Words by Bruce McMichael

Photos by Slow Food Archive (Photo Cover by Alessandro Vargiu)

Greedy, curious hands grab tiny pieces of diced cheese stalls displaying the Cheese 2019 logo before bringing these taste bombs to the mouth to chew and swallow, imagining new pairings and recipes. Along with 200.000 visitors, the natural cheese world descended on Bra, Piedmont – the town famous for being the birthplace and spiritual home of global activist movement, Slow Food. Every two years over a long September weekend the town is given over to cheese. Roads and car parks are closed; dozens of gazebos installed; street bars set up and household fridges cleared and cleaned ready for chunks of smelly cheeses, and this year charcuterie, craft beer and natural wine. Behind the festival stalls stand heavily bearded cheese makers hipsters, tousled haired shepherds from the mountains of Sardinia and Sicily, and cheese mongers wearing national costume. Cheese rounds from Switzerland, Sweden and Russia compete for attention, while tired palates are refreshed with local wines, sour fruit beers and cups of bitter espresso.

@Slow Food Archive – Paolo Properzi

Food politics and natural cheese are natural partners. This year, controversial issues such as PDO and PGI labels sparked fierce debate, while Sardinian farmers talked about how their protests and campaign to achieve fair milk prices and boost the value of their island’s major export, Pecorino Romano cheese. The festival celebrated 12 years of getting the world to appreciate the skills, traditions and flavours of cheeses made with natural (unpasteurised) milk. Governments and consumers around the world are nervous about eating products created with non-pasteurised milk.

@Slow Food Archive – Alessandro Vargiu

One attention grabbing cheese was Salers, a semi-hard product from Auvergne, central France. Only milk from Salers cattle that graze ancient volcanic soils on mountain pastures between April and November is used. The grass is full of wild flowers including gentian and blueberry that flourish in hot summers months nurturing a strong tasting, pressed semi-hard cheese. Younger rounds offer fresh buttery aromas before maturing and transforming into gentler scents into pungent, woody and smoky notes. Its making requires great skill from the herdsman and cheese-maker, but is very much worth the effort.

@Slow Food Archive – Alessandro Vargiu

Festivals such as Cheese2019 help raise awareness of natural cheeses, with their funky flavours, surprising texture, ranging from soft to runny and from firm to chalky depending on seasons, milk and how the cheese maker presents his terroir, so a Camembert-style cheese distinctively tastes of the fields and milk of Normandy, France; British Columbia or the grass growing in New Zealand.

@Slow Food Archive – Alessandro Vargiu

Intriguing flavour pairings were introduced to cheese enthusiasts such as pairing buffalo mozzarella and buffalo ricotta with oysters and seawater in dish created by Italian chef Vittori Fusari. The meal was paired with the flinty, fresh white wines made Nascetta and Timorasso grape varietals native to Piedmont. Nomadic cheese maker Trevor Warmedahl had just left the Mongolian cheese where he was taught ancient ways of making cheeses using yak milk, and was on his way to a mountain pastures in Styria, Austria to learn more techniques He says he had ”never tasted so many complex and diverse cheeses in one place. The taste and flavours of cheese made using different, natural starter cultures is so much better and interesting that industrially produced cheeses. I knew this intellectually but I fully understood its importance after my sensory experience here at the festival”.

@Slow Food Archive – Alessandro Vargiu

Slow Food’s Cheese festival takes place every other year and a key part of the recruiting students to follow a Masters in Raw Milk and Cheese course starting in January 2021 (www.unisg.it). Applications open next year for those who want to know their Salers from their Pecorinos.

By David J Constable

Cover by Azzurra Primavera

My trips to Italy have been some of the most effervescent and liberating of my life. The food, the wine, the art, the women – fashion is credited rather too much. It isn’t merely the escape of Brexit Britain that thrills me, the will-we-wont-we mess of it all, the cabinet shuffle and reshuffle and frustrating merry-go-round of our leaders, but the fact that Italy is a glimpse into another purgatory. Nothing gets done in Italy, either. That, of course, is part of its pleasure. Doing something new would mean undoing something old and that would be a mistake.

Laura Gilmore Bottura and the staff from Casa Maria Luigia in Modena
Ph by Azzurra Primavera

And yet, there are some Italians who continue to innovate, their contrivances centring around pleasure: the food, the wine, the art, you get the gist of it. They created the Slow Food movement for extended lunches, and then, encouraged by its perennial success, widened it to a slow city movement. They flung open the doors to Eataly, a Circus Maximus promoting everything from manzo to mozzarella. There are 18 Eatalys in the country and a further 22 around the world, flogging pappardelle from Boston to Moscow. None of this is news to Italians, but to a visiting Brit brought up on a diet of bangers and bubble & squeak, it’s fresh and ingenious.

