Photo by Kam & Co

Words by Olivia Lennox

The third and final in the online series hosted by Mad about Denmark in collaboration with the Danish Agriculture & Food Council was held on the 20th of April. Andrea Petrini once again graces our screens as creator and moderator, with a familiar René Redzepi and new panellists Emilie Qvist and Nicolai Nørregaard.

Introduced with enthusiasm is Emilie Qvist, alumni of the MAD Academy and Dan Barber’s Blue Hill. The chef is breaking into the business world with an exciting announcement… Dubbed as the ‘middle of nowhere’, Hanstholm with a population of approximately 2000 is soon to be the home of Medvind, Emilie Qvist’s first restaurant. Along with partner Emma Milne she is designing a space that will serve seafood straight from the nearby harbour, with emphasis on freshness.

Photo by Daniel Overbeck

Concept would seem derogatory at this point, simply because it seems so much more holistic than the word would suggest, and Qvist is making sure that the idea co-evolves with the wants of the locals. Interestingly their plan is to be sustainable incognito, a refreshing change to the loudly greenwashed restaurant culture of the last few of years. It also makes sense as a business move, with a lot of organic certification standing as a marker for exclusivity.  It is not to refute the charm that Copenhagen holds, but Qvist notes that for her it makes more sense to go to the produce rather than to bring it away from the source.

Medvind

René Redzepi proclaims that to him, “Emilie represents the future,” a future that for him that lies in the authenticity of philosophy. This is what guides his ingredient choice – it may be obvious, but nothing stumbles accidentally onto the Noma menu, as is evident by their notorious reputation for sourcing sustainable produce, with a small team dedicated to the research. He says ingredients are not separable by certification or labelling, but united by an authentic attitude. Redzepi next entrusts vulnerable admittance that the second lockdown has been mentally a lot harder for him than the first, stating he had “bad weeks where I couldn’t recognise myself.” As a way of pacing through the time, Noma ran their full winter menu, the team creating between themselves a series of dishes that will never see the light of service but that aided them mentally through the trying season. He follows with a sprightly announcement of the spring menu coaxed by a jovial Petrini, revealing he will be serving a pescatarian menu designed to emulate the Noma group’s experience of the last few months – from their team hiking weekends to ice swimming – all squeezed into 16 bites. And who are the first to try the long awaited return on the 1st of June? One hundred Pandemic Heroes nominated by the public invited to dine at Noma in appreciation for their tireless good work. Some of the recommendations when read brought tears to the eyes of the staff, serving a grounding reminder that social sustainability must always be part of the equation.

Nicolai Nørregaard agrees, expressing concern that for a lot of consumers there is not a straight forward solution to sustainable eating and living. As the co-founder of Kadeau in Bornholm (and its Copenhagen sister restaurant of the same name), Nørregaard is a chef who begins his day alongside his team in their market garden. He channels the power of sourcing in a way that emulates an ethos of responsibility to the planet and the people, and the menus he designs are based emphatically on local ingredients, be that from nearby producers or the wild forage that Bornholm offers. His desire to take care of the climate is advocated for by the sake of flavour and freshness. But even for him the simple act of buying cucumbers for his daughter introduces a political conversation, particularly with the disparity of price between certified organic and not.

Photo by Daniel Villadsen

And it isn’t only in the controversial subject of certification. Sustainable fishing is a topic gaining increasing traction in recent months (aided in part by the popularisation of Netfilx’s Seaspiracy), and one which the panel agree deserves the same consideration. As chef’s all presenting seafood menus, the three emulate that is it their responsibility to source responsibly – to know the fishing methods, the boats, the producers who live and breathe care for their produce.

Photo by Robin Skjoldborg

And this is what will continue to set apart these restaurants and chefs from those who use sustainability as a buzzword. It isn’t about how much certified produce you can cram into a menu or if you display a green clover on your door, it is about honouring an inherent philosophy, practiced and realised by meeting producers and hearing their stories. Redzepi cites Jonathan Safran Foer’s We Are the Weather, that to change the planet we need to change our diets. Thankfully these chefs will continue to lead the way with the conversation that facilitate it. A gratitude goes out to Mad about Denmark, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council, the panellists,  and Andrea Petrini for creating the space for such discussions to happen, and the hope is that a second series will present itself to us soon: we cannot afford the luxury of not continuing to question and learn.


Words by Olivia Lennox

Photos by Alberto Blasetti for Cook_inc 23

On the 13th of April the gastronomic world awoke to the statement from Christian F. Puglisi that he was taking applicants to run the infamous Relæ for a three-month period. We had a brief conversation with the esteemed Chef and restauranteur who shared his thoughts on the upcoming project.

This has been a year of big decisions within your restaurant community. Considering your emphasis on the importance of having freedom to choose how you spend your time, how did you arrive at this decision after closing Relæ and Manfreds? 

It was based on a couple of conclusions. One I made some time ago that I didn’t want to continue with Relæ myself – I wanted to spend my time doing something else. I’ve outlived the chase for success and for the Michelin stars. When I announced Relæ’s closure I didn’t have any plans, it was just “this is what I want to do”, and so maybe we’ll see if someone wants to buy it and we can take it from there. Now time has passed and I’ve reflected on it, and it’s obviously not the best time to sell a restaurant, because it’s more of a burden than it is a benefit, given the Covid situation. The second conclusion is that the Relæ format with its limitations is clearly something that might still be useful and relevant to other people moving forward. And why? Because I think the tendency is that whenever someone ambitiously wants to go out and rule the world of gastronomy, they want to go big. But Relæ was organically shaped into a high standard restaurant by starting small with its many limitations – I always wanted to keep within them because I think they helped create its character. What makes you unique is your limitations – it’s where you fall short and how you grow out beyond that, and I think that is something Relæ has been doing and can teach other people.

Christian Puglisi – Cook_inc. 23

Ethos has been imperative in the making of Relæ, and in A Book of Ideas you say you chose “overall ingredient quality over having bragging rights.” Do you think it’s important that the chosen project will mirror the same sentiment, and what then do you see your involvement being in the candidate’s project? 

