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Davide Oldani, Pop star (Restaurant D'O, Cornaredo)
The Michelin-starred kitchen of the Cornaredo (Milano) is clearly a popular one. Oldani learned from the likes of Marchesi, Ducasse, Roux and Hermé and, with a 32€ tasting menu and an 11.50€ lunch menu, his food is accessible to many. The secret of this starred restaurant situated in the outskirts of Milan is a complete respect for seasonality and the use of ingredients that may once have been considered as “peasant” food, now given new majesty by the skilled hands of this multifaceted Lombardy chef.
Pop means popular. Accessible to a broad audience. Our policy of using less expensive raw materials allows me to ‘capture’ a broad range of people who can get to know and enjoy my dishes. Customers who wouldn’t normally go to the local Michelin-starred place.
What is the D'O philosophy?
Respect for raw materials and seasonality. Creative cuisine can enhance the flavour of all ingredients, even the cheapest. Over the years I have tried to apply this knowledge by treating each ingredient, regardless of cost, with the same level of enthusiasm and to using this principle wholeheartedly for my restaurant.
What did you learn from your great teachers?
Throughout my career I’ve had the great fortune to meet great cooks who really know what’s what and who have all left their own mark in their field. It was Marchesi who first led me into the world of great cuisine in which I was introduced to the secrets of "good eating". Roux opened my eyes to great French cuisine and made me understand how things work in a 3 star place dealing with two hundred covers per day. Ducasse taught me the wonders of new lighter French cuisine and allowed me to approach the management part of this job. Hermé showed me the great invention of pastry making of the Alps.
What lessons learnt during your time overseas can you now apply at D’O?
So many things. Each trip enriches your knowledge and offers you an alternative perspective. To cite just one example, I remember when Marchesi sent me to Japan to look after some of his business. In the East, I developed an absolute respect for raw materials and it’s the idea of ‘elevating’ food rather than simply ‘adding to it’ that I apply every day in my restaurant.
How is the menu at D'O structured?
Everything revolves around seasonality. In terms of options, there are 4 antipasti, 4 primi, 4 secondi and 4 desserts. You can choose from a tasting menu for 32€ or a special lunch menu from 11.50€ [from Tuesday to Friday].
Any favourites that are permanent fixtures on the menu?
The only dish that is repeatedly featured is the cipolla caramellata [caramelized onions], a recipe that offers the perfect expression of the D'O philosophy. It’s a balance of contrasts, salt, sugar, hot, cold, soft, crunchy. The D’O menu changes each season but this dish is featured in all but the summer months and it offers a taste that’s more sweet than savoury to experience.
I have no delusions, but a few clear ideas that my colleagues must share. Order, cleanliness and hierarchy are essential in the kitchen. In fact, we do have one little ritual of shaking hands before each service and then doing the same before everyone leaves at the end of a day.
Bubbles for every meal or a wine for each occasion?
Bubbles for the whole meal. I particularly love Satèn Franciacorta and Champagne rosés. A plus point of my restaurant is that you can order a glass of any wine you like as we will happily open anything a customer asks for.
What is the secret of a kitchen’s success?
Harmony with employees that translates into respect and a willingness to implement the chef’s orders. I firmly believe in the hierarchy of the kitchen.
Which chefs have inspired you?
Many. But in general, all those who have impressed their creativity and ideas upon the public. From [Gualtiero] Marchesi to [Ferran] Adrià to [Gianfranco] Vissani, it’s impossible to list them all without doing injustice to someone.
What do you look for when you go out to dinner?
First of all I prefer lunch to dinner. Generally, I prefer good simple trattoria food on my trips out and, above all, a relaxing atmosphere, the pleasure of being with people I appreciate. To mention just a few names, I’m very fond of Antichi Sapori a Gaione (PR) and trattoria S. Antonio a Abbiategrasso (Mi).
I prefer not to say. Many things are simmering on the backburner not just in the kitchen but also in the world of design and publishing and a number of other things that we’ll soon be able to talk about...