Food & Cooking

Massimiliano Alajmo on the Innovative Potential of Olive Oil

The three-Michelin-star chef says olive oil carries aromas better than butter and allows him to create a creamy consistency without using dairy, making dishes easier to digest.

Massimiliano Alajmo
Jan. 25, 2018
By Alison Sandstrom
Massimiliano Alajmo

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Born into a fam­ily of Ital­ian chefs, the food world had high expec­ta­tions for Mas­si­m­il­iano Ala­jmo, and he was quick to sur­pass them.

In 2002, he became the youngest chef ever to be awarded three Miche­lin stars at the age of just twenty-eight. Today, he and his brother Raf­faele pre­side over a mini-empire of restau­rants in Venice, Paris and his native Padua.

My goal is to reach or pen­e­trate the nucleus of the ingre­di­ent, and respond with respect and there­fore light­ness.- Mas­si­m­il­iano Ala­jmo

Ala­jmo made a name for him­self inter­pret­ing ingre­di­ents in inno­v­a­tive ways, cre­at­ing a con­tem­po­rary Ital­ian cui­sine that is at once sim­ple and totally unique. His rep­u­ta­tion has earned him the nick­name il Mozart dei for­nelli – or Mozart of the stove.

Olive Oil Times spoke with the Ital­ian celebrity chef to find out more about an ingre­di­ent at the heart of his cook­ing and Ital­ian cui­sine.

Ala­jmo began his train­ing in the kitchen with his mother, Rita Chimetto. It was Rita who led Le Calan­dre, the restau­rant Mas­si­m­il­iano would later inherit, to its first Miche­lin star.

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My mother taught me many things, and olive oil was always a base ingre­di­ent in her food,” says Ala­jmo.

Since then, his knowl­edge and appre­ci­a­tion for olive oil have deep­ened.

For Ala­jmo, good cook­ing means truly under­stand­ing and respect­ing the ingre­di­ents.

There is no truth beyond that con­tained in the ingre­di­ents,” he told food critic Andy Hayler in 2012. My goal is to reach or pen­e­trate the nucleus of the ingre­di­ent, and respond with respect and there­fore light­ness.”

So how has Ala­jmo come to under­stand olive oil over the course of his career?

The liq­uid struc­ture of olive oil tends to make aro­mas last longer, espe­cially when used in com­bi­na­tion with water,” he says.

Broccoli rabe soup with smoke onion gelato

This dis­cov­ery has lead Ala­jmo to start using it as a sub­sti­tute for dairy prod­ucts in some of his sauces and pas­tries. He says olive oil car­ries aro­mas bet­ter than but­ter and allows him to cre­ate a creamy con­sis­tency with­out using dairy, mak­ing the dishes eas­ier to digest.

Olive oil fig­ures promi­nently in a spe­cial line of panet­tone, tra­di­tional Ital­ian sweet bread, that we make using olive oil in place of but­ter. We also make an olive oil puff pas­try and a num­ber of water-based sauces and prepa­ra­tions that seem to con­tain dairy, but are really dairy-free,” he says.

At Le Calan­dre, the Ala­jmo fam­i­ly’s three-Miche­lin-star flag­ship, you’ll find inven­tive dishes like Juniper and licorice pow­der risotto or seared tur­bot with yel­low potato purée, car­damom car­rot juice, and black olive pow­der. But at his heart, Ala­jmo is a tra­di­tion­al­ist. The three things he would bring with him to a deserted island: olive oil, bread and wine.

It’s a com­bi­na­tion of fresh­ness, the sacred and strength,” he says.



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