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ROME (Reuters Life!) - German chef Oliver Glowig has left behind the heavy food of his homeland and defected to Italy, where he mixes his passion for classic Italian cuisine with bold experimentation like anchovies with ricotta cheese. A German who now calls the sun-soaked island of Capri home, Glowig has been chef at the Capri Palace Hotel and Spa's two Michelin-starred L'Olivo restaurant since 2002.
Quick to admit that there's no love lost between him and German food -- "It's too heavy" -- the young chef's signature style is simple southern Italian cooking prepared light.
In Rome for a week-long gastronomic event at the Hotel Eden, Glowig spoke to Reuters about his passion for Italian food and why fish with cheese may be unusual but good.
Q: Why Italian over any other cuisine you could have chosen?
A: I always ate German food growing up but I have always been curious about Italian food. I liked its lightness, the flavor. The products here are excellent and I like Italian food for its ingredients and how light they are. You can taste the flavors of the ingredients in the final product, they aren't transformed into something else with spices or worked upon too much.
Q: What's your cooking style?
A: I always try not to mix too many ingredients together. I like pairing fish with cheese -- a light cheese like ricotta, for example, an appetizer of anchovies and cheese.
Fish and cheese are not normally put together in Italy, but I really like it. Even burrata (a fresh cheese from Puglia) with seafood. It's not a provocation of any kind, I just like them together. When two ingredients gel well together, you can do it.
Q: What is your favorite dish to cook?
A: Anchovies with ricotta is one of my favorite dishes because it's full of flavor but light at the same time. We have fairly positive reaction to it. Of course, there's always someone who's a purist who doesn't like new things, but in general the feedback is quite positive.
Q: Has the economic crisis changed how you cook or pushed you to consider less pricey dishes?
A: No, for me the quality of the ingredients is very important and for quality, you pay. You always have to pay. If you want to make a good dish, the raw ingredients have to be of excellent quality. It can't be a great product that costs less.
Q: Why did you become a chef?
A: I've always liked the idea, my father used to take me to restaurants right from when I was very young and I always liked the atmosphere. And I always liked to eat and try new things and that's how I started learning this trade. It was born out of love. In fact, my parents didn't have anything to do with it -- my father is an economist and my mother a housewife.
Q: What do you cook at home, when you're with your wife and children?
A: Dishes that are even simpler, but it's always me who cooks. Nowadays when the weather's good, perhaps a barbecue, things like that, grilled fish and spaghetti with clams or other seafood.
Q: Do you have any passion for your native German food?
A: No, not anymore. It's too heavy. I cook Italian food at home.
Q: Are you more of a purist or risk-taking chef?
A: I'm a bit of both. I like traditional dishes but I try to do them in a way that they are lighter. I try not to use too much oil or things that are too heavy, because after one eats, you still need to get up and feel good. But at the same time I like modern things as well, I like colors on the plate, things that are happy.
Editing by Paul Casciato