There needs to be a chemistry with whoever will end up doing this, and I think that chemistry is very often based on values. If you feel that connection then it’s right, and to me it’s very important not to define what goes on in there. For me the most important thing about it is that there’s someone’s heart and soul in there. But I don’t want to go back to running Relæ. I know by experience I cannot do something halfway and I cannot take half responsibility for something. If I can spark a vision I’m happy to do that, and it can be very rewarding. But I’m not going to be there to solve issues. I can talk and mentor to some extent but there’ a big difference between helping and being the boss. I am there to give support and to ask questions, but not to give the answers. I know that for good or bad I take up some space, so for someone to be able to do something they need to be able to take some chances, to take some risks, and maybe to make some mistakes. Having me in there will just shape it differently and I’m not interested in that because then it’s not going to be authentic.

You speak of this project as a ‘relay’, as the passing of a baton which clearly holds a powerful legacy. Your call for applicants seems deliberately vague – how do you plan to make a decision on the chosen application?

We have a lot of applicants but I don’t think this process is going to be easy. We need people that are resourceful in getting things done on their own and are very independent, and I know there are some out there. A talent in setting up a menu and combining ingredients is one thing, but a talent in making this work is much more rare so I hope I find someone who is capable. There’s a lot of good people out there but this is a complex challenge.

This pandemic has meant a lot of skilled people with brilliant plans being stunted and stopped in their tracks – the opportunity you’re offering could really provide a lifeline. Do you believe this is an example that other chefs could follow?

I have a particular situation which creates a unique possibility both for me and whoever would want to get involved, so I think it’s a very special thing. I’ve gone my own way now for ten years, and I keep finding my own way of doing things and I don’t think it’s for everybody. I know I’m very privileged because I have a strange situation that allows for this, but there are many particular things I have lined up for this to be a possibility. But this idea of giving young people opportunity is important because in all the industry problems right now, you really need to think outside of the box. People have a tendency do what they know, but I think it’s really important that you give that space to create.

Do you have an idea of what will deem these three months successful by your terms?

The pop-up system has its flaws because it involves a lot of planning but so little time to operate it, sometimes costing you more than you’re able to learn from. But this is more like a residency than a pop up. You get some time to get settled, to express yourself, and then hopefully this expression can bring forward a future for this person. Maybe it helps someone find investors, or maybe it goes so well that I say why don’t you keep running this you’re doing so well. I’m very loose about it because I literally have a space which is up for grabs for whatever great idea is out there. For me three months is very well adapted to the time we’re in, because in the volatile nature of today’s restaurant industry it is very difficult to understand what can happen this year. Having something which isn’t so fixed I think is beneficial for everybody. If I have a sports car in my garage, do I just want to keep it covered, or do I want some people to have a run at it and see what happens? The second option is a bit more fun isn’t it?

This opportunity you are providing shows an admirable lack of preciousness about what Relæ is. You could have stopped it and concreted its legacy and instead you’re letting it evolve. It feels like the removal of ego from the equation…

In the end it’s like a name and there’s tables etc, but it’s just things, it doesn’t matter. As head of Relæ I know more than anyone, what it has meant to me and to the people around me. Of course, that has to be treated with respect, but we have to remember that it’s just things, it’s just a physical space. I saw a potential in that place and I hope other people can see a potential in it, and to open that up makes a lot of sense for me.

Applications are received until April 23rd on future@restaurant-relae.dk

Words by Olivia Lennox

Images provided by Holy Cannoli, photography by Simon Schilling / Crossed Lines Media

Somewhere between folklore and history lies the rumour that cannoli first came into realisation around 1000AD, evolving into not only a Sicilian staple but a gastronomic symbol of national pride. Fast forward a millennium, and some 9000km away, a duo has cooked up a concept. Born from at home cravings during lockdown, Holy Cannoli came into fruition as a business at the end of 2020.

Ask someone to name the most famous Italian desserts, and in the brief list most likely comprising also of tiramisu and panna cotta, cannoli will surely get a mention. Yet before now, Hong Kong was yet to be introduced to the Italian delicacy, at least on this scale, and so the team behind the concept decided to respond to the pastry-shaped gap in the market. Where strong culinary customs reign supreme in Italy, Hong Kong is open to the experiment and innovation of talents new… Now introduced here is the marriage of tradition and inspiration.

The holy trinity consists of Marco Antonio Li Voti, Anna Zhou and their rescue dog (aptly named Cannoli). Unafraid of breaking boundaries, they thrive off the challenge of educating through flavour and experimentation. As with most great ideas, it embodies simplicity in concept and excellence in realisation.

Their classic range comprises of Nonna’s Originale, Dark Yuzu, Rose & Raspberry, White Chocolate Pistachio, Salted Caramel and Pistachio Bacio. If that wasn’t enough, with a preemptive apology to Nonna, they run through some collaborations, past, present and future – which range from cocktail flavours with Quinary Hong Kong, Shady Acres, and 001, to surprise menus airing on the side of savoury.

Their channel of communication is the simple cannolo. They offer them pre-made, the locations at which are discoverable on their interactive map (the Holy Cannoli pilgrimage). DIY kits are also available, allowing customers to make them at home while getting creative with fillings and toppings. For now a lot of their return customers discover them at their pop-ups, and if their success is measured in something other than numerical value, let it be by anecdote – one customer after tasting a cannolo, ordered forty more on the spot to be served the next day at an outdoor event. Knowing that once you try a bite of Holy’s cannoli it becomes hard to stop, the team always make sure to include more of the filling than is necessary – the initial taste test is of course of utmost importance, and when the filling is as well made as this one there is (almost) no judgement for going straight from nozzle to mouth.

