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Matteo Berti

Interview with Matteo Berti Didactic Director of ALMA, the International School of Italian Cuisine.
Reference point for teachers and students, it tells us about cooking in 3 words: respect, culture and curiosity.

Reading your biography we feel your very strong and constant willingness to go deeper on things, to study, to better and make experience .Your professional life is a never ending history of learning .
Coming from your native area you boarded on cruise boat , then you made important and challenging work stages abroad , after that ,you became part of the starred chef Alaymo brigade , till the final landing at a so important and demanding school as Alma .Being a tutor means a continuous learning?Who have been your most important teachers?

Well, I must say that the difference, between one professional guy and an amateur one , is just about the continuous research and study of people with whom confronting and growing .
Today we have lost a bit this personal and visual relationship , today all is digital.
When I grew up , we had to travel , looking for new experiences, but ,first of all ,looking for teachers from whom you could have learnt, making them knowing yourself , looking for somebody who could have introduced you to them.
The most important “row material” to grow up is to find the right person and the good teacher .
Every day I can meet somebody who can teach me something and with whom I can match myself .Confronting, even in a dialectical way, it is a way to increase your knowledge and culture .
The concrete, personal and tangible experience leaves culture in people mind.
Just to give an example ,looking for truffle with a truffle hunter is certainly an important experience, visual and tactile, physical and concrete to understand and know the truffle world.
You have to go around to find the tutors , and school has this task:take the example and the teachers in front of students.
I, personally , have a continuous relationship with one of my teachers Mr Alajmo , who together with Mr. Marchesi, has contributed to my growth and knowledge.
My personal ambition is looking for teachers, digital world is fundamental for our global never-ending updating , but speaking, looking in one’s eyes and confront ourselves , that’s is culture.

You often talk about concreteness, study, respect, culture and curiosity .These are challenging words , nothing to do with the showbiz around some starred chef ,today.Which are the aspects you prefer?

Some of my mediatic colleagues have to stay on the surface making TV. I really appreciate that they contribute to make known food culture in everyday show on TV, this did not happen in previous decades .Mister Cracco , perhaps one of the most mediatic chef, is a very deep and cultured person.He has always been involved in research and study about cultural themes tied to food.

During a previous interview you talked about Garibaldi as an hero , clever and stubborn.You have travelled a lot and achieved experience with courage and determination, are you a little bit like Garibaldi? (an Italian hero)

It’s a joke that I try to turn into truth .Let’s say that, he joined Italy from the South to the North, not without difficulty, and I feel a little Garibaldi because I try to manage student, brigade , courses.
Unfortunately it’s impossible to bring together Italy, but it is absolute amazing to discover its agri-food diversity , its micro climates and different traditions.
These features limit us while giving a correct disclosure about our knowledge and cooking out of Italy.That’s why Italian cuisine must be experienced, studied and tasted.
Italian cuisine is probably the richest and the most complex in its diversity.Its diversity is its strength and beauty , which make Italian cuisine unique in the world.

It is said that pandemic has changed us , and now we need a new “intelligence on catering and restaurant world”.Some time ago this subject was treated during a clever conversation between you and some of your colleagues .What does it mean?If it will happen, how do you think will change the use of row materials in cooking ?Which could be the ingredients of next decades?

Yes, I must say that I trust a lot in a new intelligence on catering and restaurants world .It means deepness , saving the sources , respecting row material , territories in which product are born, cultivated , bred, and processed .
The good restaurant owner is able to make people comfortable, he tells the storytelling of a dish, without exaggeration about technical info, but just telling the content of a recipe in an easy way , true and shareable.
My family owned a tavern. People loved their food , and the goal was to feed the customers.Today no one goes to a restaurant just to eat, customer wants to be amazed, he wants to live an experience , to know the path, people, places and territories.
Today young people often don’t know the territory.I think that next years people will look for good food, ethical approach, organic products, wellbeing, seasonality and true products.

You’ve said that the real future ingredient of chocolate (and not only of chocolate) will be sustainability .it’s your need, your wish or your goal?Talking about truffle, what do you think about it?

Yes, it is true , I said that because , some time ago, I went to Ecuador with my team.Nobody of us had ever seen a cocoa plant .
We met a lot of people , campesinos told us everything about the cocoa beans they grow.We told them about chocolate, they did not know it at all and they have never eaten it.
Sustainability means that these people are paid little for this job.There are some countries in which the word sustainability doesn’t exist at all even today .
A chef must think about that ,today more than in the past , he must consider if it is worth using so expensive and long transportation to reach the table on the other side of the world with some products.
Practically it is a very complicated subject , but ,all of us, we must be aware about this goal.
Talking about truffle, I totally agree with my teacher Mr Gualtiero Marchesi who said in his “ ules” : truffle (and caviar) can be used during all the meal :as you want, when and where you like .Obviously not only fresh truffle, there are some recipes in which truffle in brine can be winning , example giving his stuffed lamb recipe.
Unfortunately it can happen that you find low quality aroma truffled products on the market , and this fact contributes to give bad information about truffled based products.
On the contrary you can find upper level of quality truffled based products, made with high quality level capability .Professional people make known good food, non professional people spread other.Alma first aim, as international cooking school, is to disclose true Italian food , food culture and Italian territory.

As you are a teacher we would like to ask you an advise for the future generation, what could you say to young people?

First of all, young people must eat and delight their palates looking for the truth and quality.It is necessary to attend starred restaurant, certainly they also must go out for dinner looking for the quality, even in a simple tavern , where there is a lady making the pasta by hand.
Then you must study with passion, after that, you can become a technician and/or you can begin the chef career. Only few became a leader mixing passion for research with humility, ambition and depth of competence.

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