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Pearls of Wisdom: Davide Scabin

By Stefan Chomka, 20-Jan-2012

Related topics: Business, People, Restaurants, Pearls of Wisdom

The chef-proprietor of Combal Zero in Piemonte, northern Italy – a regular on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list – is a pioneer of conceptual cooking.

My cooking is simple but there’s a study behind every single dish.The dish is always perfectly engineered – I need to have perfection on the plate.

The tongue acts in different ways depending on how you eat. You can eat a hamburger in a number of ways and it will be different depending on where you put the sauces. This is what my cooking is all about.

I taught food design at the University of Turin. I learnt you can change traditional dishes without altering their ingredients.

Solitude has been a big influence on my life. I have never worked with any other big chefs. My inspirations have come from the big-name Italian and French chefs of the 1700s and 1800s.

I’m probably more well-known abroad than in Italy. I like to try things that don’t yet exist and people don’t understand this. In Italy everyone is used to eating very well. It is not that they are unadventurous, but they look at me with some suspicion.

Tradition is important but you can reposition it. You don’t have to be constrained by tradition when you cook.

I don’t mean to be presumptuous but I believe my colleagues will start thinking about new things like I do. I’m not influencing with recipes but with new philosophies.

I don’t like the term molecular gastronomy. It has been used in the wrong way. Molecular can be taking a pan with butter and frying an egg in it.

If you don’t take the risk to do it wrong you don’t expose your soul.

I look at vegetables like a material rather than food. I like to put textures onto a plate.

My favourite ingredients are stock,eggs and foie gras. I don’t like cumin.

I have changed my point of view on dried pasta. I had never considered cooking dried pasta before but I am now thinking about it as a new material.

Some of the new dishes at Combal Zero use the same concepts as 10 years ago but are applied in a new way. The menu also has a vintage section.

Many UK people don’t believe in the potential of their own cuisine. They don’t think it is interesting, but it is.

I don’t have a favourite dish but my flagship creation is the Cyber Egg (egg yolks and caviar wrapped in a plastic shell ands erved with a scalpel). It was the start of thinking about the design of a dish as well as the product.

I have all the usual kitchen equipment but I also like to build my own. The plastic cylinders I use for certain dishes are all custom-made.

The raw materials in the Amazon will soon become more popular.

It is a very positive moment for Italian cooking, we have rediscovered our food culture. Five years ago Italian restaurants were following Spanish trends – nobody would have cooked a pasta or rice dish at a chefs’ congress, but we have rediscovered the potential in our traditions.

Canned food interests me. Whenever I go to a new country I visit the supermarket and see what’s new in the canned aisle.

Nature is one of the best designers in the world. But I find inspiration from many places and things.

There is always a way to improve. In 10 years’ time I hope I can look back and say I have been able to apply new formats in food. And not just in fine dining but at the cheaper end as well.

I was a big fan of Steve Jobs. I admire his creativity.

If you want to be a successful chef you need passion, passion and passion. You need to know the techniques but also to transmit your soul to your dishes, and to the customers, and be able to communicate this successfully.