Marco

With something so simple, there is much room for error and nowhere to hide. But even as a young chef, Marco has years of experience behind him having worked in esteemed restaurants across Italy, Germany, USA, the UK and Hong Kong. He sites one of the main inspirations in his career as working briefly with Lorenzo Cogo of El Coq, a chef unafraid of pushing boundaries within cuisine. With cannoli it is a fine line to tread but one he has managed to with expertise, striking the perfect balance between traditionalism and experimentation. But the recipe development is thorough and exact, with an average time frame of a month to launch a new flavour. The brilliant irony is that Marco doesn’t have a sweet tooth, and so the cannoli need to be perfect if he is going to be content with the outcome.

Anna

The other charming irony is that Anna – with a wealth of global business and hospitality experience – dislikes typical marketing strategy, and that is most likely why she is so good at it. As her own toughest critic, their visuals exude the ethos perfectly. Business – but make it fun. They thoroughly champion collaboration, and Anna emphasises that they believe in community and elevating other businesses as well as their own. They are also determined to involve customers in their growth, running competitions to design the best new flavour and showcasing videos of customers’ “first bite” in pride of place on their Instagram highlights. 

This ‘little tube’ is creating a bridge across cultures, as a gratuitous homage to Italy’s culinary heritage and Hong Kong’s open-mindedness. Marco dreams of a return to Italy when travel allows, and a pop-up in Sicily to present their hard work to the toughest judges – the locals. There may be wry concern that the small yet mighty team will be met with a reenactment of The Godfather but having had a taste of what Holy Cannoli has to offer, the Sicilians would no doubt, “take the cannoli”.

“No Brasil os restaurantes ficaram soltos à sorte de cada um”

Texto de Miguel Pires

Quando no início de 2020 propus que o título da reportagem sobre o Corrutela na Cook Inc fosse a fala retirada do filme Joker, de Todd Phillips, “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?”, estávamos longe de imaginar que um vírus que afectava severamente uma cidade na China viesse tragicamente contaminar o mundo inteiro. Na época, a escolha, ilustrada por uma imagem em que o Chef César Costa pulava em cima de um carrinho de supermercado com uma expressão demoníaca, serviu para dar maior ênfase ao trabalho que ele vinha fazendo no seu restaurante em prol da sustentabilidade – como um protesto face ao excesso de consumo e ao desperdício alimentar. Porém, quando a revista foi publicada, em Março de 2020, qual profecia de Nostradamus, o título ganharia um outro significado. Nessa altura, um pouco como em todo o planeta, também no Brasil os restaurantes começavam a fechar temporariamente por causa da pandemia. Foram quase cinco meses em que o Corrutela sobreviveu com alguns apoios governamentais e através de um sistema de delivery de seus pratos e produtos dos seus fornecedores.

O restaurante viria a Abrir em Agosto e, uns meses mais tarde, a entrada no 50º lugar na lista Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants viria a dar-lhe um precioso “boost” em termos de afluência de público e de faturação. Porém, já recentemente, no dia 6 de Abril, passado pouco mais de um ano após o início do primeiro confinamento, o Corrutela voltaria a anunciar (no Instagram) novo fecho “por tempo indeterminado”. Ao telefone, César Costa confirmou-nos a notícia dizendo que foi uma decisão racional. “O dono de um restaurante coloca muita emoção, muito da sua vida nele e é difícil vê-lo como um negócio. É unânime, estava perdendo dinheiro, fechado sangra menos”, refere. E desta vez não haverá entrega de comida em casa. “O Corrutela não combina bem com um modelo de delivery. A minha comida não é feita para viajar”, afirma. 

Com 30 anos completados recentemente e a dois meses de ser pai pela primeira vez, César Costa não sabe ainda por quanto tempo permanecerá encerrado, depende de como for evoluir a pandemia, em São Paulo. Porém, não pretende atirar a toalha ao chão, até porque vai manter o ponto (local), onde investiu muito para instalar o restaurante – entre uma composteira no salão, painéis fotovoltaicos e outros apetrechos em busca de reduzir ao máximo a sua pegada ecológica. César Costa diz querer procurar fazer algo nesse hiato e admite ser “um privilegiado” por, embora com muito custo, poder tomar uma decisão destas. Além do mais, chama atenção igualmente para o “prejuízo psicológico” que é estar a operar numa conjuntura extremamente adversa como esta. “Esse fator não é muitas vezes mensurado”, afirma. A concluir, o chef brasileiro diz não querer mais embarcar nessa “roleta russa” de ficar abrindo e fechando de acordo com o agravamento ou levantamento das restrições – o Brasil atravessa o pior período desta crise sanitária, com uma média de casos que chega a ultrapassar as 3000 mortes/dia e com uma polarização extremada em termos políticos, com muitos Estados procurando contrariar o governo Federal anti-lockdown, liderado por Jair Bolsonaro, um polémico ex-militar de extrema direita, que tem tido um comportamento errático e negacionista durante a pandemia. Ainda para mais, no que diz respeito à restauração, desta vez não estão previstos auxílios do governo. “Os restaurantes ficaram soltos à sorte de cada um”, refere por último César Costa.

Words by Olivia Lennox

The second in the online series hosted by Mad about Denmark in collaboration with the Danish Agriculture & Food Council was held on the 30th of March. Andrea Petrini acts once again as moderator and is joined this time by Kamilla Seidler Trebbien and Christian F. Puglisi, as well as repeat panellist René Redzepi.

The opening sentiment from an ever dapper Petrini is that sustainability as a term needs a “beyond”, a consideration as to what it means and how it can evolve. This also comes with addressing the meaning of ‘sustainability’, a polluted terminology at this point given that there are no formal boundaries to uphold a standard within the word.

Kamilla Seidler Trebbien when addressing the quest for sustainability opens with the consideration that “Sustainability means very different things to very different people depending on where you are in the planet. ”This is a chef who has worked previously in a somewhat divergent context as head chef of Gustu in Bolivia, before returning to Copenhagen and opening Lola in 2019. The comparisons she draws are that, even in Denmark which is recognised to be at the forefront of environmental sustainability, there are a lot of social aspects that need to be included if we are to talk about a true sustainability. Trebbien references the programme she now runs through her restaurant called Lola Impact, an initiative to provide employment to those struggling to find work. Her point rings loud with validity, that this should be part of normal practice, not an exception; as industry leaders and as people, social sustainability should be of equal importance.

