My Kitchen: Davide Caranchini, Materia, Italy

The chef, who opened his restaurant on the edge of Lake Como seven years ago, tells Tina Nielsen about championing local ingredients and growing in a small space

I have worked for big restaurants in Europe, but it was my biggest dream to open a restaurant in my hometown – in the end we opened Materia in Cernobbio, about 10 kilometers away and still in the province of Como, which is well known all over the world for its gastronomy. 

At the time no restaurant here was using local foods, so our was idea to develop a new kind of cooking based on what we’ve got here. Our location is the best in the world, between the mountains and the lake.

We split the menu into two seasons: cold and hot. Throughout fall and winter, we focus on the mountain, which is all about mushrooms, truffles and game. Spring and summer features fish from the lake and fresh vegetables from the countryside.

The space was a Japanese restaurant before we moved in, so we had to renew everything in the kitchen. We did a lot of work to make it look how we wanted, it would have been easier to build a new restaurant. Unfortunately, it’s very small; the whole place is only 100 square meters and the kitchen is 20 to 24 square meters, so we can’t do as much as we’d like to – we can’t fit new equipment. 

There are six of us in the kitchen. I used to be very vocal, but I have changed, just as the menu has developed, I have too – that is part of maturing. I want people to enjoy coming here to work and not to be scared.

One of the most important pieces of equipment in my kitchen is the juicer, which extracts straight from the ingredients, even from herbs or spices. It gives us a way to avoid as much fat as we can; chefs need to think about the wellbeing of the customer. Sometimes you use fats as a vehicle for the aromas. Without fat you need to concentrate the aromas, so we use a lot of extraction and distil flavors. We’re very happy because our last menu was 14 courses and the guests don’t feel any heaviness.

If I could change anything in the kitchen I would like to swap the gas stove for an induction stove – in the summer it gets so hot to work here. Ultimately we would like to move to a new location. We are still having fun, we are motivated, but when you grow up, you need space. We are starting to feel that the restaurant where we are now is like a fully squeezed lemon.

Tina Nielsen

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