Saturday, December 4, 2021

Interpreting one’s land

Interview with Ciccio Sultano

It is impossible to talk about Italy’s gastronomic excellence without mentioning Ciccio Sultano. A chef of undoubted greatness. A genius, a magician in the kitchen who is always ready to pull out of his hat something amazing and one of Sicily’s greatest culinary ambassadors. Indeed, Ciccio’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant Duomo is the standard bearer for Sicilian haute cuisine, attracting diners from all across the globe. In his interview with Delicious, Chef Sultano shares his experience in the culinary industry, what does innovation mean to him and what’s next for him. 

In what way are you Sicilian first, Italian second?
I consider Sicily, by history, geography and culture, a gastronomic continent. Therefore, my cuisine is Sicilian by origins and international by vocation. In addition to this, anthropologically speaking, I don’t see many shared points of contact between a Sicilian and, let’s say, a Lombard, apart from the fact that they are both Italian: that’s why Italy can feature a good variety of types and many remarkable ambitions throughout the territory.

How has your intuition helped you stand out in such a competitive industry?
Ambition fairly helps me. I am an entrepreneur and a sensitive cook – I would say I am partially a medium. We try to spread positivity and I personally reject the word “enemy”. Indeed, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the jealous people the most incredible success so that they can forget about the word jealousy.

What does innovation mean to you? 
Tradition is yesterday’s innovation. Therefore, it is necessary to know how to betray tradition, how to update it. We need to be able to describe the past in order to imagine the future.

You have often noted, “The goal of cuisine is still to communicate feelings, giving pleasure that can create a bridge between our past memories and the future.” Can you elaborate on that? 
When we cook – and let’s remember that cooking is a silent language – everything contributes towards a single goal. The food, service, and environment are all used to prepare a feast where the diners mix their thoughts and memories with a new tasting and sensory experience. From there, comes the magic and new and precious memories. We always do our best, but people are not always willing to let themselves go, to be guided towards a new experience.

Why do you believe a chef is not hired just to surprise, but to nourish and offer a feast for the eyes and the palate?
How long does a surprise last? Not very long. It makes no sense to invest everything and all in it. Usually, it represents a loophole for those who have little to say or who know very little. The challenge is to give the guests an experience proportionate to and sometimes even greater than the amount they have paid for it.

In what way do you feel that a country with a great tradition differs from one that has not such a deeply rooted tradition?
It’s the same difference that exists between a car with and one without wheels.

Why is the interpretation of one’s land through food essential?
Because it is life, it is gratitude.

Why is eco-sustainability necessary in today’s gastronomic world?
It’s the same reason why we need to be polite and behave in everyday life.

In what way has the COVID-19 pandemic redefined the food industry?
I would say that within the animal kingdom, man is the species that forgets more quickly than the others.

What’s next for you?
We will look after the whole food offer of the W Rome (a new luxury hotel due to open in Rome in November) and, who knows, maybe the dream of opening in London will come true.

Aqra Wkoll