René Redzepi agrees fully with this sentiment, matching that while Noma has been going for eighteen years, it is only in the last couple that they have been able to achieve something closer to an inclusive sustainability in terms of the social and personal aspects of the business. He reinforces his message from the previous talk of last month, that if food is cheap, someone or something is paying the price. The chef revisits a conversation with Petrini that they had some ten years ago, that when asked about the future of food, his answer was then and continues to be now that food needs to be more expensive – the way we value food is simply too cheap both in practice and attitude. Redzepi claims that if there is a case to be won in fair prices for produce, it needs to appeal through hedonistic means – deliciousness is necessary if sustainability is to convince anyone, and the “to infinity and beyond” power needs to come from the chefs’ culinary talents.

Under the consideration of the sustainable future of fine dining, Redzepi firmly announces his belief that the pandemic is not going to bring around an ecological revolution. He is assured through faith that a change – an improvement – is coming, but not as a response to the pandemic. Some earnest hope come from the chef in the certainty that “once humanity has tried everything else, we’re finally going to do the right thing”.

With a much more stoic attitude, Christian F. Puglisi sees social evolution as a tell that humans continuously make the wrong decisions in terms of environmentalism. He shares that this obsession with technological advancement providing the solution is teeming with useless hope. Addressing the increase in meal delivery services which is made possible through streamlined technological platforms, only emphasises how people need to get into the kitchen and not further detached from it. The chef is a firm advocate for getting close to the source of making as the tool for communication, and this is exactly what he did with the launching of his Farm of Ideas in 2016. The intention in its dawn was to hold responsibility for some expansion of biodiversity, but as noted by the esteemed Puglisi, it’s very hard to translate it into a business:“I can say after 5 years, I looked in, it was really scary,”admitting now through gesture that the weighted door is getting heavier and heavier to keep open, or maybe even to want to. Puglisi found that the solution to finding his own personal sustainability was to close two of his famed Copenhagen restaurants – Relæ and Manfreds –  in 2020, a decision he has recently credited as his biggest achievement.

The panel conclusively delve into the idea that a lot of the issues lie in legislation, and that sometimes the hardest thing about sustainable choices is that they can impose financial costs. Many potential solutions are put down out of fear of something going wrong – a problem which doesn’t allow for the poetic potential of human trial and error. This is the difficulty of operating in a world that shows itself being extremely intricate and extremely political. The three agree that what lies beyond sustainability is responsibility, that as industry leaders and business owners they also have to be, and are expected to be, policy makers. Detachment from food and people will not repair a broken system.


Noma Burger Bar
Credits: Giuseppe Liverino

Words by Olivia Beba Lennox

Photos courtesy of Reboot

The 23rd of February saw the webinar Reboot Copenhagen, the first in a series of events hosted by Mad about Denmark in collaboration with the Danish Agriculture & Food Council. It has become the norm to shine a light on Copenhagen for its cuisine, and rightly so. Not only is it the home of restaurants Noma, Amass, Sanchez and (the no longer with us) Relæ, to list but a few. It is also the capital of a country that collectively purchases the most organic produce globally and has chefs like David Zilber partnering with bioscience company, Chr. Hansen to develop solutions for a climate-friendly food system. Copenhagen glows with an idealistic haze, one which it had certainly earned in the fifteen years it has been progressing to gastronomic superstar status.

Andrea Petrini acts as moderator, and opens by suggesting Copenhagen serves somewhat as a culinary lighthouse, a beacon guiding the lifeboats of the restaurant industry into harbour.

Tivoli Det japanske tårn
Credits: Reboot Copenhagen

Lisa Abend, panellist, affirms this, but remains grounded with the reminder that Denmark was in the mildly privileged position of lockdown having been minimal for the first part of last year, that mortality rates were comparatively low with the rest of Europe and governmental compensations were generous. This nordic stretch were relatively lucky – as much as that can mean in consideration of a global pandemic. She suggests that this has allowed Copenhagen to be in an arguably better position to engage with inspiration.

Amass Fried Chicken Opening Day
Credits: Amass

Second panellist Renee Redzepi, who already holds a reputation for addressing issues in kitchen culture (see his critical 2015 essay), leads the conversation in the undercurrent of problems that the pandemic closures brought to light. Not only were the restrictions introducing constant issues, but they revealed the existing ones in a system that has been working to fit a pre-modern model which is well past its sell-by-date. He affirms that the culture of working gruelling hours cannot be returned to, and the aim for the future of Noma at least will be to be one of the best places to work, not only the best to dine at.

When asked if ratings and guides will always be relevant however, his answer is a quick and clear “Yes. There’s no question.” Perhaps that would be anyone’s answer who’s restaurant has been ranked Best in the World four times in the last decade and has a list of accolades as long as a Noma recipe. This is of course why the esteemed chef more than anyone is equipped to make a sound judgment on the way the system works. But this comes from him with a contingency that the considerations need to reflect the changing times, with sustainability at the forefront of restaurant trends in the coming year – and not as a token buzzword, but an inherent driving force. He states that the fundamentals are “Getting through to people that food is never cheap. That every time we expect food to be cheap, something or someone is paying a price – a person, a worker, a mountain being chipped away at.)”

Popl 
Credits: Giuseppe Liverino

Matt Orlando, the third panellist to join, confirms with certainty that the rating system will always remain relevant. With concise certitude he elaborates that what is of importance is that sustainability remains the focus of the future of rankings and awards, and that they adjust to the way in which restaurants work now and not the other way around – a considerably justified statement. Maestro Petrini probes on the subject of sustainability addressed in the rating system with dry criticism – “A shift beyond the greenwashing?” – an imperative question, the answer to which only time will tell.

Orlando’s project born of last year was Bowline, a collaborative group of hospitality industry professionals leading the way in discussion around all things food. This key project is a self supporting collaboration, an essential movement to re-harmonisation and a return to Copenhagen’s roots and values as he notes that a sour competitiveness that exists in other food cities had been creeping into the scene in recent years. There is undoubtedly no longer the luxury of selfishness in an industry that needs collaboration to survive.

