Gianluca Fusto and his sweet art

In order to understand what is today the Food of Gods we have to halt in a small village among the vineyards of the Côte du Rhône, ninety kilometers under Lyon. Here, since 1988 a gruff pastry-chef having a great charm has been reigned, Frédéric Bau, who directs the Ècole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona, where every year thousands of students from all around the world come to learn the secrets of praline-making and desserts. In the lab-classes there is an inebriating smell of fondant among small forks, kneading machines, coolers, cutters for chocolates and every kind of excellent raw materials. Through a sort of alchemic transformation, the teachers of this school, which is unique in the world, invent the products that the gourmets of the five continents are going to taste in shops now sophisticated like jewelers. They are German, French, Spanish but luckily among the people emerging in that mine of gluttonies there is also an Italian, with a Padanian face and a lively smile, Gianluca Fusto, who has been part of the Valrhona team full time since 2004 and is becoming the manager for the Mediterranean area, besides Italy.

Born in Milan, he spent the first years working between Milan and Paris after attending the hotel management school; at 25 Gianluca enters the team of a great kitchen, that of Aimo e Nadia in Milan, where he learns the respect for raw materials and traditions but also the will to always create and find new ways. The “coup de foudre” with the world of chocolate happened in 1998, when he attended a course in Tain and he is taken under Frédéric’s protection. He starts his first personal creations, based on pipe tobacco and Havana cigars. It is well known that there is bad blood between pasty-chefs and chefs, because the first ones envy the fame of the second ones and chefs make fun of the extreme care of pastry-chefs ( doses, temperatures, percentages). Maybe Gianluca Fusto is an exception who, at 33, confirms the rule: his best friends are the chefs from Italy and the whole Mediterranean area, while he succeeds in combining technique and ability with memory and emotion linked to the terroir.

With the year 2000 Gianluca Fusto starts experiencing the typical restlessness of the chefs and he starts wondering around America and Switzerland, after leaving Aimo e Naida. His arrival at Tain the Hermitage in 2004 is almost unavoidable. And since then, as a wandering alchemist with a few tools of the trade and tables with aromatic smells of cocoa, he travels the world to give laboratories, courses, classes, tasting evenings. Without ever forgetting a smile and a joke, sweet like his pralines.

Written by Clara and Gigi Padovani

All photos: from Gianluca Fusto’s archive

An interesting experience of a guy who experienced Gianluca Fusto at work:

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