Salvatore Tassa prepares his Cacio e Pepe in tovaglia, Viviana is craving it
Ph by Azzurra Primavera

So it was that I returned to Italy and to Milan, visiting Eataly Smeraldo and the new restaurant of Viviana Varese. I’ll admit to having little knowledge of Viviana, other than she was a pocket-rocket chef, who accumulated techniques from across the globe, marking off stages in some of the world’s most celebrated kitchens. Then came her meeting with Sandra Ciciriello, which led to the opening of Alice Ristorante in Milan in 2007 and a Michelin-star in 2011. Other accolades followed, and now I’m here, in Milan, for something altogether different; for the rebranding, reopening and revolutionising of a common space but an unfamiliar name.

Alice Ristorante is no more, replaced now by VIVA. Viviana has used the opportunity to reopen to redecorate, installing artworks that bring a splash of dappled colour to dinner. Bright canvases adorn the walls, and multi-coloured perspex plastic hangs in front of the open kitchen and above a Kauri wood table, approximately 30,240 years old. The opening party at VIVA continued the creative theme, with Marco Nereo Rotelli’s luminous installation illuminating the Piazza XXV Aprile with the words “sustainability”, “sharing” and “synthetic city” bouncing off the walls. Viviana was somewhere in the kitchen, wrapped up in the revelry of it all, lost among chefs, friends who had travelled to Milan to support her. In total, 30 chefs took to the kitchen and various stationed stoves situated on the upper level of Eataly. I’m told later, that 8,000 bowls of food were served during the party and at least six times as much Champagne. As for the amount of Negronis, well… I had eleven, at the last count.

Ritu Dalmia & Viviana Varese
Ph by Azzurra Primavera

Walking this journey with Viviana is Ritu Dalmia, owner of the Italian restaurant Diva in Delhi and Cittamani and Spica in Milan. Together they present a formidable partnership, driven by an enthusiasm for flair, what Viviana calls “creative and operational synergy.” The formation of the new company VIVA was assisted with help from Ritu who, as part of the Riga Food Srl company with Analjit Singh, holds 20% of the shares, while Viviana controls the remainder. Both are driven by a recovery of ancient flavours, renewed in a contemporary style. They understand that food is about exciting the senses, representing each of their cultures through a lens – music, art, food, colour – and rotating ingredients in accordance with the seasons.

Khao suey, a spicy coconut soup with noodles (left) and Keema pao (right)

Ph by Azzurra Primavera

Both VIVA and Spica affirm the tight alliance of the chefs, with a menu at Spica rooted in the Indian-Italian-Peruvian-Mexican… cultures, celebrating the nostalgia of home and presenting the diner with a peek into the culinary lives of both, whether it’s a Keema pao from Mumbai or a Khao suey, a spicy coconut soup with noodles from Myanmar. The results are stories told through food; stories of a chef’s life, travels, inspiration and their journey up until now. The menu at VIVA reflects Viviana’s passion for quality produce from her vegetable garden, changing according to seasons like the Barbecued pumpkin and bay leaf ice cream dedicated to artist Kusama. I found the Spugna di mare: mussels in acidulated beurre noisette, Noto almonds and tarragon a particular highlight during the dinner at VIVA and Insuperabile: fine spaghetti with smoked broth, cuttlefish, clams and powdered tarallo a bowl that made me long for another, and another.

Omaggio a Kusama: barbecued pumpkin and bay leaf ice cream

Ph courtesy of VIVA
Spugna di mare: mussels in acidulated beurre noisette, Noto almonds and tarragon
Ph courtesy of VIVA

In this instance, doing something new for both chefs means a breakaway from the past, but not entirely forgetting about the past. There are lessons in the folds of history, lessons that propel you forward. Sometimes change is good, sometimes, change is necessary to evolve. But it isn’t always about going it alone, forging your own path; sometimes, having a friend on the journey with you can lead to unimaginable results. And here we have two chefs with two new restaurants from two very different backgrounds: two friends with everything ahead; united by creativity, by fun, by food, by art, by the challenge of it all. Two friends giving it a shot, inviting you along for the party – and what parties they throw!

Ph by Azzurra Primavera

VIVA Viviana Varese Ristorante

Piazza Venticinque Aprile, 10

20121 Milano (MI)

Tel: +39 02 4949 7340


Spica Restaurant

Via Melzo, 9

20129 Milano (MI)

Tel: +39 02 8457 2974


by Jean-Pierre Gabriel

You have until September 30 to apply to become one of the Foundation interns created by Andreas and Sarah Caminada, one of today’s greatest, chefs from restaurant Schloss Schauenstein. First of all, the name Uccellin comes from Romansh, a language spoken by 60,000 people in the Swiss canton of Graubünden… and Andreas Caminada’s family.

