Bal­ance, har­mony, cu­rios­ity, and qual­ity: these are the main in­gre­di­ents for cook­ing, and of Da­vide Oldani’s way of think­ing.

All About Italy (USA) - - Content - Gior­gio Migliore

Born in 1967 in the re­gion of Lom­bar­dia, the chef is part of Am­bas­ci­a­tori del Gusto: an as­so­ci­a­tion with over 80 chefs, pizza chefs, som­me­liers, maîtres, restau­rant man­ager and “lo­cal” pro­fes­sion­als who bring Ital­ian cui­sine to the world. Chef Oldani is this, a “crafts­man”, as he likes to de­fine him­self, that he never re­ally feels in the kitchen, that the har­mony of his in­gre­di­ents com­bines the cu­rios­ity that in the kitchen (as in life) can never be miss­ing.

It is his restau­rant D’O in Cornaredo (Mi­lan), a lo­cal awarded the Miche­lin Star in which you can find lo­cal dishes en­riched by the ex­pe­ri­ence and imag­i­na­tion of the chef. Yet Da­vide Oldani wanted to be­come a soc­cer player. His first choice was im­peded by an in­jury that then led him to un­tie his laces and pick up pans and knives. Destiny has given him a life on an­other play­ing field, that of cook­ing, to or­ga­nize and cre­ate just as he did on the pitch. Not so bad in the end, be­cause on this new play­ground “Cucina pop” or “Pop cui­sine” chef Oldani was born ...

“Pop cui­sine” can you ex­plain what this term means?

“Pop” is not the diminu­tive of pop­u­lar, but it de­scribes ac­ces­si­bil­ity to taste and great-qual­ity in­gre­di­ents. It ex­presses the de­sire to amal­ga­mate the es­sen­tial with the good, the good with the ac­ces­si­ble, in­no­va­tion with tra­di­tion. I am con­vinced that su­perb Ital­ian cui­sine is also great for the pos­si­bil­ity that it of­fers to be con­stantly rein­ter­preted: I have done it with sim­plic­ity, giv­ing value to all the in­gre­di­ents, mak­ing sea­son­al­ity and high-qual­ity prod­ucts two fixed points.

Look­ing back on 2003, the year when D’O opened, apart from prizes and awards, what are your take­aways?

I def­i­nitely feel en­riched by the ex­pe­ri­ence that, in cook­ing as in life, is para­mount.

Italy has man­aged to go be­yond its pasta and pizza stereo­type. What are the dishes that most iden­tify our coun­try abroad?

Italy to­day iden­ti­fies it­self through tra­di­tional prod­ucts, and above all by chefs’ crafts­man­ship, which is truly Ital­ian-made. This is why we brand our­selves as Made in Italy and Ital­ian crafts­men.

Italy to­day iden­ti­fies it­self through tra­di­tional prod­ucts, and above all by chefs’ crafts­man­ship, which is truly Ital­ian-made.

Are you afraid of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts threaten our crafts­man­ship?

No, I’m not afraid of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts be­cause I do not use them. Spread­ing the idea of not us­ing false prod­ucts, but only orig­i­nal Ital­ian DOP prod­ucts of qual­ity is be enough.

Do you feel like you are part of the pro­po­nents of Ital­ian cui­sine abroad?

No, I just feel like a crafts­man who does his duty in Italy, in a small Lom­bard town and that makes Ital­ian iden­tity rec­og­niz­able in the world.

You re­cently worked with Roger Fed­erer in a Bar­illa spot. What kind of per­son is he and how was it cook­ing side by side?

He is a big num­ber 1, on and off the court. I saw a guy who knows how to be ded­i­cated and it is not by co­in­ci­dence that he does so in the kitchen, as well. Be­ing by his side was a more than pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Swiss pro­fes­sional won his first grand slam in 2003, the same year that you opened D’O. Af­ter 15 years he is still at the top of his cat­e­gory. How do you stay at the top?

More than any­thing else it is nec­es­sary to be able to al­ways be on the ball, to be avail­able for cus­tomers and to un­der­stand the changes in so­ci­ety. If one is avail­able, he man­ages to be at the fore­front and in step with the times. We must al­ways keep an eye on so­ci­ety, its changes, and the client it­self.

Is there a ri­valry be­tween chefs?

It ex­ists but it is a pos­i­tive ri­valry. A con­struc­tive ri­valry to have a higher qual­ity at work, more at­ten­tion. More than ri­valry, how­ever, I would call it clean com­pet­i­tive­ness, there is al­ways a cor­rect con­fronta­tion and this helps ev­ery­one to grow. This has hap­pened be­fore abroad, I’m talk­ing about 30 years ago, in Italy in more re­cent times. From to­day on, as re­gards com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion among col­leagues, I be­lieve it is the most beau­ti­ful mo­ment of Ital­ian cui­sine.

What is your fa­vorite dish to cook? And what is your fa­vorite dish to dig in to?

Is there a dish that you don’t like to pre­pare? I am in­trigued by this “new wave” of cook­ing with in­sects. But it is a con­tem­po­rary trend that at the mo­ment I am not en­am­ored with. By why not, I could get to know it bet­ter over the next years. What I love about cook­ing is all that is

re­lated to the sea­son. There is no dish that I pre­fer to eat more than oth­ers, I want to vary: from veg­eta­bles to fish, from salami to meat; all prod­ucts that make up a har­mo­nious diet. I’m the one, af­ter all, cook­ing what I am go­ing to eat. I like to prac­tice with my staff; we make new dishes, we dis­cuss our ideas, we like to ex­per­i­ment.

What is the first dish you re­mem­ber as a child?

My mother’s saf­fron rice, which I presently pro­posed in a new ver­sion, in­spired by the crust that forms un­der the pot. I in­verted the crust in this ver­sion; and I make it very crunchy an put it on top of the rice: this way, first you eat the crust and then you get to the rice. It is based on an in­tu­ition that springs from know­ing how to dig deeper into one­self, within one’s own cul­ture and ter­ri­tory.

What do you think about cook­ing tal­ents? Can “au­then­tic” new chefs be born?

Ab­so­lutely, and it is an op­por­tu­nity to peek back­stage in of the kitchen, oth­ers’ work­ing meth­ods and the prod­ucts fill­ing their pantry. A new chef can only be born if they are will­ing to sac­ri­fice, to com­pete with oth­ers, to study and to metic­u­lously ap­ply meth­ods. Re­gard­less of whether he or she is a bloom­ing tal­ent or pri­vate cook, time is the best judge.

Can you imag­ine what your life would be like if you con­tin­ued as a soc­cer player?

No, I can’t imag­ine. It was my dream in the be­gin­ning, but as soon as the first dream van­ished I fished an­other dream from the drawer; the kitchen drawer. For­tu­nately, it came true and this makes me ab­so­lutely happy.

Out­side the kitchen, other pas­sions?

Ev­ery­thing that is from the world of food —cu­rios­ity about prod­ucts, mind-open­ing trav­els. Of course, I’m very ac­tive and I ded­i­cate time to sport and move­ment. Good food and ac­tiv­i­ties, in my opin­ion, are the main in­gre­di­ents for a healthy life.

Above: “Dama” a chess­board of choco­lates with raisin sauce and caramelize­d ap­ple. On the right: “Ciaolà”, the plate from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

“Bat­tuta d’in­izio”, a Gor­gonzola Mousse on a ten­nis court. The im­age is also the cover of the new book “D’O eat bet­ter”.

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