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Interview Chef Valeria Piccini


"I was born into a family of farmers where everything is consumed, and that's where I learned not to waste anything. Without vegetables from my garden, at least half of Caino's menu would not exist," says Chef Valeria Piccini.

As a woman brought up in a kitchen in Maremma, she knows that it is important not to waste anything, coming from a sacred respect due to the raw materials. Even now that this respect has earned her two Michelin stars and international recognition, the philosophy of Valeria Piccini has not changed.

The chef of restaurant 'Caino' in Montemerano, Grosseto, a ravishing medieval village on the border between Tuscany and Lazio, continues to consider the quality of all the products which go beyond the threshold of her kitchen door. Her second thought is the need to make the best possible use of any raw material – meat, vegetables, or condiments.

That's why many of her seasonal dishes take advantage of the less noble parts of an animal – less, maybe, but not less tasty. As an example, Chef Valeria's 'Lamb and surroundings', brings together ribs and potatoes, as well as braised tongue and cheeks, sweet breads and brains in chicory sauce, fresh chicory, and salted lemon confit. Once plated, an alternating spiral appears, using the ribs, roast potato sauce, and the other generally less-common cuts not seen in many kitchens to create a beautiful plate celebrating whole ingredients.
However, beyond the single recipes, Chef Valeria is an extraordinary example of how to convey the identity and pathos of a civilization with spoons and forks, starting from Montemerano. Her first teacher was her mother-in-law Angela, who opened the restaurant, Caino, in 1971 together with husband Carisio.
"I would come out of school and stop to help Maurizio's mother," says Chef Valeria. Maurizio and Valeria married when she was in her 20s, and he went on to become sommelier for the restaurant.

piatto Valeria Piccini

Following gastronomic pilgrimages, reading many books, and no cooking classes, Chef Valeria continued pursuing her passions. The big jump in the late 80's took Caino into the world of gourmet restaurants, and grew its wings from a gastronomic point of view, and expanded its reputation into the entire region.
Without Caino, the village of Montemerano – where time seems to have stopped – would still be unknown to the public. Between romantic corners, ancient stone houses lined one against another, and cobbled alleyways on the slopes of the old town, you can see Caino's signpost above a small wooden door. Here you'll find three steps leading down into the kingdom of the Menichetti family.

valeria piccini

Once inside you'll discover for yourself why Chef Valeria has just been awarded 'best bread on the table', and 'best fruit dessert' in the latest Gambero Rosso.
In addition to creating dishes in the 17th-century hamlet where 'Caino' has emerged, Chef Valeria has long been signing the menus of the St. Regis Hotel's restaurant in Piazza Ognissanti, in Florence. Celebrating the ancestral and familial flavours she is so well known for, you might get to enjoy her winter dish of pork stocked with tortilla filled with chestnuts.

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