The architects of ALMA: Elena Minari, design in a dish

Dress your kitchen

Our academic background is always reflected in the career we choose, even if we end up working in a completely different field from the one we studied. This is what happened to this young chef from Parma…

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The architects of ALMA: Elena Minari, design in a dish
When she makes her mark in the kitchen, it is the mark of an architect. Elena Minari is one of many architects from ALMA: she has a degree in environmental architecture from Politecnico di Milano and a diploma from ALMA-The International School of Italian Cooking in Colorno. And since last April, she has been sous chef at Locanda Mariella in Fragnolo, in the province of Parma, working alongside chef Paco Zanobini from Livorno.
How is your training in architecture reflected in your work, Elena?
Architecture gave me a method, the method of design, with which I approach the idea of a dish. It also gave me precision, a quality that is particularly important when making desserts, and a focus on local territory, which I also seek to express in my cooking, through my ties with tradition, with local raw materials and the needs of the people who live in the local community. In the kitchen, be local means being seasonal. What has stayed with me from my training in architecture is an awareness of the importance of form and colour, that is, the aesthetic aspects of a dish, and its consistency, especially in the case of desserts, where 70 percent of the recipe is all about aesthetics.”
How much does form really count in a dish?
Form must mirror the substance that is in the dish, it must be true to content. If there is content, form will come by itself. If something is good, it will look good, because it IS good!”
What qualities do you believe you possess as an architect?
Creativity, new ideas, a different way of thinking, a focus on aspects people don’t often think about: for example, I think of the sounds of the city when I design a building, about the atmosphere of the place. And first of all, I take people into consideration, the people who will be living in the place.”
So how do you go about designing a dish?
I draw it. I sketch the dish I want to make, to give form to my idea, and then I rely on my gustatory memory to figure out whether a given combination of ingredients will actually work. Then I try it out, which is analogous to making a model in architecture, and I look for opinions, asking my family and friends to try it. And if it works, I make it. There’s a parallel with architecture there, though of course the time scale is different.” (cont’d)
Mariagrazia Villa

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