Masterchef S01 ep16: Pietro Leeman, Leeman Restaurant, [Milian]
Interview with Pietro Leeman
Dishes have a meaning in a part of the world and in another region, it has no meaning. The meaning is the culture of the region, the taste of the people, the climate – many things. So by talking things from Italy like spaghetti with tomato and re-interpreting the recipe, you don’t lose the meaning. In the orient the first bite is very important but the meaning goes deeper. Centuries ago in Europe, the grandmother took the duck, killed it and cooked it. Today in Europe we don’t have this relationship with food. We go to the supermarket and buy the duck already prepared - that is food but not the animal. In the orient they still have the connection to the animal. In Japan they have soups where the fish swimming inside and you drink it.
I was sixteen years old and my parent had a friend who was a very important cook in Switzerland. I am from the south of Switzerland from Montecina. This friend came once to our home and made us a present and this present was a dessert – a bavarois and it was fantastic. I said to myself that I must learn to cook this way.
The food came very deep in me and so it changed me, I think this food was like alchemy.
To learn to cook, you must first start learning the basic techniques and then learn with a Master Chef where you can study how to cook and also study how to live. My first real master was Freddy Girardet. He was a very instinctive cuisine. He would say to me "I must mix lobster and caviar with cabbage" and then he made a dish out of this.
Then after him, I came here in Italy and I worked with Gualtiero Marchese. Marchese took a typical traditional Italian dish and change it.
Dishes have a meaning in a place, it has no meaning. The meaning is the culture of the place, the taste of the people, the climate – many things. So by talking things from Italy like spaghetti with tomato and changing the recipe, you don’t loose the meaning.
Italians like it very much, tomato, tomato for them is the absolute taste and pasta. So if you put tomato and pasta together its absolute. Change this relationship and it makes the dish very important.
Earlier in Europe we had a big revolution with Nouvelle Cuisine. Portions which were very big became very small. Sauces which were normally cooked for very long time where abandoned. Nouvelle cuisine always made fresh sauce. Freshness of ingredients for our cuisine is in between.
You can learn how to cook is France but you can be more free with the cuisine in Italy.
KM – O.K. very interesting
In France the cooks are very methodical. In Italy we cook much more instinctively. In France you have the recipes that is specific. In Italy we are like this one gram more oop one gram less….
KM – You’ve got a Michelin Star?
Yes, five years ago.
KM – Was this important to you?
Very important because Michelin Star is like a stamp of quality.
After Marchesi I lived one year in China and one year in Japan. Everybody in China and Japan is very close with the food. They eat in some way more primitive than how we eat in Europe. We are a bit more distant because first we smell, we study the food and then we eat it.
In the orient the first bite is very important but the meaning goes deeper. Centuries ago in Europe, the grandmother took the duck, killed it and cooked it.
Today in Europe we don’t have this relationship with food. We go to the supermarket and buy the duck already prepared - that is food but not the animal.
In the orient they still have the connection to the animal.
In Japan they have soups where the fish swimming inside and you drink it.
In Orient the passage between living and dying for an animal is very normal.
In Europe this is not normal. If I kill an animal I am a someone who is a…
KM – Murderer?
In China and Japan it is not like this. It is very normal
In Japan I was teaching in a cooking school alongside the best Japanese Chefs. I would speak with them and go to their restaurant. It was very deep.
The food that they make is a reflection of how they are. If the Chef is a simple man, he makes simple food. If the Chef is a master he makes a master’s food, and he accepts this. For a European like I am it is very difficult because many times what we do is to make something to become famous.
Few cooks for me have the correct meaning of gastronomy. Joel Robuchon has the meaning. Gualtieri Marchesi has the meaning. Freddy Girardet has the meaning. Alain Ducasse on the other hand is Europe. He wants to be a superstar, like a stylist.
My cuisine is art and the definition of my art is what I cook is what I am.
Food must be good. You can create a very nice thing but if what you cook does not give you emotion or pleasure, it is wrong.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE:Pietro Leeman, Leeman Restaurant, [Milian]