Davide Oldani: "Craftsmanship in the Kitchen, the Biggest Challenge"

An interview with Davide Oldani, chef at the newly reopened D'O restaurant near Milan and mentor for the Italy region at S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016.

Davide Oldani will be the mentor accompanying the Italian finalist Alessandro Salvatore Rapisarda, as he works his way to the world final of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 competition: like the other mentors, Chef Oldani will be responsible for advising the winner of the Italian final, giving him tips on the dish, its presentation and all other aspects of its preparation.

The Michelin-starred chef has recently moved his D'O restaurant just a few steps away from its previous location in Cornaredo (near Milan): the brand new venue combines tradition and innovation in a striking new restaurant concept designed by Italian architect Piero Lissoni.

Davide Oldani's New D'O Restaurant

The core of the project is represented by the large glass windows overlooking the square, which hosts an impressive sculpture by Italian artist Velasco Vitali, the Red Forest, which was placed thanks to the support of S.Pellegrino. The overall aim is the requalification of public space around the restaurant.

Velasco Vitali's Red Forest in Cornaredo

FineDiningLovers asked the Italian chef a few questions about his new projects and how he intends to tackle his important role as mentor.

What made you decide to become a chef?
The desire to take up an artisanal trade, which I love.

Tell us about some of your social projects – what are they and what do they aim to achieve?
I’m working on the expansion plans for my restaurant, D’O, where I have applied a “Pop Cuisine” philosophy. In addition, we’re opening another restaurant in Manila, with a new FOO'D brand: the restaurant will be in the business district in downtown Manila. I’m also working on a new book, the first part of which will be published this summer and the second in the autumn. I am also the Food & Sport Ambassador for the Italian Team for the Olympics in Brazil.

Davide Oldani's New D'O Restaurant and Dish

How important are cookery schools to a chef’s development?
First of all, I think kids have to go to school to learn not just food culture, but Italian culture, through its history. Then of course the basics can be learnt at school, but to really learn you need to apprentice with someone and go to a restaurant kitchen, and today in Italy there are so many great chefs you can go and learn from.

How important is it for you to support young chefs?
It’s very important, but you need to make them understand it’s not always a bed of roses in this line of work.

Why is it important to preserve and showcase traditional Italian recipes?
Tradition is important, but it’s even more important to protect our products.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a young chef, and what are the big challenges facing young chefs today?
I’m always challenging myself; I’m still growing today. One great challenge now is opening a new restaurant abroad, for example. A young chef today needs to understand it’s important to be in the kitchen, then come the competitions and shows. The big challenge is applying craftsmanship in the kitchen, and working with great produce.

What are you looking for in a 2016 Young Chef?
A strong desire to work, sacrifice, acknowledging that being a cook is not as easy a job as it may seem.

What mistake should a young chef never make?
Not being passionate.

Ingredients, technique, genius, beauty and message: what, in your view, is the most insidious Golden Rule?
Genius: I wouldn’t know how to judge genius; there are too many variables.

What dish would you take to S.Pellegrino Young Chef if you were a chef under 30 today?
I’d take balanced contrasts; I’d like to reinvent the Raviolo Aperto made by Gualtiero Marchesi.

Your mentor when you were young?
I had more than one: certainly Marchesi is one of them, but there’s also Alain Ducasse, Pierre Hermé and Albert Roux.

What frequent mistake did you make when you were young?
No, never any frequent mistakes. Mistakes, yes, but always different ones, because when they explain to you where you went wrong, you have to be able to correct it.

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