Chef Luigi Lepore – an interview
After gaining experience in Italy, under Andrea Berton of Trussardi alla Scala, and Valeria Piccini of Caino, Lepore worked in other Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Spain. Later he returned to Italy to open in 2019 Luigi Lepore Ristorante.
1. When did your passion to be a Chef begin?
I’ve always had the passion for cooking. I used to cook all the time, since I was a child. We weren’t a family of restaurateurs, but I always cooked at my mother’s house, and when my father used to come back from work, I was the one doing the cooking, but it never translated into a job. As a matter of fact, after high school (liceo classico) my parents directed me straight to university.
2. What were your first experiences in the kitchen?
I went straight to a restaurant in Milan, Trussardi alla Scala, under the guidance of Andrea Berton, that received two Michelin stars in two years, which had a great team in the kitchen: Alfio Ghezzi, Locanda Margon, Cantine Ferrari, Remo Capitaneo, the Executive Chef of Mudec of Andrea Bartolini, a 3 Michelin-starred restaurant.
But I would say that the most formative experience for me was Caino of Valeria Piccini.
It was a very different experience to move from such a restaurant of classic French cuisine, or rather an Italian cuisine done in a classic French manner with a staff of 20 people that ran almost in a military order, to a kitchen of 5-6 cooks, that Valeria ran more like a mother would do.
In Caino, as a matter of fact, developed the sense of the familiar cuisine, because there we all used to eat together, so we had to cook the traditional dishes also for the chef. The staff meals in Caino were pasta with beans or with chickpeas, or frittata, but they all had to be made to perfection. That was also an opportunity to work with raw materials that came from the local farmers, so we had a direct contact with them.
3. A signature dish?
For sure the most typical dish is Ricordo di Stroncatura (“Memory of Stroncatura”) which presents a very particular combination of technique and connection to the territory. It’s a dish that you don’t expect to eat.
4. What ingredients do you prefer to use?
All types of citruses. I really like the acidity that creates the salivation effect and “slaps” the palate instead of caressing it. In Calabria there is a large variety of citruses: lemons, mandarins, oranges, and also some very particular, like citron and bergamot, that you can find only in this region, and which I really like for its strong flavor.
In other places these “slaps” might be a little rarer, but here you will find such flavores also at the highest levels of restaurants.
5. In what direction is Italian cuisine heading?
There are bigger names, like Massimo Bottura and Niko Romito, that represents the Italian cuisine, but for me the Italian cuisine is on the top of the world, flavor-wise. There are the Nordic restaurants that rule on the media, but from the point of view of flavor the Italian cuisine wins. I’m not saying this as an Italian, absolutely not! But objectively, the Italian cuisine is better technically and when it comes to flavor.
6. Share with us a secret of the Chef?
Working hard. Waking up early in the morning with anxiety and lots of things to think about related to the restaurant, working hard all day long and returning home at night – only to begin again the next day. Lots of sacrifices for the passion of cooking, because without passion it cannot work.
7. One dish which sums up the territory? A dish closest to your heart?
Another dish that represents the territory is Risotto with juniper butter, liquorice, bay leaves powder, and a drop of gin. Calabria is full of juniper, and in general the flavors are very strong.
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