Travel & Gourmet

Interview With Chef Enrico Bartolini: The Most Starred In Italy

The youngest and most starred Italian chef talks about his parents and former collaborators, the chefs' rights, and reveals what can make him smile.
Reading time 6 minutes
Photo: Paolo Chiodini

Enrico, I know you weren't born with the idea of becoming a chef: before you thought of becoming like your parents - a shoe craftsman, and you just wanted to "surpass them." But then you changed the idea. How did your parents see that?

Mine are parents in love with their children, and they have followed and supported me in my choice, with lots of dedication. They admired the sacrifices I made and the responsibility I carried on. However, they had the idea of ​​the chef as someone who had to work without knowing a weekend, never being at home, neglecting family, and with no salary if a crisis came. They knew the chef this way. So, it was a view that is definitely wrong both for general human dignity and for this profession.

I believe that today, even more than ever, a child is faced with an enormous responsibility to make a study choice because making a mistake in professional orientation risks compromising ambitions. Parents need to give help and support.

The change in this age is a certain nightmare, and that's why guys who tell me today "I've enrolled in hotellerie school, but I don't know if I want to do this" I assure them that gastronomic culture - is very important, they don't throw anything away.

Like any job, the job of the chef requires sacrifices. What was your greatest?

The time. I believe that those who do this job don't get used to it, they struggle, but "train" to live like this and suffer. But you also love this lifestyle. I had moments when I felt fatigued, but I also appreciated that this job made me travel, meet people and let people travel to my restaurants.

Sacrifices, yes, but I would not be happy if the people who come to eat with us are not "willing" to be well. This could give me a sense of professional depression.

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Photo: Enrico Bartolini's PR office

 What do you value most in people?

The ability to be together and share. Our world leads us to be extremely individualistic for that it is not easy to know how to be together, have a sense of solidarity, and build a team spirit, if we are talking about a restaurant, but it is also associated with the family criterion - the ability to build things together.

When someone comes for a job interview with you, what can convince you to hire this person?

I often say that the job interview is done for those who come to talk to us. During the job interview, there is no magic sphere. I can perceive the way of self-presentation, the way of speaking, but I have no particular ability, except my sensitivity, which helps me. Time is needed. The trial period, testimony from colleagues. Defects are encountered in everyday life. Also, some people who work in the kitchen have an inborn shyness that helps them be sensitive to things, but this shyness prevents them from expressing themselves quickly. However, a person who has no economic or career ambition has limitations.

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Photo: Enrico Bartolini’s PR office

When your ex- collaborator chefs quit to work in other places, and you see that they make a dish too similar to yours, how do you react?

It doesn't give me any kind of emotion because the restaurant experience is not a dish. It is the result of everything. I believe that a person who makes an equal dish tries to work safely and has not yet found his identity. I don't find anything wrong with it. But it always remains a sign of maturity to mention the chef from whom he took the idea. In the era of communication, the photo of the plate attracts a lot of attention, but this creates a big problem for those who create it: the copyright does not exist yet. Creating protection for the cultural heritage of chefs is being discussed and would be highly useful for us.

"Contemporary classic" - that's how you describe your cuisine. What does this term consist of?

Of pleasure. I think the dishes must be good. Today one must necessarily describe, find adjectives, belong to a philosophical current otherwise;, one cannot communicate. Looking at the dishes, I want to recognize my thoughts. I like a non-repetitive personality." Contemporary classic" is the adjective we have consciously chosen. How could a cuisine made by a young team in a metropolitan city not be contemporary? At the same time, there is also a lot taken from conservative school. We take the "license" to be whimsical, courageous, not to bore the palates but to give an outstanding balance.

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Photo: Paolo Chiodini

As words, "contemporary classic" are quite different, but they come together in a definition of your cuisine and perhaps also of yourself because the chef's cuisine is his "handwriting." At this point, is Enrico Bartolini more classic or contemporary?

I am in love with the classic, baroque, liberty, renaissance, but I am contemporary.

From your point of view, what should a restaurant be like?

For me, restaurants must be beautiful, and there must be a good service; otherwise, the kitchen has too many penalties for paying before telling its own story.

You appear to be a very calm, balanced person. What could make you angry?

The simplest things. For instance, if a person gets nervous at an inappropriate time. Even if he is right, but he loses control, he sows panic around him. I find it lousy teaching for people. Then, I tolerate myself too (smiles). But wanting not to do something or take advantage of an opportunity without really believing in it makes me feel disappointed. I can ignore it, but if I get angry, it's because I care.

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Photo: Enrico Bartolini's PR office

What can make Enrico Bartolini smile?

To smile? It's tough! (smiles, though) I'm really boring and serious. Of course, there are moments when I rejoice: having three children, it's quite obvious: their successes are my happiness. On a personal level. We live in a society so full of particular details that every time there is joy, ten opportunities immediately arise to make you forget it. I remember crying when I found out I got 3 Michelin stars - I haven't cried for a long time. This was a much bigger cry than a smile.



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