I DO NOT DARE SPEAK…
When I asked Eliseo Tonti to tell me about the most important moments of his professional career because I intended to write an article about him, he smiled at me but he didn’t respond. A few days later, I received a huge package. It was a mound of letters and emails that over time, as the courses ended, his students had sent to him. Indeed, we know almost everything about his career: from creating the radical turning point in decorations for pastry arts, for having creating a new look and for the technical innovations related to it… and then, his love story for chocolate which over time has become a reason for living as well as cause for his passionate teaching to new generations, all with an awareness that Italy was doing time for “decades of powerful emptiness in this area”.
We know much less about the impact of his teachings on his students, especially now that he has left teaching. In fact, in January at Sigep Rimini, Cast Alimenti organized a going- away party in his honour.
One last passionate lesson. And here I am, leafing through the letters, at first listlessly, then with more and more interest. “I do not dare speak of Maestro Tonti, because whatever he does is pure art; not only that, but he would be able to hypnotize an entire classroom of students, even if all he was doing was brushing his teeth”. Or rather a young girl who I assume is from Calabria writes: “The first day of school I read a phrase: to know, to know how, to know how to be; only afterwards, during his chocolate class, would I understand the meaning.
Day after day, I learned tangibly from you the meaning of professionalism: precision, rigour, discipline, creativity, sensibility, passion, energy, generosity.
I would like to think that your ‘knowing how’ and ‘knowing how to be’ are like a melody that is harmonious and rich of nuances, and never off-key”.
Many high-profile people have also written about and to Eliseo Tonti; people that are celebrities on the international scene, and that have also committed themselves to a lifestyle and to a profession that are possibly out of style, yet (and I am utterly convinced) winning.
An example? “It was an enormous pleasure to attend your lesson. I learned a lot, and not only about chocolate, but also about the man and the teacher. (…) I see in you the same spirit (…) of Gabriel Paillasson, Yves Thuries, Marcel Derrien, the spirit of who has a similar attitude towards their work, of who doesn’t need frills and sequins. During my long professional journey, I have seen many “Maestros”; those that dress themselves up with medals as if they were generals from the old USSR, but they don’t have eyes that sparkle. They do not transmit the true passion for our profession”.
The simplicity of giving
And who would have thought that a small, young emigrant from the Romagna region of Italy, one of the emigrants that escaped from Italy to Switzerland during the Second World War searching for a job and a respectable life, would become an important Maestro of international patisserie and chocolate arts?
After having read the large package of letters, I believe to have understood why he is loved by his students and esteemed by his colleagues.
He never sold illusions about the “simplicity” of the pastry chef’s job: he showed his students the reality of the profession: the harshness of the work schedule, the sacrifices, the trials and errors.
But he also transmitted a method for dealing with all of this: passion, rigour, rationality, courage, having with both feet flat on the ground, continuous education, an open mind, studying.
Different from the others
Eliseo Tonti has shard the culture that he has accumulated over the years; he didn’t keep anything to himself and the more he studied, the more he travelled around the world to share it.
With each new discovery, a book followed. He really did write a lot of books. He definitely went against the current: he didn’t participate in television shows, he doesn’t yell, he doesn’t scold, he doesn’t boast. And yet he possesses endless medals that he could show off. But, as the best do, he prefers that others do the talking. Like when Charlie Chaplin was a regular client of his small, exquisite chocolate shop in Vevey, Chaplin nhad become Tonti’s most influential referral. The great, famous writer Andrea Camilleri said that those who possess culture should distribute it like the rain, and not keep it for themselves. Culture itself, in all fields of knowledge, is just that, or it isn’t culture.
- Since 1988 designated by the commission of professional education as the trainer for Swiss candidates for official UIPCG competitions
- 1989 Bronze Medal Ringsted – Denmark
- 1992 Gold Medal, World Championships Lisbon – Portugal
- 1994 Bronze Medal Tokyo – Japan
- 1995 Vice World Champion (Teams) Milan – Italy
- 1996 World Champion Milan – Italy
- 1997 Vice World Champion (Teams) Stuttgart – Germany
Recognitions and positions
- Winner of Intersuc of Paris of Ruban Bleu 1991 for the book “Decor 2000”
- Founding member of the Gelato World Cup
- Founding member of the European Pastry Cup
- Elected “Chevalier de la Confrérie du Bon Pain” in 1981
- Jury President of “La truffe d’Or” of Culinary Arts – Lausanne, Switzerland
- Member of the International Jury UIPGC
- Honorary President of the Pastry Chefs Confederation of the Czech Republic
- Certificate of Merit of gratitude from the Pastry Chefs Confederation of Poland
- Honoris Causa Certificate of Merit from Basel (Switzerland)
- Member of the UIPGC Commission for International competition rules
- Elected “Pastry chef of the year 2000-2001” from the Italian Academy of Maestro Pastry Chefs
- Honorary President of the Gelato World Cup 2010
- President of the Jury for the Master International du Dessert Glacé Paris
- Diploma from La Confrérie Internationale du Goût Paris