The Acclaimed Chef Muses on the Italian Roots of Her Kitchen to Tarajia Morrell
“Instead of letting good produce spoil, preserving the last of the seasons’ harvest opens up new possibilities for creating meals with depth and intrigue,” says Angela Hartnett, the celebrated British chef who divulges the influence of her Italian grandmother’s cooking in the second installment of our miniseries. The successes of the chef patron of both Murano, where she received her second Michelin star, and Café Murano, are an ode to the rustic recipes passed down via once exotic, essential ingredients from her familial larder. Here the restaurateur expounds on guilty pleasures and secret ingredients.
Is there a cuisine other than Italian that you are inspired by?
Angela Hartnett: Japanese food intrigues me as it’s a foreign take on the same theme of sophisticated yet simple food that I strive for. In a way the principles and some techniques are similar to Italian ones, it’s just a completely different range of ingredients to play with.
What is it about the preserving process that appeals to you?
AH: Treatment with salts and brines develops the flavors of ingredients in interesting ways, so that just when you think you’re sick of a particular ingredient, it becomes interesting again.
Who is your greatest culinary inspiration?
AH: Not a who, but a where: Italy.
What’s the best trick your Italian grandmother taught you about food?
AH: Rather than any trick, my grandma taught me to appreciate the best seasonal ingredients and to value family meals. We would always buy the best produce we could afford to provide for the family, and she would make me take back anything that was substandard. It was also from her that I first learned to make fresh tortelli and ravioli—a version of which I still cook at Murano to this day.
What’s your secret weapon ingredient?
AH: Parmesan, rosemary and garlic are always close to hand.
Would you really be up for life without a refrigerator?
AH: Yes, use ice.
Guilty pleasure after a long shift?
AH: Plain crisps and a glass of strong Italian red wine.
What would be your last meal?
AH: A brilliant prosciutto crudo with the ripest melon for starter and a bowl of agnolini – which is stuffed pasta with veal and beef in a meat broth for main. I don’t really do puddings but a vanilla tart if pushed.
Check back next Saturday for the final installment with Thomasina Miers.
Pickling Squash and Nostalgic Recollections as Tarajia Morrell Talks to the Australian Chef
The memories inspired by the process of preserving food are explored in a three-part weekly series for NOWNESS, launching with a trip to Skye Gyngell’s north London residence. “It’s a lovely thing to see glowing jars of preserved produce sitting on shelves—there is a romanticism to it,” says the Australian-raised chef, who was awarded a Michelin star in 2011 for her vegetable-focused menu at Petersham Nurseries Café. “I dream of flavors from my childhood: penny sweets such as musk sticks, freckles, cobblers, jaffles and minties,” she says, (though is quick to counter that she no longer indulges in such sugary pleasures). The author of three cookbooks and currently the Director of the culinary program at Heckfield Place in Hampshire, Gyngell’s on the eve of announcing her long awaited new restaurant project and below she divulges her culinary inspirations.
What is it about pickling and preserving that appeals to you?
Skye Gyngell: I love the way you can elongate the seasons of certain fruits and vegetables in an authentic, natural and time-honored way.
Is there an ingredient you are most enamored of?
SG: What enchants me more than any single ingredient is the bounty that each season brings. Cooking seasonally feels very comforting and familiar, and I am always enchanted and surprised by how well ingredients work together from their own season: I find it miraculous and awe inspiring.
What was the moment you realized that you’d found your calling in the kitchen?
SG: In my first year at university I got a job washing up in a restaurant in Sydney, and loved the atmosphere of a working kitchen. I was soon given small tasks to perform, like making basic stocks, peeling veg and making the sweet pastry for the desserts. I loved it, it felt very comfortable and right. I soon fell in love with these little tasks and craved to learn more. Those feelings have remained with me over the years.
What’s the greatest life lesson that cooking has taught you?
SG: That life is so much nicer when you are doing something you love. That it’s important to persevere. That talent is one thing but it doesn't ever make up for hard work. The world is full of talented people but it rarely amounts to anything if you're not prepared to put in the work.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
SG: It would be unthinkable not to be a chef—but perhaps a gardener?
Guilty pleasure after a long shift?
SG: Toast and Vegemite with lots of butter.
Fondest food memory?
SG: Eating a perfectly ripe peach with my father just outside Florence in the summer of 1983—it made me truly fall in love with produce in its purest form for the very first time.
Aphrodisiac (edible or not):
SG: It’s got to be oysters.
Next week March 29: Preserving lemons with Angela Hartnett.
Chef Provocateur Craig Thornton On the Art of Underground Dining
“The opening dish is venison, ripped apart and strewn onto the plate to look like a bloody and decayed piece of meat,” says Craig Thornton of the visceral food he will be serving up at Cut Your Teeth, the collaborative installation made with artist Matthew Bone that opens today at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. “You are eating something that looks eerily similar to a deer carcass, but the dish itself includes moss, blackberry beet gastrique, coffee cocoa crumble and purple cabbage.” Armed with a range of culinary experience—from learning his trade at Thomas Keller’s Las Vegas bistro Bouchon to becoming Nicholas Cage’s private chef—and having recently received profiles in The New Yorker and Hollywood Reporter, the man behind culinary sensation Wolvesmouth is captured here by filmmaker Jordan Bahat in a Downtown Los Angeles loft during one of his monthly conceptual dinners. “The Santa Monica installation is the first foray into a direction I’ve wanted to take Wolvesmouth for a long time,” says Thornton, who will be working with art impresario Jeffrey Deitch when Cut Your Teeth moves to New York. “It is a snapshot of everything we push away to keep this perfect idealized box of what we think reality is, leaving a lot of people devoid of knowing where their food comes from.”
Cut Your Teeth runs at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, October 16 through October 26 and in New York City November 7 through December 14.