FLO­RIAN TRENTO

Ex­ec­u­tive chef at Ch­esa

Crave - - PEOPLE -

Cheese fon­due is the hot­pot of the West. A bub­bling pot of melted cheese and wine served over an open flame, this ul­ti­mate win­ter warmer is beloved in Europe, par­tic­u­larly in the Alps. “Cheese fon­due is very im­por­tant in Switzer­land,” says Flo­rian Trento, ex­ec­u­tive chef at The Penin­sula Hong Kong’s Swiss restau­rant, Ch­esa. “Al­most ev­ery fam­ily has a pot and burner at home and will eat it once a month or even once a week dur­ing win­ter.”

Trento’s pas­sion for cook­ing be­gan with a one-week in­tern­ship at a Swiss mo­tor­way rest stop with six food joints. He con­tin­ued his culi­nary ca­reer in Saudi Ara­bia be­fore mov­ing to Hong

Kong in 1987 to join The Penin­sula as sous chef. Twenty years on, Trento is now the group ex­ec­u­tive chef for The Penin­sula Ho­tels and ex­ec­u­tive chef at Ch­esa.

As a teenager he would have cheese fon­due with friends at a class­mate’s home. “I used to have cheese fon­due ev­ery Wed­nes­day. We re­ally en­joyed it, es­pe­cially with the com­pany of each other,” he says. “Also the dis­cov­ery of Swiss white wines, which was es­pe­cially great when you were only 16.”

Lit­er­ally trans­lat­ing to “melted cheese”, fon­due orig­i­nates from the French part of Switzer­land, where it is a na­tional dish. It is typ­i­cally en­joyed with cubes of bread for dunk­ing and cold cuts or a salad are some­times served be­fore­hand. While fon­dues vary across Switzer­land, it is the con­cept of shar­ing that draws din­ers to the dish. “Hav­ing fon­due is a so­cial ac­tiv­ity. It is about shar­ing since it brings peo­ple to­gether. Of­ten we will have [fon­due] for din­ner since peo­ple will have more time to en­joy it.”

As jet­ting around the world be­comes more com­mon, so does the abil­ity to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent cuisines. Au­then­tic­ity is im­por­tant to Trento, so for Ch­esa’s clas­sic fon­due he uses two types of cheese – a mix­ture of mild and strong flavours – along with a touch of gar­lic and white wine. He rec­om­mends buy­ing cheese from spe­cial­ist stores rather than su­per­mar­kets since fresh cheese is the se­cret to a good fon­due. “A good cheese should be around one year old. It can’t be too old or it will be too salty,” he says.

The melted cheese must be con­tin­u­ously stirred so it doesn’t burn. How­ever, for a truly au­then­tic fin­ish to the meal, Trento rec­om­mends let­ting the last bit of cheese crisp up and turn golden brown at the bot­tom of the pot. Called la re­ligieuse (French for “nun”), this cheesy crust has a crunchy bite. It is also com­mon to add an egg to la re­ligieuse to make a cheesy scram­bled egg.

It’s not the only fon­due tra­di­tion. “Any­one who loses his bread in the fon­due has to buy a round of drinks for the ta­ble,” he says. It is tra­di­tion­ally paired with wine or al­co­holic black tea to cut through the greasy good­ness. Ac­cord­ing to Swiss lore, other liq­uids, wa­ter in­cluded, will cause the melted cheese to co­ag­u­late in your stom­ach and cause in­di­ges­tion. Trento’s fi­nal tip is to have fun and en­joy shar­ing this great dish. “Fon­due is a very easy dish to make, but it is about the at­mos­phere and the com­pany you bring that makes the cheese fon­due ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent,” he says.

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