DAVIDE OLDANI. IN MY KITCHEN AS IN MY LIFE: MY RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Balance, harmony, curiosity, and quality: these are the main ingredients for cooking, and of Davide Oldani’s way of thinking.
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”.