Davide Oldani, who else!
A celebrity with personality, Davide Oldani has all the credentials for success that he has, in fact, achieved quickly. Creator of POP cuisine – high quality within everyone’s reach – offered in his restaurant “D’O” in Cornaredo, Milan, in the space of just over a decade his popularity has skyrocketed and he is now considered one of the best Italian and international chefs. An interesting man with an intense, intelligent, and determined look about him, he has earned the esteem of all in the field. And he has a secret that drew us like bears to honey: he loves gelato and offers it in various forms on his menu. There can be no doubt. He’s our cover man!
In a few words, how would you describe Chef Davide Oldani and his POP cuisine?
Ethical, a chef with taste and a sense of hospitality in his DNA! My POP cuisine was created with the objective of mixing the essential with the “well done,” the good with the accessible, and the pursuit of the new with the traditional. The reinterpretation of great Italian cuisine is one of the secrets that makes it unique in the world. The right value and balance must be given to the ingredients, even the simplest ones, with a focus on seasonality, and follow one essential rule: use only high-quality ingredients, no exceptions. The study and application of contrasts, where sweet meets savoury and vice versa. Anything that stimulates the palate is intriguing, from soft to crunchy, from hot to cold, from sweet to bitter. A symphony of flavours in a harmonic context.
When did Davide Oldani become an internationally renowned chef?
It’s happening right now, live. I am a spokesperson for quality, applied to the whole concept of hospitality at the table. Everything is hospitality, from the chair to the table, from the tablecloth to the utensils. The food is the painting, the work of art, everything else must always provide a worthy setting. This is the prestige that grows every day, in every gesture, in every dish, every detail. My cuisine must be light but tasty, genuine but varied, simple yet surprising.
How is Italian cuisine perceived at an international level today?
So many great chefs in Italy have raised the quality level of the perception of our cuisine, replacing the old concept of quantity cooking. The heaping plates of spaghetti and gigantic pizzas are giving way to more refinement and taste in better balanced portions, in step with modern concepts of food service which are increasingly health conscious. Italians are the masters of the kitchen. My POP cuisine is a work philosophy based on passion and teamwork. Simplicity and elegance, where beauty must also be functional.
What future do you see for our cuisine?
I see blue skies, all clear. Many young cooks with the sensitivity to recognize that they have embarked on an artisanal profession full of heart and sacrifice, with a future full of potential and opportunities for growth. Even mistakes provide opportunities, you just have to know how to exploit them.
What is the greatest professional insight of your career?
Connect with the local area. Adapt myself to the local area. I decided to focus on my home town, in the countryside. I have created a place that you have to travel to, nobody ends up at D’O by accident. You must come here because you want to. A point of reference, a light in a piazza. Each customer is a friend. Each booking is a source of pride. If the waiting list is so long, maybe I was right.
What is the most significant professional mistake of your career?
Honestly I don’t think there is any one that is particularly serious. Every day I practice self-criticism, I reflect on every day’s mistakes, correct them, and move on, leaving them behind. I’ve remained on my feet by trying never to slip. D’O in Japanese means “road.” The
one I have taken I believe is the right one, the passage of time is confirming it to me. My road leads to the well-being of people, customers, and employees.
Of the many public events in which you have participated, one was the presence of your cuisine in Milan for Expo 2015. Observations?
In six months I served 70,000 risottos! I met thousands of people, of all ages and races. A huge source of professional and human enrichment. I came into contact with great personalities and great people. More than a year after the closing I remain proud of the way Milan, my city, showed the way and is traveling towards the future.
How important in terms of prestige and appeal to customers is the quality and originality of the desserts in a menu?
Very. You can undermine everything if you neglect a key element of the menu. Regardless of the price, it is essential to serve quality food, in every dish. Surprise your customers, perhaps with rosemary in a dessert or coffee or chocolate combined with the main dish. Always find the right balance of flavours. This is the secret.
How do you offer artisanal gelato in your cuisine?
Making it clear that I love gelato, I do not see it as a fad, but I present it in my own way, from caramelized onion flavour to Parmesan cheese flavour. Gelato is an ingredient to use sparingly in recipes, it doesn’t go well with everything and its use should not be forced. Its great merit lies in being a harmonious product, supple and creamy. An absolute jewel of Italian confectionery tradition.
Artisanal gelato is going through a very positive period, while remaining a simple product at a reasonable cost, with an excellent quality/price ratio. Do you agree with this assessment?
Yes, you have to aim for excellence. You can’t stop with appearance, you have to work on every detail. Unfortunately we don’t know how to do the math. How much more will an artisanal gelato made with high-quality ingredients cost compared to gelato produced with low-quality ingredients? There is a very small difference in cost, but a huge difference in customer perception. Today consumers are prepared and informed in real time. They know how to distinguish gold from lead. Never try to deceive them as it would be a fatal error, not to mention unethical.
What is Davide Oldani’s primary goal for the future?
I am at the beginning, paradoxically at the beginning. My new professional life got under way on 14 June 2016. The goal is to bring excellence to a constant level, in all the dishes we offer. Are our prices low? Well, for this reason we are not within everyone’s reach! Personally… I want to do my job, which I love so much. I want to be a host. Maybe that’s why the economists of the Harvard Business School Review defined my approach and my work organization as being applicable to different categories, and not just the restaurant.
One final question. Efforts are being made to reduce food waste. What do you think?
I’ll answer with one of the points of POP philosophy: “Food shopping should be done on a full stomach, to avoid waste.”