Popl opening
Credits: Giuseppe Liverino

It is said necessity is the mother of innovation, and here the necessity came screaming into the European world in March 2020. Noma was quick to launch Popl, their neighbourhood burger restaurant, and Amass began serving up AFM (Amass Fried Chicken). Other Chefs too have adjusted to the changing climate and transformed completely their valuable identities on which their restaurants survive. And take-away may not be groundbreaking, but the ability to adapt from Michelin starred service so readily can be. This is the democratisation of dining, allowing locals the opportunity to experience the restaurants their city is so well known for. Orlando remembers Redzepi’s words, that as chefs they have a responsibility in uplifting their community and their city. And this community focused shift is exactly why to pay attention.

Denmark may not have seen the worst of the restrictions and have adapted well to the continuous hardships. Yet this means that now they can provide inspiration for when restrictions can finally and permanently ease – the likelihood of a swift return to ‘normal’ being low. The city of Copenhagen is mapping out a model that can translate to a safer and more secure European future food scene.


Words by Olivia Lennox

            L’Observatoire De La Gastronomie (The Gastronomy Observer) has released their first annual report. The report produced by La Liste is based on hundreds of sources from their database, as well as an archive of reports and interviews. It’s aim is to share findings on the effects of the pandemic on the restaurant sector with a global perspective, addressing trends, changes and alterations made by the industry of food and drink.

            Summarised in no uncertain terms is that the hospitality industry is in trouble. Despite the now extensive time spent in this unprecedented situation, the specifics on restaurant closures are still shocking, and even those of prominence have not been spared from becoming collateral. Varying degrees of Governmental support are assessed, the success and sincerity of which are debatable, but it is evident that subsidies are bandaids at best.

            And not only for the extreme financial costs brought by a year of constant adjustments, but trouble exists in terms of stigma towards the food sector. Hygiene standards are called into question, and those in the industry must battle to keep a customer base when there are suggestions that their livelihoods are causing danger to others. Discrimination is not an equal act, as the report discusses the sorry disparity of stigma in English speaking countries towards Asian food businesses more than most.

            Yet here there is hope, the possibility to welcome a more genuine attitude of togetherness that depends on surviving all together as an industry or not at all. Presented with a collection of powerful stories of activism, here is the evidence of true solidarity amongst chefs as campaigns found their way round the globe. From South Africa’s Jobs Save Lives online campaign to the Save Hong Kong F&B alliance, it is shown that a positive voice for the industry is one that deserves to be collectively shouted. Some time away from service has given space to take a critical look at how #MeToo and Black Lives Matter rightly found their way into the kitchen, acknowledging that a change in kitchen culture is forcedly overdue.

            The take away is that the inspirational solutions have come from the ground up, that those who have been hit hardest have been spurred by necessity to become creative with solutions. Adaptability has been key, and with that comes an openness to finding inspiration. There are only so many ways to rearrange tables, to alter service style, to be creative with opening times, and what is evident is that the industry is keeping afloat by remixing and regurgitating inspiration. Pioneers have led the way with innovation and brought others along with them so that the hospitality industry might be in with a chance of surviving if it is done together.

            Poor mental health and exhaustion are of major concerns at this point and it is understandable  given the constant, lethargic nature of the language of the pandemic. Gastronomy’s Observer serves to remind and recognise that this is an industry that has been tirelessly rallying, relentlessly innovating, and in true hunter-gatherer style, continuing to adapt to survive. It can be read in full in English and French here https://www.laliste.com/en/

MILANO, ITALY – August 18, 2015. Contraste restaurant owners portraits. © 2015 Guido De Bortoli

Words by David J Constable

Photos courtesy of Thomas Piras

With the first national lockdown announcement that all restaurants in Italy most close by 6pm, the hospitality industry was dealt a heavy blow. Businesses were forced to adapt. Chefs and restaurants had no choice but to adjust where possible – if possible. The second lockdown has been different, although no less challenging. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is make-or-break for many when you consider that a lot of restaurants are only open for dinner service, while others depend on night-time drinking and the sale of alcohol to cover rent and wages.

With lockdown 2.0 now lifted (once again, for lunch service only), will the industry be in positive, festive mood? A good December can mean everything to restaurants – the Christmas period bringing in enough to cover the difficult months – but things won’t be the same this year.

The COVID pandemic has revealed the fragility of the hospitality industry, from Starbucks to kebab shops, food trucks to Michelin dining. All of a sudden, and without warning, people find themselves homebound and looking for new options for a good night in. For the team at Contraste in Milan – who have only ever been open for dinner service – attention once again turns to an earlier serving, but they also have business ambitions far beyond the dining room.

Thomas Piras, one of the three founding members and management, along with Simon Press and Contraste head chef, Matias Perdomo, calls it “a period of reconstruction and diversification.” He says, “I hope people are learning to adapt and are better prepared now?” The primary concern, however, is the uncertainty surrounding government decisions. Are the government going to say: you can only open on these days or announce another curfew? We don’t know. No one knows. “We must stick to our values; that is what we are all about,” says Piras. “We considered takeout options, but that’s not Contraste. Takeaway is not a substitute for eating at the restaurant. Contraste has always been for the people. If it was a restaurant and an experience developed to make money, then we’d be closed by now – trust me! You do it because you love it, you believe in it.”

MILANO, ITALY – August 18, 2015. Contraste restaurant owners portraits. © 2015 Guido De Bortoli

Piras continues, “Even before this pandemic, we were working on launching new projects. This is not a reset or change of direction, but an opportunity to broaden ourselves and offer something new to the people. We know that our trade isn’t just tourists and office workers, but locals too. We wish to support our neighbourhood by offering them something that is quality and above all, affordable”.

With that in mind, the team have launched EXIT, a kiosk-restaurant serving high-quality food at a lower cost. “Launching EXIT has kept us creative and engaged,” he says. “We wish to elevate mainstream food, but there’s no reason why the cost should rise, too! This is about supporting our staff and presenting new options to the public”.

