ON THE 39TH FLOOR OF THE BUILDING WHICH IS HOME TO LOMBARDY’S REGIONAL GOVERNMENT, DURING THE PRESENTATION OF THE GOOD FOOD IN GOOD FASHION (goodfoodingoodfashion.it) EVENT, WHICH, WILL RUN PARALLEL WITH MILAN FASHION WEEK FROM THE 19TH TO THE 24TH OF FEBRUARY, WITH AN EXQUISITE APERITIF, LOCALLY SOURCED, SET UP IN THE CITY’S FIVE-STAR HOTELS, REDMILK INTERVIEWED CARLO CRACCO.
THE STARRED CHEF TALKED BRIEFLY ABOUT HOW HE STARTED AND TOLD US ABOUT THE LINK BETWEEN FASHION AND FOOD
From Vicenza, where you studied and began your professional career, what was the impetus that led to you collaborate with Gualtiero Marchesi in Milan in 1986 and then your choice to go to France, where you lived for three years?
I came to Milan because, at that precise time, there was a great revolution taking place in food and restaurants, led by Gualtiero Marchesi. I was twenty and overall had received excellent training, but needing to improve on it further, the most natural thing was to come here: this city represented the focal point of that epoch. I stayed here for three years, until, once again, I realised that the moment had come to move on. I took the advice of Marchesi, who told me that in order to get ahead I would have to go to France. We are talking about the Eighties. France was the greatest depository of international culture with regard to cooking. It was here that you acquired, if I can put it this way, your first licence as a chef. Today it’s completely different: you can go to any place in the world.
And what did you bring back to Italy from your French experience?
What I have retained is very little: more than anything else, the spirit with which they tackle the subject, the way in which they cultivate it and turn it into a source of pride.
Since 2007, your restaurant has been in the top 50 in the world. What characteristic differentiates you from the others: what exactly is Cracco’s?
… but no; the guides are done to invite discussion; it is a bit more complicated than that. The fact of being one of these gives you an idea of what you have done and what you can do, how far you can still go, and then it is a way of rewarding your work. But it is something much more personal for the client, who wants to find you and to eat well. If you are in a ranking, but the client doesn’t find what they’re looking for… this is the common situation that so often happens.
When do you begin to sense that you have become a point of reference in a sphere that really does involve everyone, such as that of cooking?
When you manage to make a difference, to create dishes and trends. When you manage to determine a trend or the particular use of a product, it means that you have ability because you launch something that then gets carried forward; the ability is in getting there first… if you understand that a given product has a value that has still not been recognised and you develop it through recipes and ideas, you light a fuse.
You have two daughters and a son, and another on the way. Who cooks at home? And most important, is it easier to satisfy male or female tastes? Do you play with them in the kitchen?
In my opinion it’s easier to satisfy men rather than women; yes, women are a bit more demanding. At home, I cook because I like doing it even outside work and then, doing it for everyone, if you don’t do it for your own family they will say to you, “How is it that you do it for others, but not for us?”. My older daughter likes to cook and to see what is happening on the cooker; the younger one less so. But, we play and it’s just as important to make them understand the difference between when something tastes good and when it doesn’t. And even more, when it is so particularly good that you remember it: committing it to memory.
When are you opening your new restaurant, Carlo e Camilla in segheria, and what are its features?
It opens next week, so the week in which this interview comes out (ndr). It is a modern bistro, halfway between a pub, a restaurant and a venue which is a bit more sophisticated. It’s inside a factory building, in fact, an old sawmill we retrieved, in line with the recovery of urban land, in Via Meda, that was once considered to be an industrial area. The food will be more affordable but not for this will it be simpler or receive less care. It will be the same quality that you find at the restaurant, but applied on a more affordable scale.
Food and fashion: is it a relationship that has always been there, or is it particularly hailed today?
It’s always been there. Who brought the Japanese to Milan? Fashion. It was the designers who brought Japanese food: sushi and all these things… Armani, Versace, all those who at the time made fashion. If they hadn’t been there, the others would never have arrived so soon and in such numbers.
Does food expresses a status, create recognisability?
The details are important; they give you an idea of each person’s choice and deserve respect. It’s important not to lose everything we have; it’s important not to abuse it. The concept is to eat what is worth eating and not what is bad for you.
What is a suitable dish for different occasions, and is there a general rule to get good results in the kitchen?
To get good results in the kitchen you have to shop well. And the dish must be an expression of the territory. If I go to Bologna I eat tortellini, I don’t ask for a plate of spaghetti. Or, if I go to Naples, I don’t ask to eat plin ravioli, which they make in Piedmont, but I ask to eat what you associate with the place and which is predominant there. Let yourself be attracted by traditional food.
Father, chef, TV personality and cookery book writer. What is the constant feature you keep in all these roles?