Island of Salina (Italy) (AFP)
Martina Caruso, a young star chef, child of the Aeolian volcanic archipelago in Sicily, has the kitchen in her skin and the pegged inspiration to her little-known island of 26 km2 in southern Italy.
She was named at the age of 29 "Italy 2019 Woman Chef of the Year" by the Michelin guide associated with the Atelier des grands dames Veuve-Cliquot.
Three years ago, on her bucolic Salina (2,000 inhabitants in winter), she had already become the youngest Italian to win a Michelin star.
The tattoo on his right forearm reflects his favorite ingredients: garlic, oil, hot pepper, sea and octopus.
For a long time, she watched - from afar - her father Michele, a chef at the family-run restaurant and a follower of traditional cuisine.
"At first, my father did not leave me any space, he did not want me to become boss, a tiring job".
She left the nest for three years for a cooking school near Palermo, before taking her place in the kitchen of "Signum" to gradually introduce the technicality and creativity of gastronomy. "I convinced my father by showing him what I knew how to do".
His seasonal activity allows him to go sniffing in winter the pots of other chefs, like those of the double star Gennaro Esposito who gave him confidence in herself.
She claims "simplicity", "but simplicity does not mean it's easy," she told AFP laughing.
The simplest pasta - spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and chilli - find acclaim with an aromatic fish broth and parsley sauce, sprinkled with "poor man's parmesan cheese" (toasted and grated bread crumbs) .
- Fumet of sea urchins and capers -
The agricultural island of Salina is known for the cultivation of capers. The Italian has therefore dared to ice capers, to consume with moderation because of its taste.
Its appetizer, the "bagna cauda" - a typical dish from Piedmont (north) with garlic and anchovies, comparable to the Provençal anchoïade - takes Sicilian accents with the addition of a powerful aroma. sea urchins.
She also proposes to discover the moray eel, which she cooks on the embers on the ground in her garden, before removing the many bones. This delicate white fish is no longer really prepared on the island, even though it is part of an old local tradition.
"French cuisine is very much based on technique, the marriage of flavors.To think a dish, the Italian chefs may be more of a tradition, and that's what I do by listening to the elders of the country", explains Martina.
The mezzi paccheri (large short tube-shaped pasta) with an intense calamari sauce "was the preserve of the fishing families," says the chef who gave them "a modern accent".
She is proud of her mackerel with green olive soup, candied capers and sea fennel, "very fresh, with lots of contrasts on the consistency, temperature games".
Her mother, Clara, who patiently bought thirty years old rectangular pastel houses from the village to create a charming hotel overlooking the Aeolian islands of Stromboli and Panarea, has never cooked an egg.
Also mayor of her small town of Malfa, she invites artists into a palace transformed into a cultural center to pull tourism up.
Father Michele still takes care of the supply in the early morning, brother Luca has improvised management. "We try to make the young people of the island work," says Martina.
"My father learned from his mother, in Italy, the kitchen + the mamma +, the house, is fundamental," notes the cook. This feminine cult in the kitchen is also found in the large number of Italian women distinguished by the Michelin.
For Martina, the title of Italian head of the year is "an important moment" in terms of image, but also a pretext to talk about his job in the feminine, she who takes the care of cooking with a mixed team.
Her sudden notoriety does not push her to go elsewhere. "I can walk in the world in the winter, Salina, I do not leave her, it's my house".
© 2019 AFP