Reading In.gredienti, the self-published cookbook from Chef Massimiliano Alajmo and his brother Raffaele, of Restaurant Le Calandre, near Padova in northern Italy, you get an insight not only into a great chef's food and recipes, but into his gastronomic soul. In that respect, it is one of the most honest cookery books at this level that I have ever seen. Alajmo is not afraid to share his innermost thoughts on his concepts and theories, and show he is a man unequivocally in love with gastronomy and food.
Having seen the book, I'm only surprised I'd heard so little about him before.
The first 85 pages cover the journey of a family that knows the joy of true hospitality and has woven it into the fabric of its life. The hotel and restaurant are now run by the fifth generation of the Alajmo family to have worked in hospitality: 32-year-old Chef Massimiliano and his brother Raffaele, 38, Restaurant Director. Their relationship is one of mutual trust, which for me is the sole foundation that any gastronomic relationship should be built on. It's where true hospitality starts.
In the past 10 years, my own food has grown up a great deal and I see that food's not about ‘wow factor' – all presentation and fireworks – but honesty. This book mirrors my own journey. Alajmo has three Michelin stars and one of the world's best restaurants [31 on The World's 50 Best Restaurants, 2006], something he has achieved through honesty and respect for ingredients. The magic is in good hospitality.
In.gredienti's layout is straightforward, showing how Alajmo layers his creations and, by using his own sketches after each recipe, highlights how ingredients work, their effect on the palate and the emotive states they create.
The elements of each plate are separated and paired with respective methods, allowing you to isolate each unit and to transfer elements. In the first quarter, the dishes are predominantly pasta or farinaceous – as you'd expect of an Italian chef – although, there are plenty more further on that are not starch based and afford a light and simple approach. I've tried many of the dishes, but there are two I haven't tried but by which I am very intrigued. The first is Gioccolato 2006 (a play on words from the Italian for ‘joking' and ‘chocolate'): a beautifully presented journey through life, from infancy to senility, and secondly, Gioccalato 2003, a dessert using chocolate-covered cauliflower and aubergine. I'm not sure about that one, but the flavours should work.
Pulling it all together is striking photography, full of vibrant colour. Wolfgang Wesener's techniques, lighting, angles and mediums the food is presented on (such as bark, slate, glass or wood), coupled with the printing technique (UltraChrome pigment inkset using a six-colour print base instead of the standard four) offer an almost three-dimensional view.
There is no doubt this book will be a real inspiration to any chef who is not only interested in the future of gastronomy, but wants an insight into how those working at the cutting edge look at food. Alajmo is a quiet, unassuming and true genius of gastronomy; a great lesson for us all.
In.gredienti (English and Italian editions) is available from Le Calandre for €150. €10 from the sale of each copy is donated to Il Gusto per la Ricerca Onlus for research into infant oncology.
Ristorante Le Calandre, Via Liguria 1, 35030 Sarmeola di Rubano (PD), Italy+39 49 630303 Alajmo.it
In.gredienti by Massimiliano and Raffaele Alajmo
Photography by Wolfgang Wesener (Alajmo Edizione)
Review by John Campbell, Executive Chef, The Vineyard at Stockcross
MORE MASTER WORKS
- The Roux Brothers on Patisserie by Michel Roux. Little Brown, 1993 ? Grand Livre De Cuisine: Desserts and Pastries by Alain Ducasse and Frédéric Robert. Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2006
- The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef: Advanced Baking and Pastry Techniques by Bo Friberg. John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2003
- Chocolate & Vanilla by Gale Gand and Lisa Weiss. Clarkson N Potter Publishers, 2006
- Au Coeur des Saveurs by Frédéric Bau. Montagud Editores, 1998
- Ph10 Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé by Pierre Hermé. Agnès Vienot Editions, 2005
- The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming with Melissa Clark. Random House, 2001
- The Anatomy of Dessert: With a Few Notes on Wine by Edward A Bunyard. Random House USA Inc, 2006