Yes, MasterChef got me addicted. It did, especially now that the new season has begun. As a direct consequence, watching it every Thursday evening pushed me into my house’s kitchen. Well, it was a light and gentle push, since I have always enjoyed eating and exploring the universe that has developed around such a primordial action, but something got me to recently enjoy helping my mum to cook, and that something came from MasterChef. It did, not because of MasterChef specifically, but because it showed me how the whole ecosystem around food has been evolving a lot, and how it is still doing.
Anyway, if there is something around MasterChef, and generally about the whole industry rotating around food, especially in high end environments, is that many aspects of this whole become mysterious, mythical, especially through time. What I mean is difficult to explain, so I will use an example, chefs. Gaining fame, skill and especially through time, chefs reach the figure of semi-gods in restaurants. They become the venerated divinities in their kitchen, seen as mythological creatures that hide for days in the dark kitchens, between the fire and the blood of the meat. Chefs become venerated, and they traduce this fame in arrogance, something I very often see in MasterChef. I have always seen food and cooking as very simple acts, and such an attitude toward knowledge and skill in this field has left me speechless.
But Thursday Lorenzo came, and he brightened the world of the gourmet food up for me. Honestly, I recognized in Lorenzo many of the things I consider this world to be. He loves travelling, and has travelled a lot, something that I have always seen my ideal chef do. He has an incredible experience and knowledge about this world and has gone back many and many times to his roots. Anyway, I will explore these themes in a deeper way in the next paragraphs.
The first thing Lorenzo told us is that for him, cooking is a mean to reach his dreams. Seeing how deeply food is connected with him was very interesting, especially when he told us about his story in relation with cooking. First, his surname. Cogo, in the dialect of Vicenza, means cook. Then, San Lorenzo, the only saint that has died because he was cooked, and when I say cooked, I mean it. Brining the name of the “cooked” saint and a surname meaning cook, Lorenzo was born in a family that had been working in the food sector for decades. His parents owned a trattoria, a restaurant that works with very traditional and simple dishes, very common in Italy.
Lorenzo grew up submerged in that traditional context, living a constant contrast. On one side his passion for cooking and food, on the other his life, passed seeing his father working for entire long days in his trattoria. Anyway, this internal contrast lived by Lorenzo was solved when he first met a new type of cuisine, the expressive cuisine. After having passed years in his parents’ trattoria, constricted by severe rules dictated by tradition, being let to express himself in his dishes made Lorenzo’s love for food explode, dragging him into the magical world of artistic cuisine.
From that moment on, Lorenzo entered a tunnel, made of trips around the world, curiosity and an increasing love for cooking good food. He travelled to Australia, the whole of Asia, seeing places like Singapore, then visiting Spain, the United Kingdom and innumerable other countries. This love for travelling was one of the characteristics of Lorenzo that I really think influenced his way of cooking. He told us he wanted to travel in order to escape the trap in which many young European chefs fall: tradition. In my opinion, this choice really influenced Lorenzo’s career as a chef.
Well, all that travelling did. When he stopped flying around the world, Lorenzo came back to Vicenza, where he opened a little restaurant in a nearby village. When the restaurant opened, Lorenzo was quickly sucked into another tunnel, the hole of journalists, Michelin stars and books, the hole that taught him what the figure of the modern chef was in reality. He explained it to us as a transversal role, a role that can be taken by a person that is more than just a cook. Instead, that person should be as interested in cooking as is in marketing.
For Lorenzo that tunnel ended positively. After gaining his Michelin star, he became an ambassador for different companies, and between these companies was Ubisoft. Ubisoft is a very famous company working in the videogames industry, and Lorenzo worked with them on a very interesting project. Far Cry 5 is a recent videogame that was released by Ubisoft, based in Montana. Lorenzo was asked by the company to realize three dishes inspired by this North American state, in order to promote the launch of the new videogame. The young Michelin chef accepted the challenge, and followed Ubisoft to Montana, where he spent ten days living as if he was in the videogame, focusing his time on cooking local food and achieving his three dishes objective.
Of course, Ubisoft wasn’t the only company interested in collaborating with him. Many others came, for instance from the fashion world. Anyway, these projects didn’t stop Lorenzo from working on his restaurant, or better, to open a new one. Done with the small restaurant life, Lorenzo inaugurated a new one and a bistro in Vicenza, pulling tourists back to his city. In this revolutionary climate, the chef’s next step regarded a new project: InFusion.
I honestly love the idea of such a project. InFusion aims to make the most famous and representative chefs from different cultures meet, making those different culinary knowledges join in new special dishes. InFusion allowed many experimental and incredible creations to be imagined, involving people from all over the world.
Røst is a small group of islands in the Norwegians Sea. It is in these islands where a very famous fish is fished and naturally dried. I am talking about the stockfish, a very famous food Veneto, the Italian region where Lorenzo was born in. Røst is the only place in the world where this fish is captured and then dried, since this island presents the perfect climatic conditions to exsiccate the stockfish. It became very famous and loved in Veneto because it was the only fish that could reach the countryside, since it was dried, and the port of Venice had a consistent supply of it.
Considering that Vicenza is one of the places where stockfish is more required in Veneto, Lorenzo grew up at its smell, or better, to the smell of “Baccalà alla Vicentina”, one of the most typical dishes of Veneto and specifically of Vicenza. What better place of Norway there could be to start working at InFusion? After visiting Røst, Lorenzo moved to Oslo, where he joined Mikael Svensson in a four handed cooking experience. The Italian cuisine met the Norwegian modern style, giving birth to never seen before delicious dishes. Guess what, the stockfish was there too.
I personally loved Lorenzo’s Ignition Lab. It gave us a clear view of what the food industry is about today, and he showed us an example of how following a passion can give incredible results in life. Lorenzo is an amazing guy, and I believe that he will change what I am seeing in MasterChef.
Thank you, Lorenzo.