Out of the schemes with Pastry Chef Federico Rottigni
Italian Executive Pastry Chef Federico Rottigni hosted us in his Dessert Bar in Milan, a culinary theatre where you can enjoy amazing sensory experiences, travels and sensations between unique desserts and cocktails. We open the curtain to his brilliant universe and his new projects, always out of the schemes.
How did you discover your passion for the cuisine?
I am trained in visual arts, and although it might sound strange, I studied to be an art director. Halfway through my university career I decided to abandon this path, after having discovered the world of haute cuisine, thanks to a girlfriend of mine at the time who, coming from a family of hoteliers, made me discover this world that was totally unknown to me. I always enjoyed a good meal; I ate all the time as a child and there was even a time in my life when I was overweight. After fully realizing that food had an atavistic function for me, I lost the weight and allowed it to start filling my mind as well.
What inspires your creations?
I am constantly inspired by anything that has to do with life. I really don't have any particular procedures because ideas just come to me.
You are creative and you are very young: what do you think about the social and digital world in general?
Ehehe. Tricky question! I come from the world of social media, but my relationship with it has changed alongside my personal growth. Today I'm an advocate of the "return to human reality" (just think that for my last path INSOMNIA, the first thing that is done when you arrive at the door is, to receive a sticker to cover the camera; photographs are forbidden! Pretty hardcore choice for 2022, don't you think?). I think experiences need to go back to being more material, real and less digital. Reality brings people together, while the digital push always divides them. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of unity. Beyond my personal considerations, in this particular moment in history you have to "use" them as a business tool.
What do you take with you from your experience in Norway and what made you decide to return to Milan?
I bring with me so many things. I bring the magic of a place in the world that is still uninhabited in so many areas. I bring the contamination of a culture totally different from mine. I certainly bring a totally different way of looking at food, gastronomy and hospitality. Norway has been a fundamental step in transforming me into the man I am today.
What differences have you noticed in your profession between Italy and other countries?
The first difference that jumped out at me was work management. In Scandinavia you work much less, and work has a more harmonious social and personal function. Working a lot is not at all recognized as a personal value feature; while for example, having a family is. Working for more than a defined number of hours is considered illegal and no one is allowed to do it (not even by their own personal choice). Another point that I noticed right away (and that I liked a lot) is how the absence of a strong gastronomic culture like ours, is not perceived as a disadvantage, but as an expression of greater freedom in enjoying experimentation, in food, with much less prejudice and superstructures.
Tell us more about your Dessert Bar and Dining Experiences
At the end of my "apprenticeship" I wondered how I could custom build my own venue, just like you would with a suit. Growing up as a pastry chef, I realized how limited desserts were at dinner, and had only one chance to go on stage, at the end of it all (when the guests are already exploding!). I also always thought that in desserts, the sweetness and the plumpness, were the most massive limits in terms of usability. So, I said to myself, "Why not use the technique, but move away from the traditional chrisms of patisserie?" - in fact my style today is very much hybrid, working on dishes built on dessert techniques or desserts built on culinary techniques, where the sugar level is always low (sometimes even zero). At first, I was attracted to the idea of having a large counter, which would allow me to live with my guests, without being locked in the kitchen. That's how we started out, doing a little pathway. We started turning up the music during pathways. To tell a story. And as they say, appetite comes with eating, we ended up creating a unique gastronomic path made of haute cuisine, music, sounds, smells, lights and storytelling. Certainly, my creative past has helped me a lot and is part of a present that I still live in a rather impertinent way :) In my bar we do not serve dishes, we serve experiences that must be lived in person. We laugh, we cry, we reflect, we get excited and we savor the taste of life again.
Is there a dessert or dish that you are particularly passionate about?
I'll let you in on a secret: I'm not a huge fan of "desserts". I have always been drawn to pastry for the technique, but less for the taste. Everyone expects great things from me, but my favourite dessert is a composition of powdered puddings and industrial cookies that my mom has been making for me since I was a kid. Instead, if I had to talk about dishes, I would definitely say traditional Japanese sushi (no California roll! Thank you!) or the real American BBQ that I discovered while living abroad (primarily beef brisket). I will not mention Italian dishes because I don't want to win easily. When it comes to pleasure, Italian gastronomy is unbeatable on a global level.
Karl Lagerfeld in the fashion world would have wanted to invent the shirt: what would you have wanted to invent in pastry?
You probably won't believe me but, I wish I had invented the "baking spatula"! Can you tell me a more enjoyable kitchen tool to use? In this only the most precise can understand me but, can you imagine the pleasure of moving a mixture from two containers and seeing the first container perfectly clean?
Federico's Flower Shower
Who is Federico once he takes off his apron?
I think I'm very sensitive (and often even too much). I'm creative, with no rules, and open minded. I hate polarization and any kind of scheme in anything. I am for freedom of all human expression. I'm perpetually in the process of studying something, I'm interested in everything, and I consider myself absolutely multifaceted (a trait that is often viewed with suspicion. I wonder why tho).
New projects on the horizon?
I'm currently working on the launch of my next path, REBORN, which will launch in early May. Right now, I'm on a flight that's taking me to Norway, so I can tell you for sure that, my next project is to relax for the next 3 days :)
Fun Time: And what if our glasses were one of your desserts?
If your glasses were a dessert, I would imagine them as my "Flower Shower", a bomb of acidity and freshness. A frozen base of raspberry, sour cream cheese and cardamom - then fresh raspberries, marinated lychees, osmotic green apple rose water and fresh violets.