Top chefs share techniques at Identità London

18 June 2010 by
Top chefs share techniques at Identità London

Last week the second Identità London took place at Vinopolis, showcasing prime Italian products and the talents of some of the world's finest chefs. Reporting by Amanda Afiya, Katherine Alano, Joanna Wood, Madalene Bonvini-Hamel and Judy Joo.


Jason Atherton, who launches his own restaurant in Mayfair this autumn, took the opportunity to showcase some of the food he will be serving at his new London eaterie - such as Orkney langoustines with lemon purée and Cumbrian lamb - braised shoulder in an aromatic stock and devilled kidneys, with onion, mustard and morels. It was served with wild chickweed, sorel and thyme and Lincolnshire potatoes steamed in "soil".

He said that while he was still many months away from opening his restaurant, he was nevertheless very excited. "It's certainly the biggest thing I've ever done. It's been 22 years in the making, so to wait another couple of months is fine by me."


Massimo Bottura, from the two-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana restaurant in Modena, said that demonstrating at events such as Identità was crucial.

"To help the young generation to understand and to evolve is important. Keep your feet on earth, be really humble, keep your eyes and ears open, because it's very important. You can learn from a really young guy or an old master," he advised chefs.

"My cooking style is not for your stomach, more for your mind and your heart, because I am deeply into my passion, studying and evolving, and this brings me food, art and music."


Michelin-starred Nottingham chef Sat Bains said that Identità was about showcasing ingredients.

"This year [the theme was] understated luxury. I think luxury can be in different guises, ie, mouthfeel; it doesn't have to be luxury ingredients.

"Mackerel is an understated beast and, let's face it, it's dirty, but it can be gastronomic if you learn how to use it properly. That's our job as a chef: to get raw ingredients and make something delicious."

Bains went on to say that sharing his knowledge with young chefs was a crucial element of his work.

"To evolve young people is the most important thing I do, hopefully to inspire the next generation. This industry is mine, I love it, why wouldn't I want to invest in the next generation?"


A born showman, Alvin Leung of Hong Kong's Michelin-starred Bo Innovation pulled a full audience when he demonstrated his signature Sex on the Beach dish, created to raise money for the charity Aids Concern in Hong Kong. It comprises an "edible condom" made by dipping a cigar tube into a mixture of kappa and konjac, which then has a few drops of honey and Yunnan ham mixture inserted and is placed on a bed of powdered shiitake mushrooms representing sand.


Fat Duck executive chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, who opens Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London in December, said that he felt privileged to be showing his and Heston Blumenthal's work at the congress.

"It's all starting to take momentum. We're gearing up, starting to look for staff. The menu isn't finished yet, but we're pulling together a bank of dishes from seasonal times throughout the year. The idea is that the menu will change quite frequently, with things coming on and off.

"The style is very simple historically inspired dishes. It could be quite literal or it could be one element of a dish, for example, cockle ketchup as part of a fish dish.


One of the hottest chefs cooking in New York, American-Korean David Chang of the two-Michelin-starred Momofuku Ko (as well as his other Momofuku eateries), draws on his experience cooking in Japan to create his culinary style. "I come from the base. If the Japanese had colonised America, how would the flavour profiles of food here have developed over the centuries?" he explained.

Creating his own takes on classic Japanese dashi, he showed how the broth can be used to get maximum umami into a dish. Chang's big thing is pork, and one dish of 10-month-aged pork infused with hickory also utilised Fuji apples and foraged herbs, including wood sorrel, picked that morning in King's Cross - a supply source as surprising to Chang as it was to his audience.


To the uninitiated, cooking pasta is easy. But chef Davide Scabin of the restaurant in the Castello di Rivoli museum of modern art near Turin demonstrated otherwise, revealing what a complex process it can be.

He showed his audience what he refers to as the "passive method" of cooking pasta: infusing pasta in oils rather than immersing it in boiling water. Other techniques employed by Scabin during his demo included using a brine spray instead of seasoning with salt in the classic way, and using blended, overcooked pasta as the basis of a soufflé seasoned with ragoût.


"One of the things I love about being a chef is the learning process. And what I wanted was to create a place where we could really keep learning and growing as cooks," explained Wylie Dufresne, one of New York's most innovative chefs and owner of the city's WD~50 restaurant.

One of the hallmarks of Dufresne's cooking is its ability to bring a smile to the face, drawing on his childhood food memories. He demonstrated a "scrambled egg ravioli": scrambled eggs blended with cream cheese, shaped in cubed silicone moulds, chilled, skewered and then dipped in beaten egg and cooked for 4-5 minutes in a water bath to get the temperature contrast of hot outer layer and cool inner heart.

To see highlights from Identità London 201, including a video interview with the chefs present, go to
View more pictures from the event on Table Talk.

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