Heinz Beck, chef at La Pergola restaurant in Rome for the last twenty-three years, doesn’t dwell on his three Michelin stars.. Spurred by intense curiosity and by his desire to accept new challenges, the famous German chef manages restaurants in Tokyo, London, Portugal and Dubai. He recently opened “Attimi by Heinz Beck", a restaurant in Fiumicino Airport, where menus are served according to waiting times before flights: 30, 60, and 90 minutes.
La Pergola in Rome! Curious, creative, cosmopolitan
Mr. Beck, in recent years you have expanded your activity as a chef as far as Japan. What are the main steps you take to develop new recipes and dishes with unknown raw materials when you encounter other gastronomic cultures? When I open a new restaurant, I work with my team locally. These are people I have been working with for many years. Especially in locations like Tokyo, it is essential to learn about local products and products that we do not know about. Together, we taste all the items that my team has discovered and then we start brainstorming: how can these ingredients be processed, what can be matched? And then we start creating new dishes.
Is the menu in Tokyo the same as in Rome? There are many similar dishes in our various restaurants. There are, of course, dishes that have been developed in Tokyo and then also served in Rome. This doesn’t mean that you create a dish in a restaurant to replicate it elsewhere. Rather, it is global collaboration with many people: all the restaurants work together to create new dishes with the most diverse ingredients. So the variety of dishes and ingredients keeps growing. This is a truly favorable condition, not only for me, as a chef, but also for my customers.
You have been managing one of the most award-winning restaurants in the world, La Pergola in Rome, for over twenty years. What is your ‘recipe’ to ensure such an exceptional level of quality is kept over the years? One ingredient is simply not enough. It takes many more: you need resilience, and you definitely need creativity, a good team, constant curiosity ... For centuries, cooking has been classified as a secondary art, at a par with handicraft. Nowadays, however, great chefs are seen as artists who are capable of surprising and exciting.
What is culinary art in your opinion? I believe that what we do in the kitchen is craftsmanship. Cooking has always been connected to good feelings. Starting from those childhood dishes as they were cooked by our grandmothers. If anything, at times, a picture of a well-prepared dish can become a work of art.
Had you always wanted to become a chef? Not really, I actually wanted to be a painter. Sadly, my father did not agree with me. He believed that painting was not a craft and that therefore it was not a profession.
You have lived in Rome for twenty-three years. What are your favorite spots? This city has had an enormous influence over me and there are so many places I love. The Giardino degli Aranci [the Orange Garden], for example. My favorite building is the Pantheon: its beauty is stunning.
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