I work around the world to promote Italian wines. Who are my loyal allies? The chefs!  In the cities that I visit for my work, I have met many cooks and people passionate about food. The interviews in my CHEF MARCO POLO project are drawn from discussions with all of the chefs I have met in my travels. Like a modern day Marco Polo, the chef is an ambassador—of a region, or of a style of cooking. But at the same time, he is continually curious to know and to experiment with new ingredients. How much we can learn from them, and how many andecdotes they will share with us in these interviews!

The first interview in the series is with my friend, Stefano Masanti. Talking to Stefano, I was struck by the extraordinary attention, this chef from Madesimo, in the Valtellina, gives to the ingredients he uses. Stefano told me «I know every single farmer, his methods of cultivation or breeding and the alternation of seasonal cycles». Stefano and his staff are very proud to be able to explain to their customers the history of the ingredients they have used and of the farmers who have produced them.

Though Stefano and I are both Italian, I first met him in Hong Kong in 2012. We were introduced by a mutual and dear friend, the Spaniard, Pablo Alomar Salvioni. The occasion was a tasting of Spanish wines at Il Ristorante of Marco Furlan, where the chef from Valtellina was hosted for a week of “four-handed” cooking. Stefano had brought with him some cheeses from his region, and also the unique “violino di capra”: a typical cold meat obtained from goat’s thighs. It was over this beautiful gastronomic evening that we formed our friendship.

I have Asian memories also for Pietro Androsoni, whom I met in Tokyo in 2008… On that occasion, I was in Japan for a trade fair, and, organizing collateral events, I found myself at a wine tasting at Pietro’s restaurant. (I do find many interesting new people at wine tastings!) But, I hadn’t heard from him in a while! What was he up to? You will see the answer in our recent interview…where he tells about the convivial atmosphere typical of his native region (Tuscany): Pietro said «I wanted to recreate this simple home cooking in my own restaurant, Mamma Luisa’s Table, on the Meiji-dori rad between the quarters of Ebisu and Shibuya». I cannot wait to go an visit him again; to sit at his communal table and share his food with others—just like in a old Tuscan osteria.

September 25 2015

Marco Negro