Gualtiero Marchesi: the chef who reinvented the Italian cuisine

Gualtiero-Marchesi, chef, Italian cuisine, Expo, Milan, 2015

Gualtiero Marchesi remarkable accomplishments were acknowledged by the President of the Italian Republic in 1991, who presented him the Order of Merit as Commendatore for his contribution to the Italian culinary tradition and culture

In the upcoming months the world’s attention will be focused on healthy nutrition with Expo Milan 2015 and, consequently, on the Italian cuisine. Among the founders of Italy’s modern culinary tradition, internationally celebrated, and one of the most revered chefs worldwide is 85-year old Gualtiero Marchesi. 

Born in Milan on March 19, 1930, last week he had his birthday party at the Marchesino café-restaurant, which he founded in 2008 in the historical city center, adjacent to the Teatro alla Scala. His family was in the food service industry, and after WWII Gualtiero moved to Lucerne, Switzerland, to attend a catering and hospitality training institute. Yet the real “epiphany,” which influenced his taste and personal cooking style, occurred during his first years of work in France in the early 1970s. He learned and brought back to Italy the innovative and creative inspirations of Nouvelle Cuisine, introducing them first in the family restaurant and then in his own Bonvesin de la Riva, started in 1977.

Ten years later, it was the first Italian restaurant ever to be awarded three stars by the famed Michelin Guide. Despite the great honor, in the end Marchesi “returned” the stars, as a sign of protest against the subservience of many talented Italian chefs to the French critics. “The Italian modern cuisine has made huge progress, but we still put our success in the hands of a French guide that rewards French restaurants. Young chefs need to understand that their passion for cooking can’t be measured in terms of stars,” he said. As a result, any comment on the Bonvesin de la Riva disappeared from the Michelin Guide in 2009. 

Gualtiero MarchesiMarchesi chairs the International School of Italian Cuisine in Colorno (Parma)

For a few years, Gualtiero Marchesi also owned a hotel and restaurant in the Franciacorta country, an area of Lombardy region well known for the production of sparkling wine. Some of his original masterpieces – they actually look like paintings – that made history include the Milanese risotto with a golden leaf, and a combination of calamari, clams, and squid ink. 

His interest in art, of which cuisine is certainly an expression, was fostered by his encounter with painter and poet Aldo Calvi and, most of all, by his wife Antonietta, a pianist who taught him to play. Yet he wouldn’t pursue a career in music, as he needed to concentrate his efforts on “Creating a new cuisine by revolutionizing the dishes, the presentation, and the wine list.” On the occasion of his 80th birthday, in 2010, the chef established the Gualtiero Marchesi Foundation, committed to promoting all forms of art, from music to painting and cooking itself. He also founded the Italian Culinary Academy in New York City in 2006, and now chairs the International School of Italian Cuisine (ALMA) in Colorno, in the province of Parma.
 
His remarkable accomplishments were acknowledged by the President of the Italian Republic in 1991, who presented him the Order of Merit as Commendatore for his contribution to the Italian culinary tradition and culture, and by the City of Milan with an exhibition in his honor at the Sforzesco Castle in 2010. Through a constant research, experimenting with flavors and genuine ingredients, in accordance with the values of the Italian cuisine, Gualtiero Marchesi has radically reinvented it with his refined and artistic touch.

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