Lucia Leuci ‘Materia prima’
at Fondazione Adolfo Pini
Curated by /77
It’s curious when you notice how a starred-restaurant in the city center of Paris does not correspond to an equally Michelin-awarded one in Italy.
The truth is that receiving such a desired award in the French capital means being a creative, extroverted food exponent. Restaurants there have very refined interiors, but never elegant; sober and minimal instead, never opulent. The dishes themselves are the lucid result not of a cook’s prowess, but of a chef’s flair. Thus imposing (how ironic) that never-ending debate between form and matter.
Cuisine and gastronomy are not the same thing, the first one could be described as all those things that have been spawned by tradition and food through time, while the second one is a derivative of our contemporary times, a lot harder to frame, but surely absolute, with the aesthetic research as a necessary feature.
Starred-restaurant in Italy are most of the time born out of that tradition that’s tied to the economical boom of the sixties, where the host (the customer) could live his own experience of social climbing, feeling all the solidness of an art at its primordial stages: that of the finest craftsman.
In the same restaurants in France, on the other hand, the gastronomical aspect brings the chef closer to being an artist, and as such no longer tied to craftsmanship but to creativity only.
I love cuisine and the most rewarding part surely is searching for the right materials, discovering new producers, visiting new markets, finding out about new shops and grocery stores opening soon.
Getting to know farmers and breeders is a necessary part in nutrition, since eating is basically internalizing new experiences, even those of other people. My relationship with cuisine is more of a backwards voyage looking for the source of what I’m being given, as if it was a quest for clear water, and if you want to find that you must get to the source.
There should be no room for inventiveness in dishes, not unless who’s cooking them wants to be perceived as an artist and in this appropriation of a given title lies the attitude of those chefs I’ve been talking about earlier.
The nutritional act essentially is an act of research, and it’s always been like that, ever since the beginning of times, because man is born a hunter-harvester and the struggle (of research) is then far from eating and feeding, while the act of cooking comes right before that of feeding oneself.
Cooking is a simple concept but it derives from layered experiences: analyzing chance and its enhancement have brought to the current knowledge: it doesn’t matter if that means heating at 65°C rather than 100°C, fermenting rather than hanging meat: the point here is that moving from raw to cooked is an intellectual act, direct consequence of the discovering of fire. On the contrary, no one ever taught us how to look for food, that came from a need, the exercise of searching for raw materials, even when that means strolling through the market, is something notably primary, anthropological.
In the dish prepared by Nadia Santini in the restaurant “Dal Pescatore” in Canneto sull’Oglio – which has been appointed with three Michelin stars for twenty-five years now – there’s no research, but an endless expertise in setting up well known courses. On the contrary, on Alain Ducasse’s table at the Plaza Athénée in Paris we could find products of his own ego only, delicious foods, but nevertheless interpretations of a single man no longer bound to that never-ending chain of men who preceded him in the tradition, the research and the production of raw materials. Just an offspring of his own ego, delicious, but dramatically alone at the same time.
I want a boiled egg, the most humble, the first among all foods. I want to know that that chicken has been tired, exhausted, worn-out running through the yard outdoors in a farm lost in time and in the memory of all those who like me had searched the nest that that bird, unable to fly, has made up on the ground, in a crack in the wall stacking up grass, skinny branches and other stuff.
In that egg I want there to be not just white and yolk, but all those who since the beginnings of time have sought after food and heart in one single gesture.