Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Q & A with chef Paolo Lopriore

Dinner at The Prune, Stratford

I've always maintained that the one thing that excites me about the culinary world is having the opportunity to talk to the players behind the scenes. The passion and  hard work that encompasses the stories that chefs, producers and restauranters share never fails to bring a smile to my face. Luckily for working in the media, you're never too far from getting some words of wisdom from local and visiting talent. This time, I was invited by my friends Mary Luz Meija and Mario Stojanac of Sizzling Communications to talk with chef Paolo Lopriore , one of Italy's hottest chefs and the head chef of Il Canto restaurant, which took the coveted 39th spot on the San Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurant list in 2011.

Although I didn't  personally interview him when he was in town as the Chef in Residence at The Stratford Chefs school, Lopriore answered a few of my questions over e-mail. I have to say his answer about his five ingredients he is never without was extremely unconventional but so reflective of what truly makes good food sublime. I was lucky to taste these words of Lopriore in action as well at a dinner at The Prune restaurant in Stratford. But before you gorge on the amazing pictures of the meal that featured real Tuscan flavours and highlight regional cooking, here are some of the chef's thoughts to get a better picture of his background:

Where do you draw culinary inspiration from?

The tastes from my mother, family and  life experiences is where my inspiration comes from.

Do you have any culinary role models? 
Anna Claudia – my business partner and the patron (the boss) of the hotel where is restaurant is located. She brings a passion and energy to her work at the hotel every day and this spirited work ethic inspires me as I strive to do the same in my work.

How would you define your style of food?
It's Italian. Just Italian. … with my experiences, and experiences from all over the place, which I interpret through the filter of his Italian heritage, all reflected in his style of cooking.

If you invite friends for dinner at your home, what do you like cooking?
The simpler the better. It's about the company, and sharing food and drink together – the social aspect of these times is more important than elaborate cooking. As a chef you spend so much time cut off from the social connection of dinner with people, because it's your job to be doing the food. you are busy and you miss out. When I entertain, I rather serve simple food than have to spend the whole time in the kitchen. And, there's usually more drinking than eating anyway.

Top five ingredients you're never without.
Tradition, t
he product, terroir, the story and love.

Where would you like to travel next to eat? 
Would love to travel to China and learn about their food culture and stories of it.

What advice do you have for young chefs just entering the industry?The main thing is work. Work, work. And also to remember that sometimes the most seemingly simple things can be the most important. The details are often what brings a dish together and makes it work so it's important to take care and mind the details.

Amuse bouche
Egg custard with flying fish roe and dill
This was my favourite course of the night. It was creamy, rich and had just a fain essence of dill in the background, which I though brought a wonderful freshness to the dish. The little bursting orbs of roe added a great textural element.
Served with Ponte Extra Brut Prosecco

First course - Calamari in Zimino
Poached calamari with parsley puree and olives
I loved the presentation of this course. The stark white of the calamari, rich forest green  of the sauce and golden drops of olive oil made it truly art on a plate. The calamari was a tad overcooked but that didn't stop me from polishing the entire plate off.

Served with Feudi di San Gregorio Geodi di Trufo 2010

 Second course - Timballo di melanzane
Eggplant timbale with tomato sauce
My third favourite of the evening. The timbale was light and flavourful, but what really stayed with me was the delicious tomato sauce that complemented it so well. Just a hint of fresh basil in the background made the marriage of the eggplant and tomato perfect.

Served with Feudi di San Gregorio Geodi di Trufo 2010
 Main course - Piccione al vin santo
Oven roasted squab with spinach, pine nuts and raisins and vin santo jus
I would have loved to learn how to make this show stopper. The squab and the vin santo jus together was simply divine with some added crunch from the pine nuts and spinach leaves.
Served with Ca del Doge Chianati
Dessert course - Caco, Amaretto, Mascarpone and Cafee Diventano Tiramisu
Cacao, Amaretto, mascarpone and coffee tiramisuTalk about being a glutton, I ate mine and then @coopspeak's as well. The sorbetto on top was doused in Amaretto making a boozy first bite followed by layers of creaminess. A great way to end the meal on a decadent and decidedly Italian note.

Post-dessert treats
Tarragon and white chocolate lollies, dark chocolate with seabuckthorn and almond tuileSuch a lovely treat as the coffee and tea were rolled out. It was the first time I ate seabuckthorn,which had a sour punch. The sage and white chocolate was a great combination as well. And to put it lightly, I inhaled the tuile.


  1. Great recap of a delightful evening Bev!

  2. Bev, why no blog for a long time. Hope alls well

  3. really awesome post thanks 4 sharing this post with us

  4. wonderful its delicious Thanks for sharing

  5. Hi Beverley-Ann,
    Great post on Egg custard with flying fish roe and dill ! Please e-mail me at natdecants@nataliemaclean.com. It’s about wine of course :)