Let’s find out together who the guest chef on MasterChef is, the cook Chiara Pavanwhich you will often have found in our online articles and in the pages of our magazine’s recipe book.
The future is green, even in the kitchen, and MasterChef, in this evening’s episode, will explore the new frontiers of sustainability. In the last skill test of the season, dedicated to one cuisine that takes care of the territory through the valorization of its ingredients, the judges Bruno Barbieri, Antonino Cannavacciuolo and Giorgio Locatelli will welcome a special guest, Chiara Pavan from the Venissa restaurant (a green Michelin star), located on the island of Mazzorbo in Venice. The chef will tell the contestants about her environmental cuisine, which describes the surrounding area and, at the same time, reflects on the imprint she leaves on it.
Veronese, 39 years old, Chiara Pavan she graduated in Philosophy with a thesis in Philosophy of Science in Pisa. She has always been passionate about cooking, after obtaining the diploma in Almathe haute cuisine school in the province of Parma, gained experience at Caino in Montemerano, alongside chef Valeria Piccini, and landed at Venissa with Francesco Brutto (who is now also her life partner).
Only the products of your own microcosm
Together they take care of the restaurant menus, and their dishes are mainly based on the fruits of their garden, to convey the strong bond with the territory. «The garden of Venissa allows us to work with always fresh products, not treated in any way, unique because they grow in salt-rich soil, and above all that they have a decidedly lower carbon footprint, as they do not need transport to get to the restaurant”, explains the chef on Instagram. Of course, the project is very ambitious, and often complex: «Sometimes it’s really difficult to cook with products coming only from their own microcosm, following seasons that are increasingly uncertain. Yet the idea of environmental cuisine is mainly based on this. In the last year, seeing the lagoon in so much pain, we have given ourselves a lot of limits: vegetables from our garden on the island or from nearby gardens; only four-five invasive species; very local flours that are more complicated to work with. But how difficult is it?! How much easier it would be to use more common fish (now less and less present in our seas), meat, chocolate, exquisite exotic products (and to think that we don’t even use lemon… giving acidity with the unripe grapes recovered from the thinning of the vineyard) .
Less animal protein
Many of the proposals of Venissa are plant-based: Chiara Pavan will explain to the MasterChef contestants that «one of the main tasks of us chefs today is demonstrate that plant-based dishes are just as satisfying as those based on animal protein. Since food systems and the way we eat are responsible for a high percentage of gaseous emissions and pollution, in recent years I have thought a lot about what it really means to apply sustainability principles in the kitchen. It seems obvious but it isn’t: the most important thing is promote a diet low in animal protein and rich in vegetables, legumes and cereals. It is also essential to source supplies from growers and producers who share the same values of caring for the environment and the ecosystem with us.”
Among the vegetables that, as a good Venetian, she prefers, there is radicchio. «In Veneto the bitter taste is part of the culinary culture and is particularly appreciated. Bitterness is a habittakes us back to the flavors of the field, of winter with radicchio, but also of spring (with dandelion, wild herbs and, in particular, chicory).
Transforming problems into opportunities
But Chiara Pavan goes further: she tries to exploit invasive flora and fauna to transform problems into opportunities. Take, for example, the glasswort. «In the last two years the presence of halophyte plants in the lagoon has greatly increased. The cause is directly linked to climate change: the rise of the salt wedge, exacerbated by the droughts of recent years, which has led to an increase in the percentage of salt in the soil. The situation in north-eastern Italy is quite serious and we still don’t talk about it enough. Last year at Venissa we lost various fruit trees and a part of the vineyard. The victims of this increase in soil salinity are agricultural production and biodiversity. Only plants that tolerate a high percentage of salt manage to survive and spread, giving shape to real expanses of glasswort and “its sisters”. In my opinion, as with the situation of blue crabs, the climate emergency must be addressed before it is too late but also with a creative look: halophytic plants can be used in the kitchenthey are delicious and have interesting nutritional properties.”
Protein alternatives to meat
Among the alternative proteins to meat consumption, the chef has also introduced it to the menu a couple of years ago there venous turnip, a gastropod native to the Sea of Japan, which has already arrived in the upper Adriatic a few decades ago, probably – like the blue crab – through the ballast of ships. It is suitable for both long and very fast cooking. Another alien species served on the menu is theanadara inaequivalvis, also called Venus’ casket: it is an extremely invasive bivalve mollusc which, like the rapana, feeds on local molluscs, contributing to the loss of biodiversity and the transformation of marine ecosystems. Externally it is similar to the clam, but it has a singular taste and as much hemoglobin as (in percentage) beef. Chiara Pavan and Francesco Brutto have made a sort of “panna cotta” from it and also serve it raw, seasoned with garlic oil, ginger, lacto-fermented turnip, sea fennel, potentilla and oyster grass. «New invasive species, drought-tolerant cereals, insects and cultivated meat, promises the chef, «will be ingredients that we will welcome with curiosity.
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