The eighth edition of the Italian Cuisine World Summit visits Dubai and runs from the 7th to the 17th of November. This star-studded culinary event brings together the very best of Italian restaurants, food and grape producers, Michelin-starred chefs and culinary experts; celebrating the beauty of Italian cuisine. In anticipation of the summit Food and Travel spoke with Founder and Director of the Italian Cuisine World Summit, Rosario Scarpato and renowned Michelin starred chef Enrico Bartolini.
Rosario Scarpato, the driving force behind the Italian Cuisine World Summit started his career as a journalist in Italy during the 1980’s before settling in Melbourne, Australia where he taught Hospitality at the University of La Trobe and of course owned an Italian restaurant. “Australian food philosopher Michael Symons is my role model; one of the first people to fight for Gastronomy to be considered a scientific discipline.” Noted Scarpato. “I think that Italian cuisine became an unbelievable marketing advantage for the global hospitality industry because of its winning flavours, its values, its healthiness.” he added. However he was appalled by the number of companies and individuals who paid scant respect to the quality of the ingredients and authenticity of the cuisine. “That’s why I started to organise events to promote true Italian Cuisine!” he concluded.
The Dubai summit is an offshoot of a network of more than 2,500 chefs, restaurateurs and culinary professional working in the Italian Cuisine industry, in more than 70 countries. “Events such as the summit are only possible because of the deep commitment and support of all the stakeholders; particularly the chefs and our key sponsors.” he says.
Ever since the beginning of the 20th century when Italian migrants introduced the world to Italian cuisine, the global restaurant industry embraced a cuisine that has its foundations in tasty healthy dishes that use unique ingredients, respect tradition, offers variety, easy-to-understand dishes (and easy to digest), a healthy message, but overall the fact that Italian cuisine is perceived as one of the greatest, healthiest and happiest cuisines in the world. Scarpato is adamant that a great Italian chef is a specialist. “He can only be chef of that cuisine!” he states firmly. “Great Italian chefs have expert knowledge of ingredients, commitment to authenticity, quality and health, a commitment to sustainability and a strong link with the community, combined with creativity and technical skill.” observed Scarpato.
Sharing the knowledge during the summit at the Italian Cuisine Master Classes are a number of Michelin starred chefs, Food and Travel’s Francesca Jackson spoke to Chief Culinary Advisor of Roberto’s Group, two-Michelin starred Enrico Bartolini.
Born in Pescia, Italy, Enrico Bartolini is one of Italy’s brightest culinary stars; already a world-renowned chef who won his first Michelin star at 29 years of age and his second at 33, to accompany his three Gambero Rosso Forks and three L’Espresso Guide Chef Hats.
You have held Michelin stars for some time, how much does a Michelin star still mean to you?
Achieving 2 Michelin stars is something I’m very proud of and cherish; so much happened after this accomplishment. I just opened my first restaurant in Venice, which is very exciting for my team and me. I still have many things to learn and improve and hope to have many more successes in the future, both with my own restaurants in Italy, across the region and worldwide.
How much do awards such as these, impact you and your work?
It’s the greatest recognition, which I’m very proud of. But it’s more important to be consistent, inject your own personality in your work and above all be generous: with your kitchen, with your clients, with your cooking, and with your suppliers. Generosity is so important in the art of food. I am hungry and curious every day to learn about new ingredients and techniques. And I love to work with my team. I think we can all start from here!
What inspires your cooking? Is there a story you aspire to tell with your food?
I try to create a luxurious experience through my skills. Our chefs put generosity into every dish they create and that is ultimately what every guest is looking for in their food, this generous and loving quality. Roberto’s is not just a restaurant but also a foodie destination. We don’t just offer food and drinks but a true 360 experience. A restaurant should always be first and foremost a place of pleasure. I personally love to share, and in Italy, a restaurant is a place to socialize together not just to eat great food. We created a menu at Roberto’s in Abu Dhabi that is perfectly fit for sharing. The concept of sharing is what brings people together. And it’s this togetherness that creates a luxurious experience.
What does ‘good food’ mean to you?
Good food for me is food has personality, harmony and balance. One of my favourite dishes is ‘Risotto rapa rossa e gorgonzola,’ a risotto with a beetroot and gorgonzola sauce. It’s our most popular dish at both my restaurant in Italy and has already become a signature dish at Roberto’s.
As a chef, how do you deal with the pressure of delivering the best food at all times?
A chef needs balance, and it’s very hard to find it but sometimes it does happen. Kitchens are basically big families with lots of different characters at play and they need discipline just like any normal family in order to function well. Our chefs put generosity into every dish they create and that is ultimately what every guest is looking for in their food. For any chef, a kitchen is a wonderful place to be, no matter if it’s a good day or a bad day.
How would you define your cuisine? And how has it evolved since you first began cooking?
I define my cuisine as contemporary classic. My signature trait is definitely the ‘art of illusion’. When one thing so artfully becomes another, but you don’t know how or why you’re experiencing a sensation that is altogether familiar and strange to you at the same time! The finest of pastry that is to all intents and purposes a green bean; or eggplant that is caviar; or mushroom that isn’t a mushroom at all: making one ingredient completely appear to be another, this is my signature. My style has evolved around the years through travelling, reading, discovering new flavours and spices and meeting new people all over the world.
Is there anyone you would like to cook for but haven’t yet got the chance to?
There are so many people I would love to cook for, its difficult to choose only one. But for me each guests is the same. Everyone deserves the best quality dish with the best service.
What do you feel was a life-changing moment for you in your career?
I would hope that I haven’t reached the top of my career just yet! Of course achieving 2 Michelin stars is something I’m very proud of and so many things happened after this accomplishment. I just opened my first restaurant in Venice, which is very exciting for me. I still have many things to learn and improve and hope to have many more successes in the future.
Are there any chefs you particular admire?
Remo Capitaneo, my sous chef is fantastic and I couldn’t do what we do without him. He’s extremely talented and I’m very proud that he’s part of my team.
What is your day typical like?
Little exercise early morning followed by meetings and then start to go around the market, farms, and winery and then go back to the restaurant and cook together with my team for my guests in the restaurant