Gruppo Niko Romito in partnership with the department of Food Science and Human Diet of Università Sapienza in Rome, one of the most important recent announcements made in our world.

What's sure, for now, is that works at the Campus will start in the spring of 2021. They will shape a site of 3'700 square metres on Strada Statale 17 in Castel di Sangro, a town in the inland of Abruzzo, a stone throw's away from Molise. It will be a training centre that will develop an interdisciplinary discussion on food and innovation, with the possibility of translating the incubated ideas into formats that can suit every segment. A training ground for experiments on the concept of goodness and health with potential effects even on the high and low catering industry. «We hope to open enrolments in the spring of 2022», Niko Romito tells us, «and we should hold the first classes in the following autumn». During a pandemic, the use of "would" is mandatory.

It's a project that comes from afar.
It's an important evolution of the Accademia which we started to develop at Casadonna in 2011. The starting point was the model of Alain Ducasse's École  in Paris, a private school that trains young chefs starting from a precise concept of cuisine. I was fascinated by how it was able to direct the gastronomic formats with great consistency. It all started from his training centre. An idea that we tried to apply to Italian tradition and to my philosophy. Which is more and more supported by an idea I have: the more I go on, the more the meaning of what I do is based on large numbers.

The Campus will replace an old furniture factory. The total surface is 3'700 square metres. The first classes will begin in September 2022

The Campus will replace an old furniture factory. The total surface is 3'700 square metres. The first classes will begin in September 2022

The Campus will include research labs, classrooms, a centre where to produce digital educational materials and common areas, multimedia spaces, a training restaurant and spaces open for agronomic experiments in nature 

The Campus will include research labs, classrooms, a centre where to produce digital educational materials and common areas, multimedia spaces, a training restaurant and spaces open for agronomic experiments in nature 

What do you mean?
Many of the projects we've developed over the years, especially the paradigm of Nutritional Intelligence with the Cristo Re Hospital in Rome (see here), have made me understand the importance of the social value of food. And how crucial the industrialisation of food transformation processes is to improve the quality of the catering in hospitals, canteens, businesses and schools. To offer good and healthy food through simple or complex models of catering, as long as it is for the advantage of the highest number of people.

A utilitarian principle. For the world of fine dining, industrialisation is like Satan.
On the contrary, it's a great resource if it's supported by research. Why can't a virtuous industry exist, that applies knowledge to standardisation? That creates a dialogue between scientific evidence and education? That makes the transformation of tasty and sustainable food possible in large quantities too? We've humbly developed this idea starting from our study on bread. 

How so?
It's taken a long time to give shape to the ideal bread loaf for restaurant Reale, made following techniques, methods and timings that are now a standard. A small business was born from that protocol called “Pane, which started to produce the same loaf for a larger number of people, in different points of sale. We created economies of scale, lowered the cost of the bread in the conventional industry, keeping the same ingredients, techniques and quality of the first archetype. These are important principles, which we could replicate for many more products, with the help of researchers and partners. Research we could convey to young people through training, and thus spread to a larger public. This is my dream for our campus and for the catering industry, places where quality is often the least important thing.

March 2017: Niko Romito presents the Intelligenza Nutrizionale protocol at Identità Golose. «In the Campus», the chef explains, «we will not teach how to make a classic vegetable broth, but a new one, in our style: without water, tastier, with higher nutrients and a less need of time and energy»

March 2017: Niko Romito presents the Intelligenza Nutrizionale protocol at Identità Golose. «In the Campus», the chef explains, «we will not teach how to make a classic vegetable broth, but a new one, in our style: without water, tastier, with higher nutrients and a less need of time and energy»

On Strada Statale 17 in Castel di Sangro there's also ALT Stazione del Gusto, a brilliant format of catering for travellers. And how about Reale Casadonna? The restaurant will open again in March 

On Strada Statale 17 in Castel di Sangro there's also ALT Stazione del Gusto, a brilliant format of catering for travellers. And how about Reale Casadonna? The restaurant will open again in March 

Quality is more and more impossible to separate from the concept of health.
Of course, but it's also crucial for the future of the Italian economy, if we think that 40% of our diseases originate from malnutrition. Think of how this factor can influence the expenditure of the national health system. But if we don't act now on food education, on school catering, explaining to children, for instance, the importance of eating good vegetables and in season, think of the positive impact this could have in the long run on our public expenditure. Today chefs are asked to be socially responsible in a way that was unthinkable twenty years ago. There's no longer space for pretending. 

What are the values of the chef of the future?
Health, sustainability, circularity, inclusiveness, research. Values that today's television doesn't teach because it's too focused on the hedonistic side of food. But we have the duty to pass this lesson to young people, so that they can apply it on all levels: high and low, public and private. It's a long and ambitious task, and perhaps I'm a dreamer, I know that. But it's the only road I know of.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso 


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