But EXIT isn’t the only business opportunity, the businessmen have up their sleeve. They have also launched ROC (Rosticceria Origine Contraste), opening December 10th, which Piras tells me “is like opening a second restaurant except there is no in-house dining.” Instead, the online platform will operate as a traditional grocery store, offering customers a collect and delivery service – using organic and sustainable packaging – with a four-course menu priced at an affordable 30 Euros. “It’s a more basic offering than Contraste, family at-home meals, with everything is prepared onsite with a focus on freshness. It winks at the neighbourhood rotisserie, and will be something sincere, generous and extremely casual.” Perdomo and his kitchen team dedicate hundreds of hours to researching, sourcing and applying the finest ingredients, perfecting it on the plate for the customer; and that commitment remains in place here.

MILANO, ITALY – August 18, 2015. Contraste restaurant owners portraits. © 2015 Guido De Bortoli

The takeaway and delivery market continues to grow, in Milan and beyond. The fast-food arm of this industry is congested, even more so since the pandemic with everyone trapped at home, looking at their phones. Big players like UberEats, Deliveroo, Glovo and the supermarket chains have increased their presence in an attempt to consume the market. Now, operating delivery and door-to-door is a requirement.

“That’s what I mean by adapting” says Piras. “For us, ROC have been ideas for a long time, way before COVID. We have long seen the advantages of offering and preparing such a service. It has also meant that we have been able to keep our staff employed, rotating the kitchen team; so they’ll work four days in the Contraste kitchen, one day in the lab kitchen and then have their two days rest. Contraste has 24 staff, with only two from the Lombard capital, so we needed to make sure that everyone was safe and could remain at work”.

And still, there’s more! The trio opened their empanada takeout, Empanadas del Flaco, in central Milan in early-December, offering six flavour varieties of the popular South American street food. “These are great for family meals, office orders or on-to-go snacks. Matias is Uruguayan and Simon is Argentinean, so we wanted to bring boca to Milan. We’re working with Glovo to deliver. We actually modified a semi-industrial ravioli machine and can produce 1,200 empanadas an hour!” he beams. “The design is very much like ravioli, actually, a delicate casing holding a mixture of hot filling within”.

As we prepare for Christmas and a much-welcomed, COVID-free New Year, it’ll be a bumpy ride for many within the hospitality industry. Closures, consolidations and job losses are all a reality. The dining world has, undoubtedly, been radically changed, and yet, there are those who have, must and will adapt: inside-outside dining; no to dinners but yes to long, leisurely lunches; fine-dining replaced by ANY dining – even the sprauncy, la-di-da escargot giving way to, say, something such as empanadas in Milan! For Piras and the team at Contraste, there is no respite, no now what, only “reconstruction” and “diversification”. And what better message is there as we move into another year.

Contraste

Via Giuseppe Meda, 2

20136 Milano (MI)

Tel: 02 4953 6597

www.contrastemilano.it

Exit – Gastronomia Urbana

Piazza Erculea

20122 Milano (MI)

Tel: 02 3599 9080

https://exit-milano.com/

Empanadas del Flaco

via San Maurilio 4

20123 Milano (MI)

Tel: 02 4341 3521

https://www.facebook.com/empanadasdelflacomilano/

English tapas served in a country garden 

Words by Bruce McMichael

Photos courtesy of Kuba Winkowski

Smoke drifts up into a cloud-speckled English sky from the back garden of a typical British house, a sure sign cooking is happening. The garden belongs to Polish-born chef Kuba Winkowski and the smoke could be rising from a smoking shed-full of charcuterie or perhaps from the wood-fired pizza oven in Kubarn, a four cover space and vying to be one of the world’s smallest restaurant.

“I was working just a few feet from my customers” says Kuba, describing a working life before Covid-19 lockdowns. “I would crack open fresh scallops in front of them” he says, adding that he expects more experiential dining to be common post Covid-19. Today, chef Kuba is one of many hospitality professionals trying to predict desires and behaviours of customers who make reservations to eat professionally prepared food outside the home, and not delivered by motorbike in plastic or cardboard boxes.

Kuba Winkowski at Kubarn

Growing up as a self-described ”big lad”, Kuba was often found looking in the fridge for food. But it was here, spending time with his mother in the kitchen, seeing how good food could be created through tasting, adapting, that his interest was born. In the late 1990s and early 2000s a career as a chef was seen as a poor choice for young Poles. Only recently has the country’s cuisine shaken off its “pretty bland” descriptors. Boiled potatoes and meat were the typical meal, there were few spices and traditional ways of cooking Polish ingredients and foods had been forgotten in the cities.

Today, Kuba’s interest lies in processes such as fermentation and smoking and together with Poland’s emerging pride in its cuisine, is being reshaped into another passion: to bring forgotten foods, offal, tripe, heart into dishes that won’t scare off customers. His catering college background and training at Le Manoir has given him a classic French outlook which he combines with a contemporary talent, without using modernist tropes such as foams, gels and emulsions. Classic dishes from central Poland’s Silesian region with ingredients like apples, strawberries, sour creams, duck confit, sourdough soup, and of course central Europe’s staple, sauerkraut and fermented cabbage create his pantry must haves. 

Wagyu beef sukiyaki with Polish beef broth ‘Rosol’, soy egg yolk

From Gdansk to modern English via classic French

Raised in the Polish port of Gdansk where his father worked as a sea captain, Kuba grew to defy expectations of his ambitious parents and a conservative career path. He sought the adrenaline and buzz of service and first found it in Sydney in an Italian kitchen putting him on course for a cheffing life with stages in La Gavroche, Rhodes 24 which saw him cook for Royalty and ambassadors and Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons where he thrived under the combination of military-life efficiency and gastronomic creativity of Raymond Blanc.

So, after an unusual original story including winning the “National Chef of the year” title in 2019 and resigning as head chef at a posh gastro-pub, Kuba’s long cherished ambition to open his own restaurant kicked off in late 2019 with Kubarn. The tiny restaurant opened with a menu of classic flavour combinations and Polish-style charcuterie. He created bread sticks with Italian-style spicy n’duja sausage.

