Michele Valotti, THE RETURN TO A LIVING AND AUTHENTIC CUISINE
THE RETURN TO A LIVING AND AUTHENTIC CUISINE
“In the end, we ask ourselves, in the search for a living and authentic cuisine, what is more alive and authentic than a fermented food” this is how Michele Valotti, chef at Trattoria La Madia, defines his cuisine. In the North of Italy ( in Brescia’s province) stands out a reality whose appearance brings back to a common Italian trattoria, but the substance, instead, to care and dedication towards a unique quality and authenticity of food. Small artisan producers, seasonal vegetables, free-range animals, mother yeast, wild herbs, raw milk, artisan wines, living, imperfect and fermented raw materials: these are the keywords to tell a living kitchen, where traceability, production methodology, and techniques used are an essential part of a kitchen that is a hymn to life. Fermentation has made it their strong point in the kitchen. This is how Michele recounts and explains the use of past practices, brought back into the present: a tribute to forgotten but well-rooted culinary traditions and identities.
Fermentation or lacto-fermentation
A very old process which is part of our history of nutritional science. Even if approached differently, this technique is worldwide known; in Italy it has long been rejected as a consequence to a fierce war against bacteria, but nowadays it’s getting more and more used.
How does your interest in fermented food start?
I have always been interested in living, natural, spontaneous, non-standardized food. Fermented food is the product that more than any other represents the authenticity I am looking for.
What do you want to represent in your restaurant?
I am interested in underlining the importance of a real product: not an imitation or representation, not a surrogate, but something alive, never equal to itself, and unpredictable. The magic lies in never knowing exactly what to expect and being able to be surprised every time because every time is the first time.
Why and how to bring fermentation back into homes and make people understand that fermenting is good?
To ferment is to realize that the balance of microorganisms is what you are looking for: to be able to create an environment in which a multitude of sets bacteria coexists, are born, die, are preparatory to each other. It is then a fun and relatively simple practice, also to do at home, where being able to create a healthy and alive food gives great satisfaction, also, for example, to be able to make the best use of any surplus of a self-production of vegetables and have for the coming months a product ready and rewarding.
Which products do you work with?
The products at the basis of our work follow the same philosophy that led us to fermented products, that is: only small artisan producers, with variations according to the seasons, always with different facets, sometimes with defects, which are part of the authenticity and price that craftsmanship pays to excellence.
The latest fermented experiment?
The latest experiments are shoyu and garum, but each time is an experiment because you mus follow the product and the season: only in the end we have the certainty of the taste obtained.
Can you share a simple recipe that everyone can try?
A very simple experiment in this period, is to ferment strawberries for 5 days in a 3 % brine. With the product around 4 pH, we can create sauces and condiments that maintain the scent of the fruit accompanied by strong acidity, very little sugar, and many bacteria!
Michele Valotti’s 14 principles:
#1 Local small producers are the key to a honest and authentic cuisine. Their products are far from standard ones and always different.
#2 Only seasonable vegetable, especially old varieties.
#3 Meat comes from natural livestock farming where the animals raise in natural environments.
#4 We only use ancient grain flours produced on stone grinding mills; baking is made with homemade yeast only.
#5 We pay great attention to the wild, such as herbs, berries and spontaneous products of the soil.
#6 We know and use natural and spontaneous fermentation of vegetables and alternative drinks. Fermentation leads to live microbiological products able to actively interact with human microbiota.
#7 We choose fresh milk cheese from small producers.
#8 We prefer natural and biodynamic wines from artisan winemakers. Each bottle of wine is a discovery.
#9 Raw materials are alive. Innovative recipes are always developed after considering the temporal variations of each single ingredient.
#10 Living cuisine is imperfect. It can’t reach a compromise with beautiful plated food you can find in industrial cuisine.
#11 Surprise is the magic moment when our chef will exalt your life.
#12 It’s strictly important to explain the features of the ingredients: their tracking, their production steps, the technique used in the recipe.
#13 Equilibrium is not the point. Few things in life are well balanced. Then, if a plate is acid, it can be 100% acid.
#14 Technology is welcome when it helps to maintain original ingredients features. No additives or preservatives are banned.