Chef Profile: Giancarlo Morelli

Meet Italy’s Unconventional Conventionalist.

Chef Giancarlo Morelli

A man with dual focus, Michelin star Chef Giancarlo Morelli keeps one foot in centuries-old culinary tradition and one in thoroughly modern approaches to food. Morelli, who was in Toronto this past March to support the Italian Trade Commission’s launch of its Made in Italy campaign, embodies the best of modern Italian cuisine, pushing the boundaries of technique and presentation to splendid effect. We sat in on a Master Class cooking demo Morelli taught at George Brown College in Toronto, where he generously shared his cooking philosophy, a few favourite recipes and his secrets to risotto, a dish that’s meaningful to his culinary heritage.

On his approach to cooking…
“I want you to eat with your mind and taste each ingredient, the balance, the story [of the ingredients] and the emotions.” At his award-winning restaurant, Pomiroeu, in Seregno, Chef Morelli cooks only with the best crafted-in-Italy ingredients and local free-range pastured meats, dairy and eggs. “Near my restaurant,” says Morelli, opening his arm expansively to convey the hills and countryside, “there is a villa with chickens roaming the hillside, free, wild. Those are the only eggs we use.”

On his famed risotto…
“Never abandon the rice,” says Morelli, referring to the attentive stirring required to make successful risotto. “It’s like a little baby that needs to grow up.” Morelli, recommends organic Carnaroli rice, which is grown in Lombardy and Piedmont, 24-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano as well as saffron grown in Abruzzo: “It’s all about balance, and respect for the ingredients.” Additionally, Morelli advocates the use of butter, “You can’t have a risotto without butter,” using it to soften the onions and toast the rice at the beginning of the recipe and stirring in frozen cubes (for better emulsification) at the end to lend a luxurious texture.

On food and health…
The vibrant 56-year-old is a proponent of foraging for wild foods. “I noticed the people who lived in the country, who ate the wild foods they collected from the hills, lived longer lives.” Naturally, wild plants and mushrooms play a starring role on his seasonally inspired menus. Similarly, he has strong feelings about using too much salt, using a very small amount at the end of cooking his risotto dish, so the flavour of each ingredient is allowed to shine.

Buon appetito!

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