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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Behind the Scenes – Green Chefs (Part 1)

The breakfast buffet is once again bursting with colour, the 4-course evening menu impresses with exciting combinations of ingredients and regional specialities feature on the menu. We love to be presented with creations prepared by professional chefs during a visit to a restaurant or hotel, to gain insights into special cooking traditions and simply to enjoy. Preferably in organic quality, fresh and regional.

But who actually imagines all this? And who makes sure that everything is prepared at the right time? We asked our Green Pearls® partners who is in charge, what is the philosophy behind the food selection and what is most important in a sustainable kitchen.

Satya Beeknoo – Zeavola Resort

“I pledge to honour and pass on cooking, culinary culture and the constant evolution of it.” This is what Satya Beeknoo said when he was appointed a member of “Disciples Escoffier International”. The international organisation brings together a total of 25,000 selected chefs and professionals from over 26 countries. Its aim is to promote and preserve culinary culture and tradition.

Satya Beeknoo is the chef and spirit of the kitchen at the Zeavola Resort on Kho Phi Phi Island. Here, as a master of Thai cuisine, he prepares traditional dishes authentically and to the highest standards. His international gourmet dishes are also among the world’s best. The celebrity chef follows a completely sustainable approach with a focus on regional products and short supply chains. He has developed numerous ideas to constantly optimise kitchen processes, save resources and avoid waste. The whole team benefits from his knowledge, have embraced his sustainability philosophy and also passed it on to suppliers, farmers and fishermen. Beeknoo has also broadened the range of vegan dishes.

Hannes Pignater – ADLER Lodge RITTEN

The chef at ADLER Lodge RITTEN is Hannes Pignater. Before moving to Oberbozen, the nature lover and family man worked for five years as head chef at the ADLER Lodge on the Alpe di Siusi – after stints abroad and successful competitions that earned him the gold medal at the Professional World Championship in St. Gallen and the silver medal at the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt.

Now he has moved his Mediterranean-Alpine culinary art to the Ritten. And in a kitchen that brings him even closer to his guests – the open room concept in the ADLER Lodge allows them to watch him create the six-course evening menu with his team. He sources most of his ingredients, such as the goat cheese or first-class fish from the mountain lakes, from the surrounding area. “The local products have priority,” says the 38-year-old South Tyrolean. “But radically regional is not my thing. If the mozzarella from Napoli is better than the South Tyrolean, then I have an easy decision.”

“Topfen” (similar to quark) with green celery and grapes, Schüttelbrot (traditional flat bread) risotto, whitefish fillet with peas and ham or Calamarata, farmer’s sausage with fennel and sheep’s cheese are all skilful refinements of South Tyrolean classics; artfully and lovingly arranged, just the sight of the plates brings a smile to the guests’ faces. Which in turn fills Hannes’ heart with joy.

Viola and Mamma Piera – Relais del Maro

A day at Relais del Maro begins with Viola. Viola is the chef, but above all, she is the master of the famous breakfast buffet which she prepares herself early in the morning. From eggs and bacon to fruit salad, cheese, cold cuts and fresh bread. It is her two hands that work for the guests of the Ligurian Albergo Diffuso. She mixes, prepares, bakes, garnishes and all in line with her motto: nothing is thrown away! And when breakfast is over, what’s left over is made into a tasty lunch! However, Viola learned many of her skills from Mamma Piera. Mamma Piera, the mother of hotel manager Elena Scalambrin, is the head chef and someone who lets very few people in on her secrets of Ligurian culinary traditions. The recipe for the delicious tomato sauce that is always used for bolognese, pasta and pizza at Relais del Maro comes from her. Piera is not only a hard worker, but also a master pastry chef: all the cakes for afternoon tea and breakfast are created by her. The same goes for the roast beef, the light desserts for lunch and the many jams. Together, Viola and Mamma Piera are an unbeatable team.

Massimo Cvek – Maslina Resort

With the end of the winter break, Massimo Cvek takes over as the new chef at the Croatian 5-star boutique hotel Maslina Resort. The 31-year-old focuses on local products and the diversity of Croatian cuisine. Reduced ingredients, prepared with “wow factor”, that is his mission – “It doesn’t take much to make people happy. A dish like lobster tail with buttermilk, leek oil and potato foam consists of only four ingredients – and tastes wonderful.” The further expansion of the resort’s own organic garden is also one of his labours of love, featuring classic flavours such as thyme, sage, cherry tomatoes and fennel. But also some more unusual ingredients such as wild asparagus, dandelion or wood sorrel, whose edible pink blossoms are perfect for decoration, will soon be found here as well. Cvek has already come up with a speciality for his guests: he has started to pickle and ferment the pines that are typical for the Hvar island landscape. Another project is his own pork salami, cured in sugar and seasoned with spices and wild herbs from the garden. “I want our guests to experience the island with all their senses.

Massimo Cvek worked for many years in upscale restaurants and hotels, on cruise ships and yachts. During his training, he worked in the Michelin-awarded kitchens of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, Thorntons Restaurant in Dublin and Restaurant Ikarus in Austria.

David Rawe – Mawell Resort

“For me, cooking is much more than “just” cooking. It’s about making people happy. As chefs, we can do just that with our work – and every day anew. The greatest appreciation for us is when guests come up to us and say: Wow, that was delicious, that was really fun to eat!”

This is the enthusiasm with which David Rawe, chef at the Mawell Resort and whose whole life has been shaped by cooking, speaks. For it’s not only at work that he is concerned with the texture and preparation of fish, meat, vegetables and fruit. He also spends a lot of his free time in nature: fishing, collecting wild garlic in spring or mushrooms in autumn. Cooking something great from foods that can be found everywhere is what excites him. What can the nature around us provide us with and when? In his opinion, sustainable cuisine should mainly deal with this question. Respect for the products, whether vegetable or animal, is also important to him.

Just as the interplay of individual flavours and components as a whole leads to a taste experience, cooking itself is absolutely a team sport. Fully respecting colleagues, each with their individual strengths is paramount for Davis Rawe. The “old” days of shouting and throwing pans in the kitchen are long gone – at least at Mawell.

Whether from a small Thai village or from South Tyrol, with Ligurian roots or from maritime Croatia – very different personalities with very different stories work and innovate in the kitchens of the Green Pearls® partners. However, they all have one thing in common: respectful treatment of nature and its resources.

There is still so much to share from the sustainable kitchens that we would like to introduce more chefs in the next newsletter. Look out for part two to discover more from Leutasch in Austria, Tenerife or Bali.

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