Friday, October 30, 2020
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Gualtiero Marchesi has died. The reasons why he refused the Michelin's stars and how he turned fine cuisine into arts

I find myself at this age rediscovering my past. My cousin was once interviewed, and from her words, I understood that what I used to do when I was young actually had a purpose.

Gualtiero Marchesi has died, and in this “15 minutes of glory” – moment of the cuisine, many have cried for him.

Marchesi was a pioneer, a man who brought French nouvelle cuisine into a country like Italy that is not really open to novelties. One of the first cooks to realize that those principles of French nouvelle cuisine (such as seasonality and products from the territory) suited better the Italian tradition than the French one (those like Bocuse who invented a new type of cuisine, who preferred the overtaking of Italian culture for the French one, they often changed the butter with extra virgin Olive Oil, in keeping with the rule n. 7 – “no more heavy sauces”).

Marchesi was one of the firsts in Italy to receive the Michelin’s three stars in 1985 and to give them back after 23 years.

It was easier for him than for somebody else, of course. For the so-called “Father of the Italian cuisine,” in old age to give up on the stars of the red Guide it wasn’t such a big drama.

But it was an important message: you cannot give a mark to your passion, just like culture. He asked to be appreciated just like a composer, he loved very much music, and a Chopin’s nocturne cannot be evaluated with a mark. Chopin doesn’t take part in a game show.

The guide, of course, answered that readers would expect an evaluation easy to be interpreted, not a comment like Marchesi desired. The 2009 Michelin, so, was published with a quote: Marchesi’s reign was a hotel restaurant.

Also here: the Red Guide answers the market, and marks create a huge one (Marchesi was significant even in this sense: giving up on the stars he denounced the considerable stress that the recognition provokes to the restaurateurs). Our fault: for us, the readers, is easier to read stars, forks, and huts assigned by experts, instead of reading their reasons.

It is a cultural problem: it is impossible to appreciate Marchesi, or any other chefs, without a minimum knowledge. To understand the mark is not enough, neither as reader’s guide nor as a critic’s evaluation.

For sure the Michelin Guide helped Marchesi’s success, who started to receive prizes after he received the third star. He used it for commercial purpose, just like, with a hazardous comparison but that he would have appreciated, Mozart’s father used courts to let his son be known.

Marchesi also understood something else: if the great cook is a composer, the cuisine is an art just like architecture. If reading and painting are out of reach, and no fixed parameters can be used (think about Duchamp’s readymade art, where an object becomes art because the artist decides it and the institutions add it in a museum), cuisine and food service market keep their cornerstones, even if they might change during the years.

Marchesi was this as well: always trying to improve his job, trying to make it an art. The cook that turns into an architect or composer (it exists, in fact, the “Architectural Composition”) and for this, in the attempt to be recognized as such, he collided with the commercial soul of the cuisine, and with a competitive ambience which is half refined and tough, or better with stars, huts, and forks.

A challenge between what is democratic and what, as refined, is considered niche. A synthesis attempt (maybe cannot be synthesized) where also foodiestrip, in an adjacent field, has embarked.


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This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

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Pierluigi Capriotti
My name is Pierluigi Capriotti to be exact. Despite a degree in Architecture I'm a journalist. I write following temporary monomania and others that are chronic such reading, soccer, travels and food. When I write I use many asides – because I have the impression there is always something more to say. Because in those asides I talk about my passions. So that everybody will notice them but with nonchalance. I've never had a high regard for wisdom. And, thanks God, this helped me to leave for the foodiestrip journey with a spiritual-creative mathematician, an IT engineer who plays the Star Wars soundtrack with the coffee stirrers and a businessnerd. One way ticket. No return.