Identità London, The International Chef Congress | 2010 Review
Identità London (7th and 8th June 2010)
David Constable Reviews:
This is the second year of Identità London: The International Chef Congress, in which Vinopolis, in Borough Market, transforms into theatre for two-days, and where you can witness extraordinary things happen from some of the worlds greatest culinary experts. Chefs such as Andrea Berton, Alvin Leung, Gennaro Esposito, and British flagbareers Jason Atherton, Sat Bains and Ashley Palmer Watts, demonstrate their craftsmanship and panache of worldly ingredients. The congress is a celebration and appreciation of both the brilliance of Italian food and the artisans of today’s finest cuisines.
The focus of the 2010 congress was themed around ‘The Luxury of Simplicity’, which “centers on creatively being driven from the ingredient and its seasonality”. Every Italian ingredient tells a little story, it’s what makes cooking in Italy so passionate, so well respected, from the planting or harvesting of seeds and wheat, to the people who eventually collect it, the chef who prepares it and the individuals or families who consume it; there is a progressive path and narrative to each component ingredient.
Founder of Identità (and Italian food editor), Paolo Marchi, believes that the exchange of ideas and the appreciation of cooking and well-sourced ingredients is at the heart of a good chef, and regards it as the core of Identità. “After the astounding success of Identità London 2009 – the first Identità venture outside Italy – I’m delighted that chefs from New York to Hong Kong are joining us to celebrate this year’s theme”. Introducing Identità to London – after its success in Milan – is an opportunity to promote the depth and diversity of Italian cuisine beyond its association with pizza and pasta, and beneath the arches of Vinopolis there’s not a meatball in sight.
The annual International gastronomic congress is supported by some of Italy’s most renowned producers, including Grans Padano, Lavazza and Birra Moretti. Showcasing their produce, wine and spirits are specialist artisan producers, all of whom salute their region for its produce and tradition. Raboso del Piave wine and Alpago Lamb are just two of the products sourced from the dynamic growth area of the Veneto region, while Pastificio dei Campi pasta is direct from Italy’s hometown of pasta, Gragnano. There were some wonderful offerings from Slow Food Italia and their 12 products from selected regions: Piedmont, Puglia, Sardinia and Veneto, which, at the risk of extinction, are protected by the Slow Food Presidia initiatives. Dishes included: marinated rabbit meat from the Gray Rabbit of Carmagnola and a hamburger of Alpago Lamb.
There were demonstrations from Daniel Patterson (Coi, San Francisco), Davide Scabin (Combal.zero, Turin) and a funny and rather unorthodox Alvin Leung (Bo Innovation, Hong Kong) in which Alvin cooked his interpretation of the English breakfast with lotus root stuffed with bone marrow, lotus seeds and 1000-year-old egg. His finale was ‘Sex on the Beach’, an exuberant dish that he cooks for charity to help raise awareness for AIDS Concern. The dish includes an edible condom made by dipping a cigar tube into a kappa and konjac mixture, then using a pipette he squeezes in drops of a honey and Yunnan mixture. The ‘condom’ is then placed on powdered shiitake mushrooms (made to look like sand), and hey presto; you’ve just had ‘sex on the beach’. He commands the stage with great jocosity and fusion – the Tommy Lee rock ‘n’ roll star of the culinary world! This is a perfect example of how chefs at Identità London interperate particular dishes and showcase their –sometimes-peculiar – ideas.
Jason Atherton spoke about his new restaurant opening in Mayfair (its name is still under wraps due to lawyers and ‘rules’) and about how it is the responsibility of the restaurant and chef to cater to the diner as soon as they walk through the door. He continued, “Price reflects perfection, and it is that which we owe to the guest.” Ashley Palmer Watts presented some of the dishes created for the menu at the new Heston Blumenthal restaurant, Dinner, opening in November at The Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park. The dishes are inspired by the gastronomic heritage of Britain and its historical concepts, with a touch of Heston’s Feasts.
Gennaro Esposito (La Torre del Saracino, Naples) gave an excellent demonstration, cooking with new and distinct shaped pasta that he designed with producers, Pastificio dei Campi. Esposito described the history and traditions of pasta and Italian cooking, commenting on how “there is excitement in feeding on outside influences and embarking on new cultural adventures”. As well as artisan pasta, Gennaro cooks using the quality ingredients on his doorstep – some of which are grown in the family garden in Naples.
So the second year of Identità London and things are going from strength to strength with global chefs gathering to appreciate one another’s talents and to demonstrate their own. The annual gathering has become the pre-eminent event for chefs to show quality and technique and Paolo Marchi is surely salivating at the prospect of Identità 2011.
About David Constable:
David Constable was born in Kent and studied in both the United Kingdom and United States where he found it very difficult living on the student diet of baked beans and super noodles. Once released from academia and thrust into the ‘real world’ he found comfort in an eclectic mix of British, French, Italian and Mexican cuisine. His favourite restaurants in London are Roast and Launceston Place – precision of dishes and fine British game – and he enjoys red wine as much as he does his food. Amarone being his beloved tipple.
Along with his restaurant reviews, David also writes television reviews for Broadcast and a weekly media blog for Production Wizard. His website is: http://davidconstable.wordpress.com