Before the Covid-19 lockdown, diners were served small plates using a wood-fired oven and live fire with ingredients sourced from local farmers to create in-house charcuterie, smoked fish, cultured butter, bread, liqueurs and ferments. Kuba is a big fan of specialist meats such as British-reared Wagyu beef and its marbled, melt in the mouth texture and unctuous flavours while his charcuterie skills extend to Paprika Lonza, Beef Bresaola and Yorkshire Mangalitza Culatello.

Kubarn is an intimate, social space and Kuba’s energetic and chatty personality draws in diners and softens the Englishman’s reserve, often seen as stiff and private. The search is not on for larger premises in which Kuba can entertain a bigger crowd but a search for a fusion mix of locally reared Japanese-influenced beef, Polish charcuterie and fermentations and Mediterranean-inspired seafood dishes, with a nod to tapas-sized dishes, overlooking the rolling green hills of the English countryside.

Kuba has found a new restaurant place in the Cotswolds and so will now only be using the Kubarn garden space for development work while taking his gastronomic concept to many more people in the future, post Covid-19 world.

Kubarn

66 Lamberts Field

Bourton-on-the-Water, GL54 2EH

UK

Illustrazioni di Carla van den Berg

We’ve asked a couple of Economists that we know from different countries to tell us their view on the European Union.

Testo di Ilaria Mazzarella

“Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievement which first create a de facto solidarity”.

Shuman, 1950

Un progetto ambizioso

Sono trascorsi più di sessantatré anni da quel fatidico 25 marzo 1957, quando i Capi di Governo di Belgio, Francia, Germania, Italia, Olanda e Lussemburgo apposero la firma sui Trattati di Roma, dando vita alla Comunità Economica Europea e avviando un lungo percorso di integrazione economica e politica che avrebbe portato alla nascita dell’Unione Europea con la firma dei Trattati di Maastricht nel 1992.

Ispirati dal sogno di un pacifico futuro condiviso, i membri fondatori dell’UE si sono imbarcati in un viaggio ambizioso di integrazione, accettando così di risolvere i conflitti irrisolti attorno a un tavolo piuttosto che nei campi di battaglia. Il passato travagliato che ha contraddistinto la prima metà del XX secolo con le due Guerre Mondiali ha lasciato il posto al più lungo periodo di pace che si ricordi in Europa Occidentale: 500 milioni di cittadini hanno potuto godere di un clima di stabilità in regime di democrazia in una delle aree economiche più prospere del mondo. Le immagini delle battaglie combattute nelle trincee e dei campi a Verdun, o del continente separato dalla cortina di ferro del Muro di Berlino, sono stati sostituiti da un’istituzione comune, un faro di pace e stabilità.

Per generazioni, l’Europa ha infatti rappresentato il futuro. È stata il luogo in cui i cittadini godono di una straordinaria diversità di culture, idee e tradizioni in un’area che copre quattro milioni di chilometri quadrati. Un’unica grande comunità fondata sullo Stato di Diritto, contraddistinta dal principio di dignità umana inviolabile come base dei diritti fondamentali, uguaglianza tra cittadini di fronte alla Legge e democrazia rappresentativa. Dove gli Europei possono viaggiare, studiare e lavorare attraversando i confini nazionali senza cambiare valuta o fermarsi alla dogana. Dove esiste il mercato unico più grande del mondo e la seconda valuta più utilizzata. Dove risiede una delle maggiori potenze commerciali, donatrice di aiuti umanitari per lo sviluppo internazionale. Quella Unione Europea che ha ricevuto il premio Nobel per la pace 2012 per aver “contribuito a trasformare la maggior parte dell’Europa da un continente di guerra in un continente di pace”.

UE, limiti e lacune

Si dice che nella vita si possono fare tante cose buone, ma poi si viene giudicati sempre per quella unica cattiva. Non è forse questo il triste destino che ha caratterizzato gli ultimi anni dell’Unione Europea? La memoria di alcuni è assai corta. E conseguentemente sono stati sollevati molti dubbi. È un’istituzione troppo distante e poco rappresentativa dei singoli? Con la nascita dell’appellativo PIIGS – romanzato magnificamente nella recentissima serie Diavoli con Alessandro Borghi e Patrick Dempsey –  si è creata una frattura indelebile tra alcuni degli Stati membri? E che fine ha fatto la nostra sovranità nazionale? Cosa sarebbe cambiato se non fossimo mai entrati nell’UE? Spinta da un sentimento populista che ha preso sempre più piede, serpeggia una non troppo convinta, ma sempre più insistente, proposta di ItalExit. L’opinione pubblica nazionale scettica e disillusa – quando non apertamente ostile – aizza gli animi tuonando: non sarebbe meglio tornare alla Vecchia Lira? Quando il progetto è ambizioso è facile deludere le aspettative. È quasi matematico non riuscire ad accontentare tutti. E forse è vero che l’UE non è stata sempre all’altezza del suo ruolo. Ma è pur vero che noi, noi Italiani dico, da soli, di certo non potremmo andare molto lontano senza affondare nella nostra già compromessa situazione economica.

Perché è pericoloso pensare di uscire dall’Europa?

Immediati gli effetti sulla bilancia commerciale: con una moneta nazionale svalutata, aumenterebbero le esportazioni e sarebbero meno convenienti le importazioni (c.d. svalutazione competitiva). Ma non è una buona notizia: nell’era della post-globalizzazione l’economia non è più incentrata sulla sola vendita di prodotti finiti (c.d. modello della Global Value Chains). È vero che l’addio all’euro allenterebbe i vincoli di bilancio con la UE, accusati di frenare il potenziale di investimento del paese. Ma il paese dovrebbe comunque attingere a capitali in arrivo dai mercati finanziari, che nutrirebbero un elevato scetticismo e ciò aumenterebbe la difficoltà di rifinanziamento del debito. Oltretutto, da quando è stata costituita l’UE, lo scenario internazionale ha subìto diversi cambiamenti e nemmeno il più ricco dei Paesi europei (la Germania, per capirci) sarebbe oggi in grado da solo di muoversi con autorevolezza sullo scenario internazionale e confrontarsi alla pari con le grandi potenze globali, Stati Uniti e Cina in primis. Come potrebbe gestire poi fenomeni complessi come la lotta al cambiamento climatico, il terrorismo internazionale, la cyber-security o il rapporto con i giganti del web? Figuriamoci una media potenza come l’Italia. Oltretutto il nazionalismo non regolato da istanze sopranazionali, historia magistra vitae, è molto pericoloso e può produrre danni incalcolabili.

