Paolo Bodon – Chef di Cucina Presso, Relais & Chateaux, Villa Fiordaliso, Italy. An Italian love story about Vocational cooking.

 

When did you discover your passion for cooking?

I discovered my passion for the kitchen when was very young, sometimes cooking with my mom and that was the conception, after so many years to publish my second book “Tonight I´m Cooking With Dad”.

 

You were born in Mantua (the Lombardy region) between Milan, Venice and Bologna. What is the culinary specialty of the Lombardy region?

The Lombardy region is part of Northern Italy, very rich in ingredients and amazingly unique dishes. I have catalogued a few from Mantua, probably the most important being “Tortelli di zucca”, pumpkin ravioli. La zucca , the pumpkin, is a typical vegetable from Pianura Padana, padana Valley, the best season for the pumpkin is the autumn, but even stretching to March. What makes this dish is the stuffing, salty and sweet, encompassing the natural pumpkin, amaretti biscuits, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, apple mostarda and a hint of lemon zest.. Other dishes worth note are:

  • Risotto Zafferano /Risotto with Saffron, Milano
  • Ossobuco di Vitello alla Milanese
  • Veal Ossobuco Milanese style milano
  • Tortelli di Zucca/ Pumpkin Ravioli, Mantova
  • Zuppa Pavese/ Pavia style soup, Pavia
  • Mostarda di Cremona/ Fruit Mustard, Cremona
  • Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese/ Pizzoccheri Sondrio/Valtellina

 

You attended the Culinary School IPAS in Bardolino Via lungo lago – Bardolino – Verona. What was your greatest learning experience during this time?

The Hotel/ Culinary school in Bardolino,Veneto region, garda lake, for me, was such a beautiful experince. I started out very young, was on my own for the first time and the school immediately taught me the principle of sacrifice in the kitchen, but I wanted to become a great chef and this sacrifice was well worth it.

 

 

Your professional life as chef so far, has been full of satisfaction. You worked in six of the best hotels in the world, you  organized the opening of four successful restaurants, you published three books.. . What drives your passion/ what are your goals as chef?

One of my secrets in my professional life is risk. I have always pushed myself to the limit and I have always believed 100% in my possibilities.

 

You have even created your own small production of jams, and canned vegetables. What was the reason behind that, as there are plenty of local producers in Italy?

In reality, I have many passions in the kitchen. So I create my signiture line of recipes of cold cuts, marinated meats, the appetizers I love, finger foods, and the great world of pasta dishes.

 

You took part in an event at national level “FISHWEEK”, which was dedicated to lesser known fish and to the niche products of the local area. Are events in such format  still around in Italy? Your experience has led you to meet people and kitchens from other countries. How did this influence your way of cooking?

After a few years of cooking I started to understand what I liked, and started to develope more of a professional dream. I have been able to develop a specific style in the kitchen, you could call it classical creative, with strong roots, international backgrounds and carefully selected products. Over the years, growing and learning,  I have forged great relationships with colleagues, hotels and schools. In part, this has brought me to participate in national and international events, among the more known to national level the national congress on the sostibilita of the fish fishweek 2014, a beautiful event that introduced me to small fishermen with which today I still have contact. On the international level I have worked with groups in Manila and Hong Kong with the Luxury Hotel SHANGRI-Là.

 

With the “Osteria Capoborgo”, your own restaurant for eleven years, what was your culinary line?

Of course, opening  my own restaurant has been one of the most beautiful and exciting moments of my career, allowing me to express myself as I wanted, to narrow contact with the client. Although the Inn Capoborgo was a small place, an old forneria dell 400 with only 8 tables, the best gastronomic guides always judged us in the best of the ways, but true satisfaction was to see the clients that returned.

A couple of my signature dishes were a club sandwich with squid ink and guacamole, Marinated bio salmon and crab soup Fume, Tuscan pumpkin escargot, cotechino heats gras and maple syrup, beer risotto, and zucchini flowers filled with 3 cheese styles.

Surely my success in these 10 years of management all in Capoborgo, with most respect must be given to my producers during those years. They made it possible to work with great quality every day, with the freshest Bio, giving me the possibility to always have exciting dishes for my customers everyday. I must not forget my parents that tended to the garden which supplied 40% of the production for the restaurant and my wife, a person that has always supporeted me and she has always risked with me.

The ten years with the restaurant have been hard, it has given us so much satisfaction but has of course had a toll on time and health, due to family circumstances I had to make a choice to on a new chapter, which had brought me to represent the great family of the luxury hotels where I had made a great part of my career and where I was the epsrienza in the top luxury of the relay chateaux to Villa FIordaliso, a neoclassic house of great charm that has roots in the l epoch of Fascist Italy where the “leader” Benito Mussolini lived.

 

Out there in the world, and especially in Italy, there are lots of good chefs. How can you distinguish yourself in this competitive environment?

Italy is known for good Chefs… My view is you need to be professioanl not just in the kitchen but outside as well. First and formost you need to be a good cook, then you can run a kitchen, and lead with motivation and by example. These are all difficult in their own right, and for me, I am constantly working at mastering them.

 

The hidden heroes in Italy are the Grannies: Hand on heart; can you compete with them?😊

Absolutely Italian grandmothers have an enormous impression on the kitchens, however I also remember a trip to Greece where I found a small house on the beach where two Greek grandmothers sent me to heaven for five days with the simple essence of  Greek culinary tradition…..I am convinced that all of us should take a step back, return to the farms…….as I write on my site, my key words, I am….tradition, roots, territory, globalization, future.

 

What is your recommendation for young chefs just entering this great career?

The road is hard, difficult, full of sacrifices, but at the same time, fascinating, beautiful, and charming…I know the young people I have been collaborating with two hotel schools for years and I often go to teach, and I  wish much success for those who decide to walk this road.

 

Thank you Paolo Bodon for your time.