Created by Andreas and supported by Sarah, his wife and mother of their two children, Fundaziun Ucellin aims to provide training in 20 weeks to young chefs (under 35) and dining room staff members through the best restaurants of the world. “Fundaziun Uccelin was founded to foster ambitious talents within the gastronomic industry with the long-term goal to secure highly skilled and passionate professionals for our wonderful crafts”, explains Andreas Caminada.

“In a few words,” explains Sarah, “through the contacts we have established with our network of chefs and producers, we want them to have access to the entire activity. Internships alternate chefs and producers. It is important to let them understand all the upstream work needed to bring a langoustine or a beetroot in the restaurant’s pantry”. Since its foundation in Switzerland in 2015, the initial engagement has grown into a global network with over 60 of the world’s most successful restaurants and producers as partners for the foundation’s internship program. Talents who have been accepted for the 20-weeks-scholarship are allowed to choose their individual itinerary out of these partners. Since March 2019, Sergio Herman has become the first international mentor of the Fundaziun Uccelin. «Sergio is not only authentic and successful in business. He is also a highly respected model for the next generation and connected to our target group” explains Sarah.

The foundation provides three specific training programs – one for promising young Swiss chefs, one for their international peers and one for talented waiting professionals. The foundation alsoprovides scholarships towards further education and training. All three training programs sharethe same modular structure over a period of 20 weeks which comprises several individual on-site assignments,hosted by a network of selected producers and restaurants. “All expenses are covered,” explains Sarah, “which leads us to a budget of about 15,000 Swiss francs per person, including pocket money of 500 francs per month. When a trainee joins us, he receives a kind of travel notebook, with the places of training. We “mother” him; we book his transport, where he will stay, etc.

Do you want to turn your dreams into reality?Written applications for scholarships can be handed in twice a year, in March and September,via the Foundation’s website, www.uccelin.com. The current application cycle runs until September 30, 2019.

It’s time to hurry up!

Andreas Caminada & Sergio Herman

Hai tempo fino al 30 settembre per candidarti e diventare uno dei tirocinanti della Fundaziun Uccelin, creata da Andreas e Sarah Caminada. Innanzitutto, il nome: Uccellin deriva dal romancio, lingua parlata da 60.000 persone nel cantone svizzero dei Grigioni… e dalla famiglia di Andreas Caminada, uno dei più grandi chef di oggi del ristorante Schloss Schauenstein.

Creato da Andreas e supportato da Sarah, sua moglie e madre dei loro due figli, Fundaziun Uccellin mira a formare, in 20 settimane, giovani chef (under 35) e membri dello staff della sala, attraverso i migliori ristoranti del mondo. “La Fundaziun Uccelin è stata fondata per promuovere talenti ambiziosi nel settore gastronomico con l’obiettivo a lungo termine di garantire professionisti altamente qualificati e appassionati per i nostri meravigliosi mestieri”, spiega Andreas Caminada.

“In poche parole”, spiega Sarah, “attraverso i contatti che abbiamo stabilito con la nostra rete di chef e produttori, vogliamo che abbiano accesso all’intera attività. Gli stage alternano soggiorni presso chef e produttori. È importante far loro capire tutto il lavoro a monte per portare uno scampo o una barbabietola all’interno di un ristorante”. Dalla sua fondazione in Svizzera nel 2015, l’impegno iniziale è cresciuto fino a diventare una rete globale con oltre 60 tra i ristoranti e i produttori di maggior successo come partner per il programma di stage della fondazione. I talenti che sono stati ammessi per la borsa di studio di 20 settimane possono scegliere il loro itinerario individuale tra questi partner. Da marzo 2019, Sergio Herman è diventato il primo mentore internazionale della Fundaziun Uccelin. “Sergio non è solo autentico e di successo nel suo business. È anche un modello molto rispettato per la prossima generazione e collegato al nostro gruppo target ”, spiega Sarah.

La fondazione offre tre programmi di formazione specifici: uno per i giovani promettenti chef svizzeri, uno per i loro colleghi internazionali e uno per i professionisti di sala. Inoltre la fondazione fornisce borse di studio per portare avanti l’istruzione e la formazione. Tutti e tre i programmi di stage condividono la stessa struttura modulare per un periodo di 20 settimane che comprende diversi incarichi individuali in loco. “Tutte le spese sono coperte”, spiega Sarah, “il che ci porta a un budget di circa 15.000 franchi svizzeri a persona, compresa una paghetta di 500 franchi al mese. Quando un tirocinante si unisce a noi, riceve una sorta di quaderno di viaggio, con i luoghi di studio. Lo coccoliamo come mamme, prenotiamo il suo trasporto, dove alloggerà, ecc.

Vuoi trasformare i tuoi sogni in realtà? Le domande di iscrizione per le borse di studio possono essere consegnate due volte all’anno, a marzo e settembre, tramite il sito web della Fondazione www.uccelin.com. L’attuale ciclo applicativo dura fino al 30 settembre 2019.

È ora di sbrigarsi!