As it turned out, the Theater of Taste workshop with Fulvio Pierangelini beacme an opportunity to hear him speak from the heart. He did prepare the food on site. The kitchen was off to the side of the theater. It couldn't have been better. Hearing the words, and seeing the emotions of the man behind the plate brought the expereince to a level that exceeded any expectations I had. Everything I've read about Pierangelini and his philosphy about food, endeared me to the man. He cooks from deep within his soul. As he said at the event, there's a transfer of energy when you cook, so it's important to respect where the food came from, and to demonstrate this respect in gesture when cooking. For example, for his Chickpea Puree with Shrimp, he won't allow anyone else to shelf the shrimp. He will do do so he sure the shrimp have been caressed before being placed on the plate. It's obvious from the dish I sampled, that he embodies his own philosphy. As a side note, I'm a big observer of gesture, so to hear this as core principle of philosophy captures my fascination.
It was more of a conversation than a talk. At first, he chose to sit on the edge of the stage instead of standing on it. He said he felt more comfortable sitting down and talking to people. I liked that. It's was more informal, and it felt like my family tradition to sit down at the kitchen table while sharing food and conversation.
There were many Pierangelini quotes that I loved, but this one in particular, "The more simple the dish, the greater margin of error," stuck out in the context of the gesture and respect he kept referring to. This dish we sampled was shrimp, chickpea puree and olive oil. When you have three basic components to a dish, they must all compliment each other, and each must the highest quality. "It's better to make an excellent Veal Cutlet Milanese, than it is to make a mediocre Chocolate Sole," was another Pierangelini quote. He was saying that technique was more important than trying to invent something that doesn't work. "Sole does not need to be cooked with chocolate," and he's right. There is no respect for the nature of either of those ingredients, and the gesture of combining the two demonstrates a need to invent more than to work with the inherent qualities in sole and chocolate.
Below is the dish I sampled. Very simple, and respectful. Pierangelini said he's not much for decoration. He feels it's an unecessary gesture. He wants the ingredients to speak for themselves, and they did in the form of poetry.
This dish was sublime. If the finest silk was liquid, it would have the viscosity of this puree. The taste was fresh and pure, enhanced by a nutty undertone. When Pierangelini was asked about how he gets his puree so smooth, he replied that he uses the best chickpeas, and the water they cook in. I'd like to find these chickpeas.
The shrimp came from San Remo, and the fisherman who caught them was there. He spoke in a quiet, humble tone about how sweet tasting these shrimp are compared to other shrimp. They swim 600-900 meters below the water surface depending on how hot the air temperature is. I can see why Pierangelini chose him for a supplier. His respect for the shrimp was matched with his quiet and humble gesture when he spoke about them. †he shrimp were a deep red and white, and when sliced, a nice pure white. They were tender, sweet and slight hint of salt, which completed the nutty undertone of the puree.
Pierangelini grows his own olives, that should tell you about the quality of this oil. Quite frankly, it was the best olive oil I've ever tasted. There are many artisian olive oil producers at Salone gel Gusto Terra Madre, and I tasted some really fine samples, some will be written about in future posts, none came close to what completed that plate.
As someone who studied the fine arts in college, I never had the opportunity to hear any of the masters who influenced me speak. I would rank Peirangelini up with them as major influences on me. I've read a lot about him, and I admire his philosphy about food. To hear him have a conversation with us a group, and to cook his signature dish as well, was a tremendous honor. I thank him, and Slow Food International for allowing me to experience what he means about respect and gesture. Going foreward it will be a large influence on my work.