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  Editorial Issue 170, February 2018   
Tribute to Gualtiero MarchesiTribute to Gualtiero Marchesi  Contents 
Issue 169, January 2018 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 171, March 2018

Tribute to Gualtiero Marchesi


 On 26 December 2017 Gualtiero Marchesi passed away. King, father and undisputed master of modern Italian cuisine, the great Milanese chef has been the first to give Italy a new dignity and gastronomic culture, challenging and renewing the traditions that made Italy a country of taverns and trattorias. A pioneer and innovator with an extraordinary talent, he was the first to introduce in the kitchen of a restaurant in Italy tools and techniques unknown at that time, such as the blast chiller, sous-vide and combi oven. All this happened over thirty years ago, when cooking in Italy was almost made up of taverns and trattorias, strongly rooted in the conviction tradition should be kept at any cost, always the same and incapable of being renewed. In a city like Milan - where, at that time, there mainly were trattorias, especially of Tuscan cuisine - Gualtiero Marchesi has been the first to introduce the so called international cuisine, beginning the revolution today considered the solid reality of Italian cuisine.


Gualtiero
Marchesi (courtesy of Gualtiero Marchesi Foundation)
Gualtiero Marchesi
(courtesy of Gualtiero Marchesi Foundation)

 The extraordinary change introduced by Gualtiero Marchesi began in 1977 - forty years ago - when the great Milanese chef opened his famous restaurant in Milan in Via Bonvesin de la Riva. In just a few years, it became the reference point of the new Italian cuisine as well as a training school for young chefs who have worked in the kitchen of Gualtiero Marchesi. It is not by chance, in fact, many of the celebrated chefs who are today leading the Italian cuisine have been students of Gualtiero Marchesi. A clear and evident sign of the vision that has characterized his revolution, aware of the fact sharing what one knows is the key to success to let an idea grow and pass on. This certainly was not an easy task if we consider the period in which all this happened - the end of the 1970s - when the Italian cuisine was mainly made of the expression of countless local culinary identities.

 Gualtiero Marchesi was born in Milan on 19 March 1930, his parents were restaurateurs coming from San Zenone Po, in the province of Pavia, a place where he has spent his childhood. The destiny of Gualtiero Marchesi seemed to be already written, as - he himself told about this many times - when he was just born, he was put in a large saucepan covered with warm cloths. The great Milanese chef was born in a room of the hotel restaurant Mercato, in via Bezzecca 24 in the district of Porta Vittoria in Milan, owned by his parents. It was in the family restaurant the young Gualtiero Marchesi took his first steps in cooking and soon showed an innovative and enterprising spirit in the kitchen. At the end of the 1940s, he began his professional training at the Hotelier Institute in Lucerne, Switzerland, where he learned the first techniques typical of the great kitchens of hotels, considered at that time the cathedrals of cooking, especially in France.

 When he came back to Italy, he continues to work in the family restaurant where he introduces special dishes that changed the habits and way of seeing cuisine in Milanese people. In a short time, the hotel restaurant Mercato becomes the reference point for famous people and gourmets in Milan. This, however, is not enough for the young Gualtiero Marchesi, who is eager to do even more and put into practice his thought that he will later call total cuisine. He travels to France where he worked in the kitchens of some prestigious restaurants, in particular in the kitchens of the famous Troisgros brothers, an experience that will deeply mark the professional training of Gualtiero Marchesi. Back in Italy, in 1977 he opened in Milan in via Bonvesin de la Riva at number 5, the restaurant that will bear his name, becoming in a few years the best Italian restaurant and conquering in just one year the first Michelin star. In 1986, Gualtiero Marchesi's restaurant conquered the three Michelin stars, the first Italian restaurant to win this award.


 

 The rest, then, is part of history. A story that has been told by many and that will certainly continue to be told as the work of Gualtiero Marchesi has evidently marked and written the history of Italian cuisine. The change introduced by the great Milanese chef was not limited to cooking only. Gualtiero Marchesi, in fact, thanks to his culture and passion for the arts and, in particular, music, elevates the presentation of dishes to the level of art. He understands, before others in Italy, the aesthetic side of cooking is an integral part of the art of cooking, including the technique, impeccable and perfect, as well as the rigorous choice of ingredients and their quality. He in fact created so many and famous dishes which have become, so to speak, heritage of the Italian cuisine and an example of culinary art, of total cuisine, as Gualtiero Marchesi himself has defined it. A new cooking type - total, in fact - where the act of making a dish becomes essential part of its presentation, in the artistic expression made of ingredients, techniques and aesthetics, capable of involving all the senses.

 It is in fact enough to mention some of his most famous dishes such as raviolo aperto, riso oro e zafferano, seppia al nero or piramide di riso venere to understand Gualtiero Marchesi's cuisine is art beyond cooking. The same art which can also be perceived in dishes of extreme aesthetic simplicity, such as carn'è pesce, insalata di spaghetti con le alici scappate and quattro paste. Not to mention all the dishes that drawn inspiration from the world of painting, such as the famous dripping di pesce inspired by Jackson Pollock's work or rosso e nero, inspired by the work of Alberto Burri. Italian cuisine has lost its greatest, most excellent and divine interpreter as well as father, master and undisputed artist. A lack that, there is no doubt, will be difficult to replace for many years to come, because - with no offense to anyone - I do not personally see cooks to be at the level of the genius and talent of Gualtiero Marchesi, capable of introducing such a radical and revolutionary change as he did.

 In Italy we have a many prepared, competent, good and very good chefs, each of them certainly owes a lot to Gualtiero Marchesi for having shown the way, many have copied him in a more or less evident and questionable way, but no one has equaled him. He was the first one to improve the dignity of the chef's profession in a country where, before him, this job was certainly not considered noble. Today the career as a chef is seen as prestigious and pursued by many, often with the illusion that cooking, after all, is simple, spectacular and everyone can do that. This was certainly not the case in 1977 when Gualtiero Marchesi began his revolution and gave life to modern Italian cuisine. At that time in Italy, in the majority of cases, there were innkeepers and managers of taverns who in the dishes put food cooked in an approximate and technically questionable way. Then Gualtiero Marchesi changed everything and Italian cuisine has never been the same and will never be the same again. The cultural and culinary heritage of Gualtiero Marchesi will be forever part of Italian and international cuisine. This is why anyone who has an interest or passion for cooking owes Gualtiero Marchesi a lot more than a simple thanks and gratitude. The inheritance Gualtiero Marchesi left us is an immense heritage being worth way more than gold. Just like the gold leaf he placed on his rice and transformed it into an eternal masterpiece.

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 170, February 2018   
Tribute to Gualtiero MarchesiTribute to Gualtiero Marchesi  Contents 
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