It took me forever to book a spot at the ‘Ne avanza per me?’ dinner date. It was the only one I could kind of afford and it sounded fantastic. The whole concept behind the ‘I want some more’ (translation) dinner was to ensure that the Salone del Gusto festival made maximum use of everything, no waste. This dinner was planning to take leftovers to a whole new level. Many important Chefs were going to create an impromptu menu with ingredients they would receive a scant few hours before the event. I was exited as a cook; to see what they would come up with on such short notice and with what I assumed would be an odd array of top notch ingredients. I was also excited as a diner; I love to eat and always like trying new things.
I watched volunteers drift from stand to stand acquiring the ingredients as the festival began to shut down. I excused myself to the nearest restroom and decided it was time to shed my chef coat and just be a guest. I check myself once in the mirror and walked out to find a chair at the dinner. I was thrilled to find that the dinner would be taking place in the ‘Theater of Taste’ room. A room that was serviced by the most incredible staff in the world, which I had become quite friendly with over the last few days. The dinner began with a cocktail appetizer in the lobby. I will admit, I looked around and realized that people who stuck around in the lobby enjoying the wine and bite size morsels were not going to find a good seat. I downed the wine (terrible, I know) and dashed for the entrance. I was really interested in getting a nice seat near the action.
I was ushered to a seat very close to the cooking area by the lovely gentleman who always had a smile when we met. I readied my camera and watched the chefs at work in the kitchen. A flurry of action and people rushing back and forth. I watched fires flare, pots steam, plates being set out…. There are few things I love more than a busy kitchen…. Oh, what I would have given to be in there! The chefs were introduced and we were graced with the presences of Davide Scabin, Alexandre Gauthier, Luigi Taglienti, Michele Buri, Giulia Porta, Luca Berolatti, Wam Kat and Masayuki Okuda, among others. I was seated next to some fellow Lavazza Course members (Stephanie has a lovely website: Hogtown Homegrown) and a lovely Australian gentleman. The meal was interesting with dishes that were complex, interesting and even some that could have used a little extra ‘umph’.
The evening was highlighted by many wonderful occurrences. I received a soup presented to me personally and before anyone else (even though I was not even close to the first person usually being served) by the gentleman in the white coat and it was adorned with a heart. I was so flattered, I believe I blushed. The soup came with a verbal comment of how he had enjoyed meeting me over the last 5 days and would love to see me at the next festival. I also enjoyed watching Chef Scabin attempt to make a dish with pork belly, salami, scallops, salmon, scallions, artichokes, wine, celery, onion, bell pepper, carrots, dried apricots, kiwis, peanuts, mint, sage…The list was endless! He asked the crowd to vote on how to combine the ingredients, what to add more or less of and then as a proper chef, neglected to follow any of our suggestions and with a smile did what he thought was best.
The dinner was lovely and well worth the effort it took to book it. It was a fantastic way to end the evening. Great conversation, interesting food, lots of wine and just good feelings throughout the evening. I couldn’t have wished for a better ending to the most incredible culinary experience I have had so far. Salone del Gusto made an impact on me, not only the courses I took, but the people I met, the food I ate and the general concept that so many of us shared: food is a much overlooked element of life sometimes and yet it is such a big part of who we are and what we do. Regardless of profession, social status, cultural heritage…everyone has to eat. Each time you eat, cook or even just drink why not take the time to make it an experience to remember? Life is too short to not enjoy food!