By Elena Barassi and Gabriella Lombardo Giassetti
Tano and extra virgin olive oil. An inseparable pair, a loving marriage, a meeting that becomes necessary to explain, through the kitchen, as tradition can evolve gaining in genuineness and health without losing anything in taste. Tano Simonato, starred chef since 2008 and awarded in 2015 with the prestigious award for Best Table of the Italian Guida Critica Golosa by Paolo Massobrio and Marco Gatti, is for everyone “Tano passami l’olio” (Tano, give me the oil) the name of the restaurant that opened in 1995 in Milan and attracts customers “hungry” of his experiments, its innovations and dishes that never cease to amaze.
Many years of work and passion that finally you decided to enclose in a book, which incidentally is called “Passione Extravergine – Un viaggio nella cucina di Tano Simonato” (Extra virgin olive oil passion – A trip to Tano Simonato kitchen)
I’ve always been a little reluctant to publish a cookbook, even though it was a long time since I was asked. First I felt the need to line up my thoughts, my ideas, my journey of man as well as a cook and with this project we are successful.
In fact, the book tells of your personal and professional path of ingenious and creative self-taught
My first encounter with the kitchen was not the result of a choice but a necessity, when I lost my father. I was 15 years old and I cooked for my brothers while my mother was at work. And at first I did not like at all, it was boring, not challenging, but then came up with the curiosity, the desire to improve and a desire for gratification. So, a little through recipe books and a little with the advice of my mother, a cook by profession, I found new inspiration and suddenly did this strong and irrepressible passion for cooking, my true calling.
In the 70’s it must not have been an easy path
But in fact, the time was not right for my desire to experiment, so for 17 years I was the barman and in the 80s my “Tanus Bar” was the Milan landmark. First I launched the concept of drink cocktails mixing appetizers of my creation. The breakthrough came in the 90’s when I fell in love with extra virgin olive oil, a revelation that has turned into an indissoluble marriage.
And Passione Extra Vergine tells all this and much more
Sure, the book tells my journey, the story of my life and my philosophy in the kitchen but is above all sharing with the audience the emotion of a dream come true.
Tano, what’s behind his success?
There is a lot. Much commitment and dedication for what Italy offers with its outstanding products. In my kitchen did not come, in fact, the flavors of other cuisines. If I add to my plate mozzarella di bufala, this must come out strongly in all its taste in my preparation.
Did you reach the top all by yourself?
Absolutely no. I pay tribute to Nadia (Zoetti), my wife, my shoulder, confidante and friend. Without her I would never have arrived up to here. Without his valuable advice I would have made some terrible blunders.
What is your relationship with your customers?
I pretty much do shuttling between room and kitchen every day. I like to explain to my guests what they are eating. And besides, it is also their right to know.
What is your commitment to the Italian cuisine abroad?
I have travelled all over the world to promote our food and above all our products abroad. The French have worked marketing since ‘700 definitely better than us. Today, however, the Italian kitchen is no longer just pizza and pasta and this is due to my commitment and the one of many other colleagues.
What is your relationship with your colleagues?
In fact I am the first not to take myself too seriously. I feel a little boy, with the experience, however, to sixty. I still remember that dinner. 10 chef all starry and I was the oldest. During dinner they literally massacred me between jokes and jokes but in the end, and I say it with great pride, they just said to me thanks for existing.
Why did you never participate in competitions between chefs?
No doubt about this choice. I absolutely don’t try the competition. For me it is essential interaction, confrontation.
But the legend about your famous fake caviar?
It all started when I had to prepare a dinner for some important guests and among the various courses I proposed that ‘soft cheese with beluga caviar and dehydrated yolk’. A dish for several euro. Nadia was also telling me to invent the fake caviar, a dish you can put in the paper for my guests. And voilà. Heads of prawns, red mullet, mussels, turnip greens or spinach for a caviar that today all my guests like to eat.
To who, among your colleagues, do you think to owe something?
Massimo Bottura, who inspired me the fake butter, I use it a lot in my cuisine. But mainly Gualtiero Marchesi, a great master who has always said the great truths. He brought the Italian cuisine at the highest level abroad.
(The texts of the book “Passione Extra Vergine”, published by Mondadori, are by Chiara Alini. Photo by Leonarda Vanicelli with Alessandra Locatelli food stylist; the cover photo is by Paul Picciotto)
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