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Pau Albornà i Torras’ last gastronomic journey

Luciana Bianchi

28/08/2012

Pau was one of the most respected and admired journalists in our field. His ethics, hard work and passion about his job resulted in real stories with depth and substance. Superficial journalism was not part of his world! It was hard to believe that he was only in his mid 20s, judging from his experience, profound thoughts and knowledge.

I had the pleasure to be with him on his last trip, and would like to share some thoughts about those two happy days with you, his family and friends.

Gennaro Esposito, chef of the two Michelin-starred restaurant, Torre del Saracino in Vico Equense, province of Naples, organises a party for friends every year. The event has turned into a gastro-Woodstock for us in Italy. We all stop what we are doing to be there with Gennaro and his partner Victoria.

I invited Pau to join us. His interest in people behind great products, and the mutual humanity in the gastro-world made him a perfect new member of the Vico family.

A few days before the event, he contacted me to apologise. He had to cancel his visit because he was very busy, and could only join us for two days, instead of a week. However, Gennaro and I were very insistent and convinced him to join us anyway.

He took time to congratulate me on one of my recent articles - “It was great to read a piece with depth and soul”, he said, and gave a few examples. He had read the whole extended article. It meant a lot to me! For a moment, I had to think – which journalist ever congratulates a colleague so sincerely? Pau was special!

He was there at the opening of the Festa Vico, and spent the whole night at the beach - talking to people, trying the dishes made by the local chefs and having his first impression of the “beautiful and perfectly chaotic” event!

He saw the sun rise with the ‘bohemians’ - chefs Matias Perdomo and Mauricio Zillo, of restaurant Al Pont de Ferr in Milan. He was curious about the new generation of talented chefs in Italy, and our friends loved him!

On the following day, we offered many exciting programs for Pau to take part in, as he had to return to Barcelona the day after. We visited the cheese artisan, Fernando, who owns and produces the best provolone from the region. His family business of three generations has made the same product, with similar methods and at the same location. We tried different types of provolone cheese and ricotta, and learned about the processes. We listened to Fernando’s stories, and were shown old cheese artefacts of his great grandfather. Pau was making notes, asking the right questions and was fascinated by the products and the stories of the “cheese hero”.

The next stop was to try a real Naples pizza. Universita della Pizza is an institution in Italy with four generations of pizza masters! Gigino Dell’Amura invented the ‘Pizza a Metro’ in the 1930s and the restaurant is still there, making the most fabulous pizza a metro in Italy. Luigi Dall’Amura had prepared a surprise for us, and asked one of his pizza masters to prepare a pizza a metro in the oven that stands outside the family’s hotel.

Pau was surprised by the seriousness of the ‘pizzaiolo’ job description – there is not a single pizza man, but many - with different functions. However, the man in charge of the oven is the big star. The ‘fornaio’ moves the pizza around the oven, knows the ‘science of temperature’ and ensures the perfect pizza texture! We learned about the different types of dough, the techniques, and ate the famous pizza a metro in the open air, sheltering from the Mediterranean rain that caught us while we were gathered around the oven. We laughed, ate with our hands, and commented how precious it is to experience food in this way. This is the great privilege of our profession – to witness the love story between the man and his muses, the perfect ingredients!

After lunch, I asked Pau what he would like to do. I was not at all surprised at his choice: “I would like to meet Gennaro’s father and visit his vegetable garden”, he said.And that is what happened.

Alberto Esposito drove his old (really old!) car to the top of the hill with Pau, Miguel and Barbara, our friends who joined us at Festa a Vico. The “garden” covers a huge area in Montechiaro and has a spectacular view to the Vesuvio volcano and to Sorrento. Gennaro’s father is an elderly, but fit and happy man working in his miracle soil. He produces most of the vegetables for Torre del Saracino (and delivers them himself everyday!) – a huge variety and quantity of herbs, vegetables – and amazing tomatoes of various colours and shapes, cherries, lemons, and other fruit.

Pau was interested in food, but most of all, in the hands producing the food, working behind the scenes or creating dishes. Always making notes, researching, interviewing people in a casual, but professional way, Pau loved the Italian way, the friendship and the sharing of his passion for food with people who have dedicated their lives to create special produce for the kitchen.Before he left for Barcelona, we agreed to organise his visit to Vico in 2013, then with more time…

On the 11th of June, Pau sent me an email, just before leaving his office – a few hours before his fatal motorbike accident. He was working on an article about his few days at Vico Equense. He was happy with his short but intense visit to Gennaro’s piece of heaven.

Pau left us too early. Far too early! It is difficult to imagine being at San Sebastian Gastronomika without him. But, his legacy will live through Roser, his loving mother, the driving force behind this very special event, and through the spirit of the 7 Canibales and grup gsr, his soul family.

We, chefs, journalists and food writers, intend to keep his memory alive, celebrating his short time with us, doing a job that he loved.

We, friends of Festa a Vico, will remember him every year in June at Vico Equense - his last gastronomic journey.

Pau Albornà i Torras
1987 – 2012

Luciana Bianchi is chef de cuisine and food writer, works as International Editor correspondent for the Brazilian gourmet magazine,Prazeres da Mesa, and contributes to several publications in Brazil and Europe.

  • Luciana Bianchi