From starred restaurants, back to the origins: Juri Chiotti and the story of the free mountain cuisine
The story of Juri Chiotti has a beginning and a return to the same starting point: the mountain. It’s a closed cycle, a bit like his idea of catering. Born in 1985, in Saluzzo, graduated in 2004, attended a post-diploma course and thus began his career in many restaurants, including Norbert Niederkofler, ‘s starred restaurant, where he met his friend and future colleague of adventures or misfortunes- he laughs- Daniele Rossi, the current owner of Trippa-Milano. At age of 25, the great challenge arrives, he and Daniele are proposed to direct the Antiche Contrade restaurant in Cuneo, where they win the first Michelin star, but not only, they reconfirm it.
By Lodovica Bo
Juri’s aspirations do not stop, though, even if they make a change: the objectives become the return to the mountain, to his land, to his origins.
“Everything comes from the cuisine I used to cook at the Antiche Contrade. Today I no longer find myself in the concept of fine dining for many reasons: there are things to which I gave importance that no longer have value for me today. However, I cannot deny that path because it is the one that has led me to continue to be successful from a personal and professional point of view. Without those experiences, I could not give that added value to which a simple mountain farm would like to aspire.”
The products have always been the umbilical cord with his beloved mountain, knowing them better, worked them even better, to the point that he could live the territory through them. The first change was from the Antiche Contrade Restaurant to the Meira Govari Refuge, which he managed for four years. Life with two little girls in the mountains is not easy, however, so in April 2017, his project Reis was born: a free mountain cooking. The refuge is located in Frassino, in the province of Cuneo, in the middle of the Varaita Valley.
“The central point of Reis today is to raise awareness on a hot topic like food that affects everyone every day, much more than people are aware today. There is a need for awareness, to understand that we as chefs, however famous, risk losing an essential truth: the fact that without farmers and breeders today we would do nothing.”
Since he was a child, he wanted to be a cook, there was no enlightenment, but as he says, “it was continuous enlightenment.” He remembers when, as a child, he used to take the chair to watch his grandmother making bread, with the ardent desire to learn from her, with the dream of life in his eyes.
His land carries in the roots traditions of the Occitan culture, forgotten for many, which is different forms, even in the dishes.
“I live the Occitan culture because my father is part of it: I inherited it in the form of a sense of community, as a spirit of attachment to my territory. I, therefore, understand it as a garrison and belonging to a culture. I watch over my mountains. The Occitan tradition in the kitchen is cooking because of a need, that grandmothers and families did at home. What I bring back to the kitchen today is the mountain-agricultural culture.”
“I gave the name Reis, in my dialect, means root, because I already had in mind the idea of returning to my roots not only from the cooking point of view but also as a physical place.” The philosophy that Reis wants to communicate to customers is giving value to the history of products that are fruits of his land. Juri then describes his cuisine as a symbiosis with the territory. “It is useless to make general ethical speeches. The impact that our life has on this planet is big.” The idea he wants to convey is that we must, therefore, start from the small, from what we know and what we want and must preserve. “It is a form of awareness towards the earth. For me, it is a mission to raise awareness. It is an ethical cuisine, yes, but on a personal level, for my satisfaction.”
The farmhouse was already in existence, and it is being renovated to give it a new shape and restore value to the native land. It accommodates 35 people; three people to manage the kitchen; two people in the dining room; a stable with 20 sheep of the Sambucana breed from the Valli Cuneesi. They slaught lambs after 2/3 years, castrated at 60 days, left to live longer to cook more mature meat. There is also a small vegetable garden, with the essentials for cooking, although the most abundant production comes from the father’s garden in Costigliole, which provides vegetables and small fruits for the family and the restaurant. Today Reis is at 70% of the self-sufficiency for fruit and vegetables, intending to reach 100%. The rest of the products always come from local suppliers and who work with the same philosophy of sustainable agriculture.
For customers, the star dish is the risotto with wild garlic pesto with mustardela (similar to black pudding) and beer vinegar. For him, more generally, it is a kitchen aimed at the revaluation of those products now forgotten, linked then to the concept of zero waste: cuisine of the territory, wild.
Juri’s dreams and aspirations, however, do not end here: next year, he will launch a new project in his father’s native land, Valmala. The project will also involve a new partner Gian Vittorio Porasso, a goat farmer, who produces local raw-milk cheeses. Indeed, the 400 goats will be an integral part of the brand new landscape, with a vegetable garden and stables. It will be a real farm house: a form of agriculture with the restaurant.
“Today, the gastronomic world is fashion; it has good media power, but it would be good if it served for more actual causes. The creative part is undoubtedly essential, but it is not the main one. Today, through the food, we touch on more significant issues such as environmental sustainability.”
Thank you very much Juri, and good luck!
REIS Cibo Libero di Montagna
The mountain in the dish, in a combination of contrasts, sincere flavours and love. A welcoming place, rock music in the kitchen, young enthusiasts who gather, select, breed… and cook. Homemade liqueurs with thyme and yarrow and fair prices: what more could you want?
Here you will find delicious dishes of the Piedmonts mountain tradition, cooked and presented with a touch of modernity, using wild herbs, game meat, local vegetables.
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