17 participants, 4 finalists, two winners: Chef DiMonte and Cheff Gardini. Proof of the success of a now international dish. With interesting ideas for everyone from the participants.
Risotto, one of the symbolic dishes of Northern Italian cuisine, is increasingly popular abroad. And it has now reached the status of an iconic Made in Italy recipe on a par with pasta or pizza. A success that is due to the unique characteristics of this dish, which arises as much from the mixture of quality ingredients as from a cooking method that requires time and attention, and to which the innovative technologies of food equipment are opening new perspectives. For example, the use of unusual ingredients, once unthinkable, is now allowed.
Four finalists for two fine dining awards
Further proof was given last November 26 in Dubai at Risotto Quest, a contest organised by TUTTOFOOD, with the collaboration of Riso Gallo, and HostMilano to reward the best risotto in the Emirates. Around 17 restaurants participated, all among the top names in fine dining in the Gulf.
The proposals are all excellent and it is difficult for the jury to select only 4 finalists for the two categories at stake, traditional risotto and innovative risotto. After a hard-fought battle, Chef Francesco DiMonte of the Emirates First class Lounge and Chef Enrico Paiola of Captain Club Dubai for the classic; Chef Mahammad Ali of Shakespeare & Co. and Chef Davide Gardini of BiCE Ristorante, for the innovative. At the end of two exciting duels, Chef DiMonte triumphed respectively for the classic risotto and Chef Gardini for the innovative one. What is the finalists’ and winners’ secret? They reveal it to us themselves.
“A risotto reworked from classic cuisine must represent an entire region: the origins, the flavours and, in my case, what I love most about my profession, the passion for cooking traditional dishes - commented Chef DiMonte -. Oil, flour, pasta, rice, Italian cheeses are the basis of our concept of quality cuisine, even here. And then there is the talent and passion to build a kitchen staff starting from these ingredients. Finally, a technological kitchen and the mood of the place are essential to offer the customer a multisensory experience par excellence”.
“There are no tricks or shortcuts in the kitchen. The quality of the raw material and remaining true to one’s roots count: simplicity, in short - adds the other winner, Chef Gardini - starting, when it comes to risotto, from the best Carnaroli rice and an excellent PDO Parmesan. But we also bring burrata, Pachino tomatoes, Sicilian aubergines, basil, and many other ingredients from Italy. Just as some dry pastas are made by us with a bronze extruder machine which is also Italian. What should an ideal kitchen be like? Traditional but with a warm, comfortable vision, elegant without being showy”.
Quality throughout the whole line-up of participants
But the other two finalists, in order to make it into the shortlist of four, have also shown their ability to combine tradition and innovation with originality and creativity. “My secret? Risotto for me is romantic, and deserves every possible respect - explains Chef Paiola -. In this case, I believe that the quality of the raw materials made all the difference, and the search for perfect execution in its simplicity. I try to use Italian ingredients as much as possible and our machine for making fresh pasta is irreplaceable and strictly Italian, just like the pizza oven. Speaking of innovation, in my kitchen we work a lot with vacuum packing and low temperature cooking”.
But what is the point of view of a chef who (also) cooks Italian food but who isn’t Italian? As Chef Ali explains, “...as an outsider, I have combined Italian tradition with the demand for healthy, sustainable foods, using only vegan ingredients. Of course, I use a lot of Italian ingredients, about 60 percent, but ours is a casual dining place and this allows us a certain flexibility of choice. Ours is a fusion and trendy cuisine in which there is a lot of Italy, even in the preparation: in fact many of the technologies we use in the kitchen are Italian”.