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- Sunday, 22 February 2015 11:36 | Written by Tristan Olphe-Galliard
Ernesto Iaccarino, two star chef of Don Alfonso 1890
Portrait of Ernesto Iaccarino, two star chef of Don Alfonso 1890
Written by Tristan Olphe-Galliard, founder of www.chefshout.com
Ernesto, there is a long tradition of chefs in your family. Can you tell me a little about that?
That’s right. As family, we have been in this field since 1890, which is when my great grandfather started with a little pension and a restaurant in the village of Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, on the Sorrento Coast. It is actually in the same place as the Don Alfonso 1890, which is named to celebrate my great grandfather who started the business.
My father took over the restaurant in 1973, and I joined him in 1999. We work together, and over the last fifteen last years, we have opened other restaurants in Macao (China), Marrakech (Maroc), Dubai, and Rome.
What is your first memory related to food?
When I was very young, I – like the majority of kids my age – would have milk in the morning, but my milk was special. It had a taste of white truffle. Because the white truffles for the restaurant were stored in our family fridge, they would give their flavor to everything else in there. At the beginning I was upset because I just wanted my plain milk, but after awhile I got used to the taste and started to love it. Today, one of the dishes I offer in my restaurant is inspired by that childhood memory.
When did you want to become a chef?
My love has been food for as long as I can remember. I was good at school though, so I continued my studies. And, my parents were still young, so they supported me in my education. I wanted to be a chef with a degree.
Have you completely revolutionized your family kitchen, or have you kept some cooking traditions? How would you describe your cuisine and your style?
We want to do modern food while keeping strongly to our identity. So many chefs today talk about "0 miles to food" or the "terroir," but things are not as simple as that. For example, think about the espresso that is so popular in my region. The coffee plants are indigenous to Central Africa, but they found that the best area to be produced is in Central and South America. Then, in Naples in southern Italy, they found coffee bean roasters who were so skillful that their roasted coffee beans are globally exported. Locally, we make perhaps the best espresso in the world. Espresso nowadays is one the symbols of the Italian tradition along with pasta, tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil. So, what is 0 miles really?
All this is to say that we want to do food that keeps our identity (in terms of traditions and in terms of culture), but we do not want to be blind. If we love a certain ingredient, we will use it. In a modern kitchen, we need to keep in mind that we have to be sensitive to two words: biodiversity and sustainability. Both words will guide the future paths of new generations of chefs.
Paccheri Cacio e Pepe with wild local scorpion fish and spinach
What is your favorite dish?
Hopefully, the next one that I create.
What is a really simple recipe you could give to the readers?
Spaghetti and tomato. I can eat this dish every day and be happy. The recipe is simple:
- Good extra virgin olive oil
- Vesuvius tomatoes, roughly cut
- Good pasta
In a pot over medium-low heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and a clove of garlic. Remove the garlic once blond. To this same pot, add the tomatoes, and let them cook about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the tomatoes are cooking, add hot water to a pot with some salt and bring to a boil. When it starts to boil, add the spaghetti.
Remove the spaghetti 2 minutes before they are cooked and add to the tomatoes to finish cooking in the sauce. If the tomato sauce is a bit dry, you can add some of the pasta water.
What would you say is the best cuisine in the world?
I have great respect for all of them, but I believe that Mediterranean food is one of the most modern ways of eating because it is light and healthy.
What about wines?
Italian wines are very good, but French wines are incredibly good.
What are the three restaurants you really like to go to when you are in Paris?
Robuchon and Ducasse are friends, so I will definitely visit them. They are the history of the food in France. And, I will definitely go to Yannick Alleno because he is the new generation of top chef. As for bistro’s, I love Pascade and Saturne, but there are many very interesting ones.
Cappelli filled with buffalo meat and perfumed with oriental spices, Pecorino , onion, and black truffle
What restaurants would you recommend around Sorrento/Napoli?
I love to go to Lo Scoglio on the bay of Marina del Cantone. Simple, traditional food but very good ingredients. I love pizza, so in Naples I suggest Pizzeria la Notizia or Pizzeria Sorbillo.
You travel a lot to meet chefs from many different countries.
Yes, when you travel, you learn many things about the evolution of the food, which makes you more conscious, even about your own traditions and ingredients. As a member of Jeunes Restaurateurs d'Europe, I get to meet a lot of my fellow JRE members from Slovenia, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, and so on. We are all friends, so when I am in a country, I normally stop by for a visit. Last September, we were celebrating the 40th anniversary of JRE in Reims at Pommery. It was nice to see a lot of the chefs who are part of this association.
More about Ernesto Iaccarino
Restaurant and hôtel Relais & Châteaux Don Alfonso 1890, Corso Sant'Agata 11, Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi NA, Italy, +39 081 878 0026
Vivavoce Restaurant, Gran Meliá Rome Hotel, Via del Gianicolo 3, Roma, Italy
Don Alfonso in Macau, Grand Lisboa Hotel, Avenida de Lisboa, Macau, (853) 8803 7722
L'Italien par Don Alfonso at la Mamounia Palace, Bab Jdid, Marrakech, Marocco, +212 (0)5 24 38 86 09
Don Alfonso Dubai, Shangri-La Hotel, 1 Sheikh Zayed Rd, Dubai, +971 4 3551591
Ernesto's dining suggestions around Sorrento/Napoli:
Lo Scoglio, Piazza delle Sirene 15, Massa Lubrense, +39 081 808 1026
Pizzeria la Notizia, Via Michelangelo da Caravaggio 53, Napoli, +39 081 714 2155
Saturne, 17 Rue Notre-Dame des Victoires, +33 142 603 190