Interview: Ernesto Iaccarino, Don Alfonso, Sant’Agata dei due Golfi, Italy
Ernesto Iaccarino is beside his father, the legendary Alfonso Iaccarino, the creator of the plates in the well known restaurant Don Alfonso (two Michelin stars) which is known not only for the creativity in the cuisine but also for the best quality of ingredients, which they mostly produce themselves. Anyone who ever tried their products has never forgotten their tastes.
What has brought you into the culinary world and how did you decide to become a chef?
I was born into a family which is into restauration and hotel business since four generations. I have graduated in economy but my choice was to work in the kitchen because that’s what I love to do.
How would you describe the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is most typical about it?
Innovation by maintaining the identity. For us of the Don Alfonso restaurant innovation is very important, but probably even more important for us is to express in our cuisine the culture and people of our land. We have discovered that there are recipes with 3000 years of history, and when you have such a rich history it’s a must to start from there. Beside that – the cuisine is for people who travel a way to discover the lifestyle and habits of people and so a way to get to know their culture.
Let’s go to your childhood. Are there any memories, tastes, flavours, which are important for your creations of today?
Of course. I remember that when I was a child my parents have put the white truffle in the refrigerator together with milk. And I was drinking milk which has taken the hint of truffles. This inspired one of my plates “The mozzarella di buffala foam, white truffle, egg cooked at low temperature and green beans”.
Are there any ingredients that you are specially fond of and which you use more often?
Of course there are ingredients that I’m using more often, but sometimes I’m intrigued to cook what I love less, like a challenge to myself, for example cucumber.
Who were your tutors and mentors? Who has influenced you the most and how?
I was fascinated by many personalities, but the deepest trace has for sure left my father Alfonso Iaccarino, because he has “invented the cuisine of the South”. Before him the South Italian cuisine was not much appreciated.
Who’s inspiring you today?
When I’m thinking of a new plate today I’m only looking deep into myself, into the experiences that I lived in my forty years and I’m trying to evoke something from that rich source.
Creativity and technique. What is more important for you and why?
Both are for sure very important, but for me even more important in the cuisine is the heart which makes the difference and which can evoke emotions, that magic which makes a plate unique.
What’s your favourite dish?
What was your biggest success?
That we have opened restaurants in China and Marrakech in two hotels which are between the best in the world.
Do you have any realizable or realized dreams?
I would like to open a restaurant in New York.
Do you have also any unrealizable dream?
I continue to dream.
If you wouldn’t be a chef, what would you do?
I have no idea.
Recipe by Ernesto Iaccarino: https://carpediemclub.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/pepper-…-red-crispy-with-creamed-cod-green-with-salmon-eggs-and-dehydrated-olives-yellow-with-tuna-foam-by-ernesto-iaccarino/
All the pictures above are from the archive of Don Alfonso.