Elio Sironi: The Spanish Gentleman Ceresio 7 | Milan

I struggled not to cry the first time I was in chef Elio Sironi’s kitchen, chatting at the granite island in the kitchen of Ceresio 7 underneath the shiny plaque, engraved with his name in elegant cursive.

But it wasn’t a sauce or a sous vide that struck me, it was his philosophy. A chef whose name is known among chefs, he cooks for some of the most influential people in fashion and design, coming from the BVLGARI Hotel to DSquared’s rooftop restaurant, Ceresio 7. Cooking for clients drawn to luxury, he creates experiences for people that they will never forget, explaining that it is a type of magic that comes from wandering the world, experiencing everything you can so that you can truly know yourself, know what you are drawing to you, and know how to choose it every day. I had a feeling we were going to get along.

“…a type of magic that comes from wandering the world, experiencing everything you can so that you can truly know yourself, know what you are drawing to you, and know how to choose it every day.”

How did you get to Ceresio 7?

It has been a long road and arriving at the top is not easy, not because we’re on the top floor, but because this is a place that requires someone with a lot of experience. I believe nothing happens by accident, everything has a reason and in the end, I wanted this. I believe that every day we get what we desire because in the end that is really what we want – and that’s the secret – wanting it every day. I got here after many different steps: traveling the world, lot’s of different cities, many experiences that helped me be able to choose what I wanted, and I chose Ceresio 7, because I really identify with this project. I like it. That is fundamental.

What is the first thing a young chef should learn?

More than anything they’ve got to have something that cannot be taught: passion. If you don’t have passion for this job and you want to be a celebrity chef there are a lot of shortcuts like TV and radio which are a lot easier than doing this every day. The second thing you’ve got to learn is humility. Honestly, I hate people that believe they’ve got to show off before they ask. A young chef has to learn how to be in the world, I think everyone who works in this industry knows what I’m talking about, otherwise there would be one cuisine for everyone, a total bore. Instead a chef has his particular style because of the experience he has behind him.

I always hear how important it is to have a love or a passion for the kitchen and I understand that it is hard work but is there another reason? I mean, what is the difference when someone does this as a work obligation?

Yes, the difference is that when it becomes an obligation it becomes the most difficult and hardest job in the world. A cooks work is very busy but the minute you do this with passion and with love you can mess up every day and still have fun and not take it so seriously. There must be a touch of madness to take you out of context so that it doesn’t become boring. The kitchen should never be boring.

So would you say that chefs make good lovers?

Ha ha! In what sense?

It would seem that a person that could love a dish with such passion could love a person the same.

Everything is connected. The table is the entrance for…well, you know what I mean? A lot of important things happen around the table. I want to say that the table is magic and that which is at the table becomes magical. You come here and are kidnapped by hot guys, beautiful women who greet you, the location, the paintings, the structure…and then I come in with my dish, one that you have chosen and in a certain way you say, yeah, I’m going to eat it. My homework is difficult when I work in a place that is so beautiful but when I can capture your attention with what you’re eating, it’s like I’ve taken you to bed.

“…when I can capture your attention with what you’re eating, it’s like I’ve taken you to bed.”

Well on that note…What is the most important thing you learned in the kitchen?

To strike the right harmony, you must to be at peace with yourself. To know yourself and be yourself every day is one of the most difficult jobs to do but it is that which will open the door to allowing you to have empathy for people. This is fundamental because you are putting yourself in the place of your clients that come and pay, that choose your location, to eat your dishes, which for me is extremely important, to be the client backstage – behind the scenes.

And that’s the story City Girl Cooks wants to tell, what happens behind the scenes.

And that’s the most fascinating door and I feel like I’m a director in this sense. I would never be an actor, I like putting things in position, I like to work by having 15 cooks in the kitchen, like actors and making them understand what I want on the plate. It’s difficult but when you watch their hands and are like “wow, we’re understanding each other” it’s a beautiful feeling of empathy. And if there’s someone who isn’t understanding my way of working, I say, it’s been a pleasure, it’s time for you to go, there’s a lot of fish in the sea, go fish somewhere else. I want people who believe in what I’m doing and are ambassadors who love this place and who say I work at the coolest place in Milan. There are 42 employees here, 15 in the kitchen and the chef. I am an operative chef, that works and gets his hands dirty.

Sounds like the definition of a leader.

Honestly, I enjoy when there are problems to solve. When there are issues, especially in a job like this where you are in front of the client, you find the time. The difference from one place to another is in how problems get solved. You can’t be blind. If you mess up, you mess up, and it’s a good thing to admit it but you’ve got to understand why. It kills me when someone says “ah it’s ok.”

Me too.

 

CHEF SKETCHES.
Before planning their menus, chefs sketch out the dish to plan the placement and balance.
Being in so many kitchens throughout the years, I was curious to know what sketches Elio had on hand, so he showed me these, most of them drawn by his cooks.

 

What is your philosophy in the kitchen?

Simplicity wins. When you say “simplicity” in cooking it’s like in life, it is a necessary simplicity, not mundane, but one that is made from experience. Trust me, the difference between a young guy in his 20’s with the same passion as a guy in his 30’s backstage is very evident, when someone has traveled the world and lived.

Would you say there is a connection between food and fashion?

Yes, for sure. Cooking is a factor of fashion. Ceresio 7 is partnered with DSquared and before that I was at BVLGARI so from this standpoint, I believe that good food should be served in a beautiful place, however there is a big difference. Coming into a restaurant is an experience you can bring with you for your whole life and if it was that good, it maybe something you even tell your kids about. I love running into clients that tell me about the amazing meal that had at BVLGARI, the experience is worth a lot, this is the true jewel. The dining experience can seem ephemeral but if the dish was good, it remains in your memory forever.

I’ve got to ask, do Dean and Dan, the founders of DSquared have a favorite dish?

DSquared designers, Dean and Dan Caten

Dean and Dan are marvelous people that eat a bit of everything. They are total pasta-philes, they love pasta and they love my tortellini in brodo. During the winter I make tortellini in house and I do a tortellini in a broth of chicken that is very light, but behind this simplicity there is a lot of work. Sometimes they let me decide what to make for them, which I love to interpret. Today for example they could arrive and say, I want to eat something with cheese, so then I take it from there. It is an experiment, and I have a lot of faith in their taste because they are men of the world – today they’re eating in Milan, tomorrow New York, and when they bring their experiences back from the restaurants they’re eating in, I want to capture their enthusiasm. They just came back from Greece a short time ago and told me about this hamburger with feta and avocado they ate. They came into the kitchen and showed me what they were talking about so I said “ok, now let me show you guys something” and made this beef tartare with feta and guacamole.

It seems like it could be a difficult challenge since the consistencies are similar, you’d have to find a way to distinguish them.

Are you a cook? You said that exactly right. There are three ingredients with the same texture which is exactly why I came up with a crunchy layer. Let’s go into the kitchen and I’ll show you.

 

CREDITS:

Dress: Federico Blasutti

Shoes: Alberto Guardiani

Make up: Tom Ford

Editor-in-chief: Melissa Lupo

Photography and Art Direction: Simone Martucci

Styling: Michael Peter Dye

Production Coordinator and Stylist Assistant: Camila Salles

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