KUCINA DI KIARA: Dishes Based on Feelings and Emotions

KUCINA DI KIARA: Dishes Based on Feelings and Emotions

“Another culinary trend is the focus on products’ sustainability, taking care to use seasonal, traced, and certified ingredients, especially when it comes to products of animal origin. Being careful to avoid waste follows: learning not to throw away anything that ‘s edible is fundamental.”

Rozza Chiara

With regard to the future of the restaurant industry, I think that after the first, and extremely strict, lockdown, the industry has risen like Lazarus, both qualitatively and creatively. Perhaps it was the extended deprivation, I don’t know, but I honestly can’t remember having ever eaten so well in a restaurant before.

The lack of events and trade shows has also, I believe, helped to lighten chefs’ mental loads, and this mental freedom has definitely brought positive results. During the closure, with nothing else to do, and needing to be careful about their figures (given the lack of physical activity), many people changed their eating habits, turning to quality (instead of quantity) for salvation, wellness, and physical satisfaction.  

Things which people, even those who maybe didn’t do so before, began to look for in restaurants as well. My cooking doesn’t have a specific style. It’s based on feelings and emotions.

This may sound like a trite cliché, but when I say that cooking saved my life, it’s the truth. After discovering how fun and fulfilling it was to cook for others, and seeing the joy with which my friends enjoyed my dishes, it was like something switched on inside me, something that has been operating at full capacity ever since.

I cook to see the joy in the eyes of the people I care about, to witness pleasure and love. Clearly quite a lot has happened since then. While I used to focus only on flavour, I now also dedicate myself to aesthetics.

“Beautiful and delicious” has become my mantra. The explosion of food on TV, in the form of programs and talent shows, has also helped. Thanks to this popularization, I’ve learned about ingredients and cooking techniques that most of us are unaware of.

Creating beautiful dishes is just as important as making them delicious so I always try to apply my artistic knowledge to recipes. I’m obviously just at the beginning and, lacking the training worthy of a professional chef, try to do my best to stand out from the crowd.

Studying the dishes of great chefs has been fundamental to my journey and is still an enormous source of inspiration. I’m constantly setting goals for myself and always aiming high.

In terms of the new culinary trends for the coming year, and always thanks to the media frenzy that we’re all subjected to, in my humble opinion we will first and foremost definitely see the (re)discovery of ingredients which are unknown or unusual in Italian cuisine.

Then, in juxtaposition to this, there will be a return to “poor man’s” ingredients, a return to simplicity, in which to indulge our imaginations. This return to simple dishes will be accompanied by a rediscovery of local products and of the classic recipes of Italian culinary tradition, which highlight an increasingly strong bond with the territory.

Another culinary trend is the focus on products’ sustainability, taking care to use seasonal, traced, and certified ingredients, especially when it comes to products of animal origin. Being careful to avoid waste follows: learning not to throw away anything that ‘s edible is fundamental. This is where creativity comes into play, taking advantage of different techniques and pairings in order to create sustainable recipes.

Another aspect connected to sustainability is the tendency to pair dishes with the most suitable wines, even better if they’re natural and, of course, sustainable. Here many wineries have opened their doors to new clients by providing a true exploration of wine and food, as well as actual itineraries within their own vineyards, promoting intimate contact with the territory.

Last, but not least, at a difficult time such as this, networking has turned out to be a successful strategy. We’ve all turned into little “master chefs”, ready to immortalize every dish with our smartphone before we eat it. But the importance of digitalization hasn’t only gripped connoisseurs.

Many businesses in the sector, from personal chefs to Michelin-starred restaurants, have adopted this method online in order to efficiently and effectively promote and reinvent themselves in some way.

That being said, looking in a proverbial crystal ball and trying to predict the culinary trends of 2022 is risky given this incredibly volatile time.

The criteria according to which I select my suppliers is very simple. For starters, I don’t look for the cheapest products because cooking is a gesture of love towards others, and the choice of ingredients is the first thing that demonstrates it. The first step is the shopping, which must be done at trusted stores.

When it comes to raw ingredients, I always try to use organic fruits and vegetables. Until several years ago there was my father’s vegetable garden. I grew up with these smells and tastes, despite the fact that I ate little or nothing. Mentioning this I can’t help but think of the Uliassi Restaurant’s dish, Pasta al Pomodoro alla Hilde, the @50topitaly dish of the year!

The story behind this dish is fascinating and moving to say the least. For those who don’t know it, they tried to extract the scent of tomato stalks to make the pasta. “The scent of green, what you smell when you enter a vegetable garden where the tomatoes are planted in rows and their vines climb up the canes” (their words).

I remember that smell very well because I used to take my Barbie down to my father’s garden and play with her their, making her climb the stalks and imagining that she was Jane waiting for her Tarzan (who never arrived). And that smell which was unleashed then (about 35 years ago) is still fixed to the inside of nose. Obviously only two geniuses like Uliassi and Hilde Soliano could have come up with something like this.

My travels are also influenced by cooking and by the ingredients that I’d like to use. When I choose a destination or I hear that one of my friends is going to visit a certain place, my culinary fanaticism takes over.

If you’re going to Favignana can you get me some bottarga? While you’re in Soverato can you get me some chilli pepper? If you happen to be in Tropea can you get me some onions? Some things are doable, others less so (like the onions, but I try anyway).

The absolute pinnacle was going to Madagascar and loading up on vanilla beans. Ah, the days when we could travel without worry. The essential ingredients in my kitchen, which must always be within arms reach, are, generally speaking, oil, dry pasta, flour, eggs, salt, sugar, spices, and perhaps a nice organic lemon.

Oh, and there must be Grana Padano (fans of Parmesan hate me, but I’m from Lodi and therefore grew up with the famous – at least in our area – Grana Lodigiano with its characteristic black crust).  Can I also add chocolate? Dark chocolate pairs well with many dishes, both sweet and savoury, but I keep milk chocolate in the pantry as well for when I need a treat.

I’ll stop here, otherwise the list will just keep growing. But if I really think about it, when I imagine the essence of an ingredient, one thing that must absolutely always be present is love, or passion. Without this, my cooking would be meaningless.

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