Holding a purple, violet-scented edible sponge in my palm, I wondered whether the chef of Trussardi Ristorante alla Scala loved fashion first or if fashion found him, but one thing was for sure, chef Roberto Conti does couture.
The house of Trussardi radiates refinement and this chef is naturally in tune. The occasion couldn’t be missed to wear two pieces designed and worn by Gaia Trussardi for a completely immersive experience channeling the spirit of the chef and the brand. Having developed his career alongside a star-studded list of chefs, you’ll want to keep your eye on this tailor-made taste-maker.
More than any chef so far, chef Conti directed my every move as I plated…and I loved it. He showed me how to place each element in a way that would create movement, shadow, and contrast, and in the end, the exact mood he intended.
Couture fashion or alta moda in Italian, refers to unique pieces, custom made for an individual. In the kitchen, alta cucina describes a kind of tailored cooking with each preparation, placement, and ingredient having a distinct purpose and message.
What flavor defines you?
Spicy. Mostly because many versions of my cooking style have some sort of spice, whether it is peperoncino, a hot pepper, or the essence of spice, like ginger or yuzu. Anyway, even outside of the kitchen I’m a really extroverted person – I am spicy.
So you are an extrovert then?
Very much so.
What is the most prevalent ingredient in your kitchen?
There’s not really one single ingredient, I follow the seasons. I have a menu that changes four times a year, once for each season, changing every three months. So for every season I have stand-out ingredients so in the Fall I used a lot of root vegetables, like Jerusalem Artichokes.
Heading into Spring I use favas, peas, and seasonal versions of eggplant and bell peppers. I do a lot of fish and meat too. People don’t really think about it but the sea also has seasons. This week they’re reopening the season for Bluefin, so today’s special is tuna.
You can’t get every type of fish in every season. I mean, obviously in a city like this you can get whatever you want but like, I’m not going to get squid if it’s not in season because it’s going to come from Thailand. I prefer to get it from Liguria when it’s available.
What inspires your dishes?
I look to apply innovative techniques in way that a gourmet would recognize, to bring them into the present day but at the same time, tasting the past.
How would you define Italian cuisine?
It’s all about seasonal cooking and using good ingredients. We’re lucky that here in Italy we are surrounded by amazing food. The white asparagus from the north for example is buried underground in sandy dirt, so it doesn’t take on color and it’s very sweet.
I’m really strict as a teacher in the kitchen and I think a certain distance is important kitchen but I don’t like it very much. It’s not like, once we’re out of the kitchen I don’t know you or whatever, no, I mean, I’ll even get drinks with the guys. But at the same time I’m very strict about the way things go during service and that they understand there is silence things should go a certain way.
I don’t like tyrants, sometimes you could may have even seen someone getting slapped – that’s not right. So I am very strict but humane.
How do you have relationships being a chef? I mean you work every day and get home at maybe 1:00/2:00am. Is it possible?
You’ve got to find a person that understands you, and already that’s not easy. Whoever does this job has to know how to value things, how to organize their time, and how to get satisfaction from everything they do. You’ve got to be able to deal with constant denial. You work 16 hours a day and you see everyone else having aperitivo and you’re like ok — that’s just not my life. And then you get one day off a week and you have to know that it is not your day, but hers. I might want to go ride my motorcycle or hang out with friends but she’s already making so many sacrifices. You see each other once a day, give a kiss before bed and go to sleep. It’s not easy.
And what about her working with you in the kitchen?
What is the most difficult thing about being a chef?
I love my work but I went from being a cook to a chef relatively quickly and it’s a very different role. Before I was going from station to station, learning meats, sauces, desserts then I became a sous, and then executive chef, so the things that used to stress me out before are just different than what I’m dealing with now, which is everything related to management like dealing with the food cost and all of the bureaucracy.
What is the best time of the day — or do you get here and wish you could go home?
No, not even on my one day off. If I’m with family or hanging out I miss the kitchen and I find a way to cook. But I will say probably what 90% of cooks would say: the best time is during service when you get to put into practice what you’ve been preparing for all day and see the results and see the reaction of the people in the dining room.
Are there any alta cucina techniques that people can apply at home?
Honestly, it’s difficult with all of the machines and gadgets we use in a professional kitchen to get the same results. However, selecting premium products is something that anyone can do.
Do you like fashion?
A ton. I love it.
How do you reflect Trussardi’s style?
Well we’re really connected in the sense it is a style that is very elegant and sporty. The symbol of the house of Trussardi is the greyhound, representing sportsmanship and elegance. If you think about a greyhound, it is very athletic, it runs, and it’s difficult to catch up with, but as a breed is also the most elegant. I look to channel this in my cooking style: so it’s a style that is active, vibrantly colorful, elegant and always remains refined starting with the top products.
Dress and Jumpsuit: Trussardi
Editor-in-chief: Melissa Lupo
Photography: Simone Martucci
Styling: Ivan Rasic from Cornè Fashion Management
Production Coordinator: Camila Salles