Born and raised in a mountain village on the island, the young chef won over the jurors of the Mesa Award with his gourmet trout dish
He hates food waste and loves the lesser known part of his own Sardinia: the mountainous and unspoiled hinterland where he was born and raised. Andrea Serusi is a young chef eager to give prominence and dignity to Sardinian mountain cuisine, starting from indigenous ingredients that are little considered or have fallen into disuse. Coming first in the 2021 edition of Mesa Award, a regional competition dedicated to young emerging chefs promoted by Cantina Mesa, a winery founded by Gavino Sanna in Sulcis Iglesiente, Andrea Serusi has earned a master's degree at the Niko Romito Academy, proposed with the aim of increasing the heritage of skills that can be returned to the territory. His dish Tottu trout won over the jurors, an unexpected tribute to trout, a native species, once very consumed in the Sardinian hinterland, and today on the road to extinction. Here's what the young chef from the Pizzeria Triku restaurant in Olbia told us.
How did you find out about this award?
«I have to say thanks to my uncle Giuseppe, who after hearing about the competition sent me the link to the registration form, inviting me to participate. I remember being struck by the intention to highlight the new Sardinian cuisine. Cantina Mesa was right, intercepting a real need for us young chefs on the island ".
How did the idea for your dish come about?
«My wish was to propose a dish that was out of the ordinary. I wanted to find a local recipe capable of representing the mountain tradition without banality. And here is the intuition of giving new life to trout. Years ago this stream fish was very present in the Sardinian hinterland. Its very sweet flesh, with a mineral flavor given by the aquatic and stone-rich environment in which it lives, has definitely convinced me to make it the star of my dish ".
What are the strengths of the preparation that made you finish first?
"Trout is the main element and I wanted to make the most of the fish. I started with the fillet, which I first cooked at a low temperature, then blanched the skin with a torch to give it a roasting tone and finally lacquer it with its narrow fumet to accentuate the flavor. To accompany the fillet I prepared a cream, obtained from the liver of the same fish, which I first steamed and then emulsified always with its comic. Over the liver I grated the trout bottarga, which I left to dry completely, giving flavor to the dish. I continued with the osmotic carrot with bitter strawberry tree honey and a small onion native to my country, Fonni, prepared in sweet and sour. I accompanied everything with a sweet and sour sauce with Rosa Grande from Cantina Mesa and with navel of Venus, a sweet, mineral and watery herb, always indigenous, to give more roundness to the dish ".
What are the most recognizable Sardinian elements in your way of cooking and understanding the table?
"I like to use local ingredients, starting with the immense variety of wild herbs that the island is rich in. I always keep my eyes turned to the mountains and, in particular, to the territory of my country, which is located at an altitude of 1000 meters .
What do you hope to learn at the prestigious Niko Romito school?
«Given that Niko Romito is a legend, I am sure that the course will exceed all expectations. I will learn the art of baking from those who, like Romito, know how to make bread a prominent element. I would like to learn as many secrets and processing techniques as possible, also because that of bread is a world that fascinates me a lot. My favorite, of course, is pane carasau, thin and able to keep for a long time, born as a food that wives prepared for her shepherd husbands during the period of transhumance .
What are your dreams in the drawer from a professional point of view?
«I would like to have my own place, where I can express my idea of cooking. If I succeeded in my Folli, then, it would be the best. Enhancing the lesser known territories of the island is my goal. And his recipes, born from a poor tradition, but rich in taste and substance .
Are there Sardinian chefs you are inspired by?
«Roberto Petza and Stefano Deidda are two great starred chefs whom I consider mentors and masters. Having had the opportunity to work with them has allowed me to learn a lot. I have great esteem for chef Mauro Ladu of Abbamele Osteria, a forerunner in the enhancement of the Sardinian territory with contemporary recipes and a lot of research. And then Roberto Paddeu of the Frades clubs, so brilliant that he introduced a highly sought-after shop in his restaurants selling the best and least known Sardinian products .
Opening photo: Andrea Serusi and Gavino Sanna.