NEW YORK (Reuters) - For award-winning chef Heinz Beck, who has earned three Michelin stars for his Italian restaurant La Pergola in Rome, there are no borders in the culinary world.
The German-born chef presides over arguably the top restaurant in the Italian capital, is married to a Sicilian woman, and has restaurants dotted around Europe, including Gusto by Heinz Beck, which opened recently in Portugal.
He has also written eight books on food and cooking and has collaborated on other works looking into the impact of nutrition on illnesses such as diabetes, obesity in children and blood pressure.
“We are what we eat. If we eat the right way we will be stronger and healthier,” he explained.
Beck spoke to Reuters during a recent trip to New York about living in Italy, his restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria’s Rome Cavalieri hotel, and how much he has learned from his mother-in-law and wife.
Q: How did a chef born and trained in Germany end up running a three-Michelin star restaurant in Rome?
A: “It is not Germany or Italy anymore, it is Europe. I’m a European chef so I can work in the whole of Europe.”
Q: Did you always want to be a chef?
A: “I wanted to become a painter. I wanted to go to art school and paint but my father said, ‘No, painting will only be a hobby. You will never make anything out of this.’ He didn’t allow me ... so I started to become a chef.”
Q: You have won numerous awards, what is the secret to your success?
A: “Patience, love and don’t stop. I always say good, better, best. Don’t stop until the good is better and the better is best, and don’t look behind. What is done is done, end of story. We are living in the future and we have to improve every day and never stop with what we have done because the day you stop is the first step to the end.”
Q: How would you describe your style of cooking?
A: “A light, healthy Mediterranean kitchen.”
Q: Who has influenced you the most?
A: “My mother-in-law because she makes such fantastic Italian cooking, and always when I am making dishes I think about her and the flavors she is able to put into dishes. I say if I want to get into the heart of Italians, I have to produce these kinds of flavors.”
Q: Are there any ingredients you could not cook without?
A: “Yes, all the beautiful seafood that we get in Italy, and the vegetables and the fruits. Italy has such fantastic vegetables because it has such a great microclimate ... It is so fantastic working in Italy.”
Fagottelli “Carbonara” (serves four)
60 gr Pecorino cheese
80 ml Whipped cream
160 gr Flour
80 gr Semola
1 Kg Bones and trimmings of veal
Extra virgin olive oil
120 gr Carrots
1 stalk Celery
5 Cherry tomatoes
1 bunch Rosemary
10 shells White pepper
3 lt Water
35 gr Roman bacon, (Guanciale)
100 gr Zucchini
2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
25 ml White wine
50 ml Veal stock
40 gr Pecorino cheese
1. The filling: whisk the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and slowly add the Pecorino cheese over a bain-marie. Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Remove from heat to cool and add the whipped cream. Set aside until needed, then pour the mixture into a sac-a-pocher (pastry bag).
2. The “Fagottelli”: Make a dough with flour, dura semolina, egg yolks, egg, a pinch of salt and water as needed. Roll out to thin sheets and cut out several rectangular pieces of 6 cm width. Pipe a strip of filling 1 cm from the edge of the pasta.
Fold the pasta over the filling to form a long cylindrical shape and fold to form a semi-circle. Press the edges carefully to seal the pasta, then press on the filling at 1 cm.
3. The veal stock: Cut into small pieces the trimmings of veal; break the bones and put everything in a pan that can go in the oven with a little of extra virgin olive oil.
Put in oven at 190°C and brown until the bones and trimmings become gold. Remove from oven, drain the oil in excess, add the vegetables previously cleaned and chopped, rosemary, the shells of white pepper and cook few minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
Cover the bones and the trimmings of veal with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 hours on low heat. Skim during cooking to remove the impurities rising to the surface. Pass the veal stock through a clean cloth put over a fine strainer.
4. The sauce: Heat up the extra virgin olive oil and add the zucchini in a large sauté pan. Cook the zucchini until softened for about 3 to 4 minutes and add the veal stock. Add the Pecorino cheese and season with salt. Set aside until needed.
Reporting by Patricia Reaney; editing by Paul Casciato