Crisi di fiducia dell’Unione Europea

Il referendum del giugno 2016, che ha sancito l’uscita della Gran Bretagna dall’Unione europea, è la più evidente manifestazione dei dubbi che avvolgono il destino dell’Europa. La mancanza di fiducia del progetto europeo è da imputare principalmente a due fattori: da una parte il ricambio generazionale – coloro che non hanno vissuto in prima persona i benefici della costituzione dell’UE – e dall’altro gli eventi che hanno caratterizzato l’ultimo decennio, periodo particolarmente difficile e turbolento: crisi finanziaria globale culminata nel 2008, che ha scatenato, a sua volta, crisi del debito sovrano; fragilità politica, nel momento in cui sono state messe in dubbio la capacità di agire dell’Europa unita e la sua reputazione e sono emerse divergenze interne sempre più difficili da sanare.

Ed è così che crisi economica, alto tasso di disoccupazione, impoverimento della classe media, a cui si aggiungono oltre alla Brexit, il terrorismo internazionale, l’emergenza umanitaria dei migranti che si riversano sulle coste dei Paesi meridionali dell’Unione (Italia, Grecia, Spagna) e, in ultimo, per non farci mancare niente, la pandemia da Covid-19, hanno generato una crisi di fiducia nei confronti delle Istituzioni europee da parte dei cittadini. È logico dedurre che la mancata fiducia nell’UE è anche il risultato di campagne politiche (elettorali?) martellanti che hanno spesso reso l’Europa un comodo capro espiatorio, trovando più agevole in termini di consensi scaricare le responsabilità dell’inadeguatezza dei governi di fronte alle complessità dei nuovi e molteplici fenomeni legati alla globalizzazione.

Minacce alla stabilità dell’Europa

È importante ricomporre le debolezze strutturali dell’area Euro perché il contesto geopolitico a cui far fronte ha tutto da guadagnare dall’indebolimento dell’Europa: una Cina sempre più risoluta, la politica aggressiva della Russia, l’Islam radicale che in Medio Oriente e in Africa svolge un ruolo importante e le prese di posizione dell’amministrazione americana sono tutti elementi che riempiono il nostro futuro di incognite. E tutto ciò mentre internamente si stanno combattendo sentimenti nazionalisti e xenofobi.

Uno dei miei discorsi preferiti in assoluto lo ha pronunciato Mario Draghi al Global Investment Conference di Londra nel 2012, allora Presidente della BCE: “Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough”. Whatever it takes, dovremmo ricordarcene più spesso.

È inevitabile riconoscere che l’Europa – competitiva, unita, resiliente – non solo ci conviene, ma anche che è proprio all’interno di una dimensione europea che potremo difendere meglio i nostri interessi nazionali. Tornare a vedere la dimensione europea come una straordinaria opportunità piuttosto che una matassa di vincoli, un moltiplicatore piuttosto che un sottraendo della nostra sovranità. Come recitava il presidente Donald Tusk ai 27 leader dell’UE sul futuro dell’Unione: “Uniti si vince, divisi si perde”.

Fonti: White Paper, CeSPI, ilSole24Ore


Words by Chelsea van Hooven

To me, Europe has always represented unity while retaining the unique heart of its member countries. I grew up in the 90’s going to school in Germany and traveling throughout Europe with my family and my formative years showed me not only how beautiful Europe is but also taught me so much about different cultures. Even though each country is so rich in its own culture, over the past decade, we have seen that through rapid globalization, countries have integrated and been more accepting of their diverse landscape of habitats and this is richly represented in the gastronomy world.

The importance of a strong Europe has never been greater than in this time of the coronavirus pandemic. ​On the negative side​, we have seen in the past in Europe how populism advances toxic new xenophobia, one that threatens to fracture our societies​. With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, trust in governments has diminished The virus is a big setback for borderless travel, which offers populists another opportunity to underline the importance of national border controls. This threatens the whole of Europe: those who take advantage of people’s anger through false claims promise everything possible and its opposite.

From an economical standpoint, the virus has been a great shock. Coronavirus hit us and within a few days, the social-economic damage presented itself. Consumers have been forced to put the focus on price instead of the quality of goods. Europe weaknesses in global trade structures have not only become painfully visible in the medical field but also in the global food markets and the whole industry is in turbulent times.

Trade restrictions are causing havoc in supply chains and seasonal harvest workers are scant in Germany, Spain, Italy, and France causing produce being unharvested and much-needed food left to rot in fields. This has exposed too many who were previously unaware as to how fragile the business of getting food from farm to table is. A supply that relies primarily on regional economic cycles, worldwide, would make regions more resilient in crises. Local added value would strengthen local small and medium-sized agricultural holdings. This pandemic is clearly showing us that our current food system as we know it results to a great degree in the exploitation of workers and of itself nature, The pandemic is also giving us the opportunity to consider this closely and make the needed changes.

I believe that if we let go of our fears and protectionist approach and go back to our core values of the EU, we can come out of this pandemic stronger and more united. To achieve this, there must be a genuine program wherein all EU Member States are involved. There must be a large-scale investment in the future NOW. We need to focus on topics such as climate change, technological sovereignty, strong accessible health, and social systems, as this will be vital in the future. Let’s unite and strive for a digital and green future with far greater equality in Europe, as the pandemic has demonstrated to us just how fragile and unequal societies can be.