Header image: Maurizio Saccani, Director of Operations at Rocco Forte Hotels, Marco Reitano, sommelier at La Pergola, Ferrari Trento CEO Matteo Lunelli, Paolo Marchi, creator of Identità Golose, 50 Best's William Drew, Massimo Bottura, Umberto Bombana, Søren Ledet (image: Ferrari Trento)
Over the weekend, Milan saw the arrival of some of the best chefs in the world, gathering for the 13th edition of Identità Golose, the Italian food convention. Curated as Il Viaggio, or ‘the journey,’ the three-day event focused on the need for freedom and culinary journeys, a topic that surfaced at last year’s edition.
As part of Identità Milano, Ferrari Trento and The World’s 50 Best Restaurants co-hosted a special panel discussion on the art of hospitality. Here, Claudia Von rounds up some of the most important takeaways from the event.
Not surprisingly, the presence of Massimo Bottura ensured the room on Monday 6th March was packed with passionate cooks and students eager to learn from the owner of the World’s Best Restaurant, Osteria Francescana. With his ever-vibrant energy, Bottura reminded the crowd that the main ingredient for great cuisine is culture. It is culture, he says, that “gives us the resources to imagine and to remain open to other cultures, making us better people.”
Kicking off the discussion, Group Editor William Drew said: "The art of hospitality is not based on a formula or a script. It's about an overall culture that stems from those leading the restaurant. The finest restaurants in the world understand that the kitchen and dining room have to work as one. Great food without great hospitality is not enough."
Matteo Lunelli, William Drew and Massimo Bottura (image: Ferrari Trento)
Massimo Bottura concisely summed up his thoughts on the role of front-of-house staff: “Good floor staff can save a modest dish but bad service can ruin a great dish.” According to the chef, since the wait staff are the connection between diners and the kitchen, they need to be prepared to convey the humility, passion and dreams of the kitchen crew.
Umberto Bombana, chef-owner of 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana and winner of the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award for Asia 2017, spoke about his experience in Asia: “The service is the most important part of a gastronomic experience,” he said, because it doesn’t complete the experience but it allows you to understand how to complete it. “The floor staff need to be able to understand the guests and adjust to their expectations accordingly.”
Finally, Søren Ledet, Director and co-owner of Geranium in Copenhagen, told the story of how, as a young cook, he found himself with the need to face guests in the dining room and never went back to the kitchen. For him, front of house is key: “As a chef, you put your soul into a dish, but it is the front of house who can help elevate the dish and make a truly unique experience.”
Paul Pairet (left) and Rodolfo Guzmán at Identità Golose (image: Brambilla Serrani)
Identità Milano also saw talks from other 50 Best chefs, including Paul Pairet of Ultraviolet in Shanghai, Rodolfo Guzmán of Boragó in Santiago and Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur in Menton, France.
On Sunday 5th March, Enrico Crippa from Piazza Duomo talked about the need to preserve tradition as a starting point for innovation: “Cooking can be about fusion, but not confusion”; Paul Pairet talked about the tasting menu as the best free speech option for a chef; Christian Puglisi and Jonathan Tam from Relae went as deep as to question the role of the chef and their chase for an honest identity: “Beyond the need of representing something, we only want to be inspired”; and Mauro Colagreco from Mirazur reviewed his own journey, where he discovered that gastronomy has no borders. All in all, an inspiring and eye-opening few days!