Being awarded a Michelin star at just 23 years of age and becoming the youngest chef to have reached this milestone in the history of European Cuisine…this is definitely something that gets your blood going! But it must be said that Augusto Valzelli, currently 27, worked hard to achieve this goal since a young age, with stubborness and sacrifice. At the age of 12 he had already decided that his future would have been at the cooking. One day at the Sunday school a 70-year-old lady suggested him to attend a cooking class. Oh God, nothing very challenging, they made cookies, sandwiches, easy food that young boys like. Under the watchful eye of the teacher, Andrea was able to prepare a small piece of puff pastry, with tomato and mozzarella. He tasted it and liked it a lot, feeling proud of himself: “A whole new world had opened up …”. Because of that sensation of accomplishment, the following year he made his triumphal entry to the hotel school of “A. Mantegna “, from which numerous starred chefs have passed by, where for five years he studied cooking theory and practice until obtaining the diploma of cook in 2009.
At that point he could have easily chosen different possibilities of employment, but Valzelli had no hesitation and presented himself full of enthusiasm at “La Trattoria L’Artigliere Restaurant” owned by Davide Botta, member of Jeunes Restaurateurs d’Europe awarded a Michelin Star in 1993, and began to work hard introducing himself to the secrets of Haute Cuisine. Such commitment showed excellent results because in a considerably short amount of time Valzelli earned the position as the Chef’s right-hand man.
In the meantime, however, a secret passion was building up inside Augusto, he who was born in Brescia in the shadow of Guglielmo and Colombine Mountains in the homeland of the Casoncelli, Bigoi with pestöm, Beef with oil, Skewer with polenta taragna, started to feel more and more the call of the sea, willing to unravel a new kitchen horizon. So he moved to Imperia and went working with Andrea Sarri, owner of the “Agrodolce Restaurant”, president of J.R.E. and, not surprisingly, celebrated with one Michelin Star. Sarri’s Cuisine is open to taste exploration and unusual combinations (always balanced) which generate superb varieties of flavours and tastes.
Once again, it only takes a year after Sarri leaves the restaurant for Augusto Vanzelli to collect his baton, inaugurating as Head Chef the “new management” of the “Agrodolce Restaurant” in Imperia, with an extraordinary “Shrimp and Kiwi”, his first gourmet dish that will follow him around over time.
It is not just a change of direction. Valzelli is now ready – although still very young – to revolutionize the restaurant, surrounded by a brigade of young people all motivated and passionate, he gets rid of the old menu and come up with a new one for all wallets, studying how to lower prices while maintaining high quality with inspiration and fantasy. And at the end of an intense 2-year period, at the young age of 23, he finally reaches the goal he had always set for himself: the Michelin Star. Such recognition puts him in the position to make plays with the great restaurants, because in that starry gourmet sky now there’s him as well.
Many hotels and restaurants start to come up with interesting proposals, but Valzelli decides to follow his instinct, which is proving himself again.
He went back to Brescia opening a restaurant of his own, bringing along the experience gained in Imperia and taking inspiration from the kitchen of Antonino Cannavacciuolo and Gennarino Esposito, his culinary myths, officiants of a kitchen of simplicity and natural flavours, legacies of the lands of origin.
In Brescia, the Scarlatto Restaurant, which has been closed for several years, could be found outside the area of Campo di Marte, at the foot of the Castle of Brescia. And in its place situated inside a prestigious Liberty style 1-century-old building, last year in April “La Porta Antica Restaurant” opens its doors, in a well-kept and intimate atmosphere.
The menu is mostly sea-food based and also the interior design makes you think of the sea: the bar in Sardinian Breccia Wood recalls the vibe of a quiet beach, the slate floor striations resemble the movement of sea waves, walls painted in warm colours and oak tables intensifie that natural feeling. The setting is elegant, silver and crystals all around, customers sit on comfortable armchairs illuminated by suspended lights in the shape of jellyfishes…in short, you eat in the shadow of a castle up in the mountains but you feel like being by the sea.
And from the sea come the tempting food proposals, “Grilled little squid on liquid corn polenta and popcorn”, “Spaghetto di Gragnano in red rock mullet stew, plus Datterino tomato and Taggiasca olive”, “Fusillone of durum wheat in sea style carbonara and mullet bottarga”,” Steamed fish and shellfish on a bed of veggie delicacies plus vinaigrette with orange “,”Catch of the day, zucchini, pea sauce and chutney with lemons from Garda “. Here and there one can find also other kinds of dishes: “Battuta di scottona, grilled onion, Cantabrian anchovies and Dijon mustard”. There are only a few traditional regional recipes – exception made for Carnaroli Risotto – Valzelli seems to wish for new horizons. At the moment his primary goal is convincing a clientele quite tied to tradition to follow him in an extraordinary culinary adventure in order to discover new frontiers of taste.
At the age of 27, Augusto Valzelli has not just been sitting on laurels. His favourite dish is a plain Caprese, when he is free from work duties, but rarely he gets to eat dinner at home. Both he and his wife go around trying out new restaurants, looking for inspiration and new ideas which must be processed first mentally and secondly practically. In short, the kitchen for him is a 24-hour job. He is in a hurry for further improvement, craving to get a new Michelin Star to adorne La Porta antica with. And you can bet that he won’t stop until his goal is reached.
°° Translated from Italian to English by Gerardo Iannacci, email: firstname.lastname@example.org