There’s something magical about the Asiago Plateau.
Perhaps the air smells of history and poetry, certainly the landscape of nostalgic sunsets and breathtaking panoramas is not easily forgotten.
Here, the creative contemporary cuisine of Alessandro Dal Degan, a young starred chef full of resources and talent, has bewitched us. Literally.
- Which are the best dishes you made (that satisfied you the most)? Wow, what a question… in the end those I can’t take off the menu. Two for sure: “barley earth and water”, used as rice, but it’s barley, and it is cooked with two elements, earth and water. The water of the scampi with earthy elements such as black beans, lichens and mosses. The other is hay-stewed snails. If cooked correctly they have the same texture as meat, and they are delicious.
- What makes the cuisine in “La Tana” stand out? Probably the use of wild products and raw materials, used not just for themselves, but rather after a historic and cultural research of these products’ use in the past.
- How is life in Asiago? Your average day. Wake up at 7, at 7:30 I’m already in the kitchen. I spend part of my morning, or of the afternoon, in the vegetable garden, and get back home at one am. Living on the Asiago Plateau is wonderful, as long as you know you won’t have everything at hand. As for style and quality of life, it’s impressive. Indescribable.
- What is the relation between your cuisine and your local territory? Carnal. My cuisine springs from the use of everything surrounding me.
- What is the secret for the success of a chef? Under a certain point of view, your success should match your skills, but 90% of the times it is based on how you sell yourself. You hardly find the two overlapping…
- How do you search for new flavors and combinations? Do you have someone you trust who gives you advice or do you only trust your sixth sense? I mainly trust my sixth sense, but any dish served is the result of the assessment of everyone working here, even the dishwashers. The more opinions I hear, the better. We are also very lucky: having two restaurants we may offer different flavors and in La Tana we may experiment more boldly for a niche set of more open-minded clients.
- How is a perfect dish born? There is no perfect dish. I’ll tell you more: I believe there can be no perfection in a dish, as in art. In my idea of beauty there is no perfection. Beauty is imperfection.
- Do you have plans for the future? Yes. I don’t want to jinx it so I won’t say anything, but yes, I have plans. In our vision, having plans and goals is the only way not to stop and rest on your laurels.
- Are you born a chef or can you become one? This is a tough question, and very few people understand it unless explained correctly. The difference between a chef and a cook is a matter of debate even in the courses I hold for non-professionals and cooking schools – I also teach a master for La Cucina Italiana. I am a cook: a cook is a profession, a chef (chief in French) is a role. You are not born to be a leader, but you can become one with the right experience and motivation.
- The approach to food has changed markedly in recent years, how do you see the future of catering? Luckily, there are many places where correct research and selection are implemented, without following the trends of certain food categories. First the trend was foie gras, then burrata, then red lobsters which you would find even in menus in the mountains! When something is trendy, I go the opposite way. In general, now there is a more serene and responsible approach: a less rich but more genuine raw material is preferred. More attention is paid to high quality products.
- What is your opinion on insects as accepted foodstuffs in Italy too? It will be hard for me, I have issues with insects… but never say never. I have even tried the ants I find in this garden: formic acid is ideal for respiratory problems, and if you try them they even taste of tangerine.
- What do you think when you create a menu? Excellent question: I never create a menu from scratch. It changes according to the availability of raw materials. I’ll start from the dish, I never begin with the need of having a starter, a first course and a main course. I’ll start from the raw material: I analyze it, I break it down, transform it into as many ways as possible and, according to the results I get, it may become a starter, a first course or dessert. Right now, in the Lab 15 menu, there is a dessert based on raw veal heart, very delicate and sweetish.
- To be or to have? To be. Definitely to be.