Michelin-starred chef Luca Fantin presents his Bulgari book in London
This week chef Luca Fantin presented his book La Cucina di Luca Fantin at the Bulgari Hotel in London. Within its elegant pages, culinary enthusiasts enjoy an extra serving of luxury, as it is dosed with personally crafted, delicious recipes by the eponymous head chef of Il Ristorante Luca Fantin at Bulgari Ginza Tower in Tokyo. Published by Assouline, the book reads as an exquisite culinary collection, featuring 32 of the chef’s original recipes.
From autumn to summer, Luca Fantin takes the readers on an enthralling voyage through fascinating landscapes as he seeks out the freshest local ingredients that reflect the four seasons of the year. A perfectionist chef, he personally visits the very sources of his ingredients and builds relationships with the suppliers, and such moments are captured in the book’s images. In just a couple of years Fantin has evolved from talented Italian fine-dining chef to a truly international innovator who gained the respect of some of the most traditional Japanese farmers.
Global food mogul Andrea Petrini, who witnessed Fantin’s evolution whilst travelling with him across Japan in a meticulous search for the best fish, meat and vegetable produce, wrote the book’s introduction and presented it at Bulgari London with the chef. He said:“Fantin’s cooking is entirely Italian, yet Japanese in its delicate use of nuanced flavours. It reverberates with a strict minimalism, as contemporary as it is timeless.”
Before the dinner began, the Italian chef told us about the moment he saw and tasted “snow carrots”. These Japanese carrots grow at -3C and to protect themselves from freezing they convert starch into sugar, making them incredibly tasty and sweet. Fantin explained how he developed a dish starting from this unique ingredient, but when he tried to reproduce it in Italy he had to make adjustments to recreate the texture and sweetness. “That means that good food is not only about the produce, the chef is still there, to correct the ingredient so that it expresses the flavour he wants to convey, he is not there simply to magnify the quality of the produce,” said an inspired Petrini.
A six-course dinner was the perfect way to showcase the undeniable talent of the chef. It started off with Tuna with Spices and Beetroot, which consisted of raw ōtoro – the (very expensive) fatty belly tuna meat – and English beetroot; it was followed by one of the chef’s signature dishes, Wild Mushroom Flan with Broth, which is simply the ultimate dish for any mushroom lover.
Unsurprisingly, there was more of the chef’s signature food; the standout dish of the evening was Spaghetti Monograno Felicetti with Sea Urchin, made with a mix of Japanese and French urchins – served rigorously cold. Despite the temperature, the sauce remained creamy, melting in the mouth with the exquisite raw seafood eggs. As a surprise treat, a risotto with white truffle warmed up the palate before the Venison with Salsify Roots was served to the lucky guests.
The chef used English venison which needed extra sweetness and acidity than the less fat and drier Japanese meat. He also added a bit of bacon – “no eggs though!”. He wrapped up the dinner with a dish made of microfiltrated raw milk, served in frozen, semi-pulverised form.
Throughout the evening, the chef responded to the questions of the curious guests; he explained the importance of the ikejime technique to prepare fish (based on killing directly from the brain) and also told us how the sake masters are now discovering and successfully growing wine such as cabernet franc and merlot.
When it’s not possible to jet off to Japan, foodies from all over the world are now able to discover the ingredients and inspirations behind such delightful concoctions as lamb with chicory and zucchini flowers, or tender squid ink gnocchi, through the beautiful, illustrated volume and its luxury slipcase. Speaking of the chef, Petrini said: “What he does is not Italian cuisine anymore, it’s Luca Fantin cuisine.”
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
Watch our interview with chef Luca Fantin here: