Once you find your wedding location you need to think about the catering. One of my favourite parts of the wedding preparation is going through menus, tasting and discovering what there is behind the creation of specialty dishes.
I met Antonio Callipari in London during the “Speciality & Fine Food Fair” a few weeks ago, where he was in charge of food tasting for the region of Calabria. With a strong background both in “a la carte” restaurants and catering, today he works as consultant and collaborates with event organisation companies. Winner of numerous national and international competions, Antonio is also member of the Federation of Italian Chefs and of Disciples Escoffier international.
Where does your passion for food and cooking come from?
It started by mistake. It happened casually in a restaurant in Germany where I was working at the beginning of my career. An Italian chef passed his curiosity and passion onto me, turning something I thought would be temporary into a a life-long career.
The role of chef has recently reached new heights on the social scale. Nowadays a chef is not only responsible for how the food is cooked and how to combine drinks witht the menu, but is also involved in art, culture, poetry, music and combine all these into his recipes. This aspect is what convinced me more and more to be the right path to follow. As further proof of that, along with chef profession I am also dedicated to the passion of creative writing which brought to write the anthology Visions (calabria letteraria editrice 2015). It is obvious that all have an effect on the way of cooking.
How much of your Calabria is in your recipes?
More every day. Every day there is more awareness that territoriality is a an essential part of my being and my way of cooking. My continuous research increases the esteem I hold towards regional specialities: bergamot, potatoes from Sila, red onions from Tropea, n’duja, Diamante citron, liquorice, Pecorino cheese from Pollino, stockfish of Mammola, etc. Unfortunately many things are disappearing along with knowledge and traditions due to the generational changes. At this stage the chef comes into play, with the role of ridiscovering, promoting and updating old techniques and products, in order to introduce them properly into a modern dimension while retaining tradition and history.
How do you understand the tastes and personalities of a couple?
You need to be a psychologist somehow. It is an important day and has to be unique, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, therefore it has to be over the top. However the major difficulty is keep it simple yet extraordinary and luxurious. Basically you need to identify the tastes and the personalities of the spouses and then obsessively deal with the details, to leave a lasting and memorable impression.
How is the idea for a menu born?
A menu undoubtedly starts from the territoriality of the ingredients. Whoever decides to get married in Calabria will for sure want this beautiful region to be reflected in the food. Once the menu is decided, upon then the meticulous choice of raw material has to be excellent.
Knowing the suppliers and the products is essential for the success of a menu. Once this is done, I proceed with the combination the products, the choice of courses and the seasonality of the recipes. The recipes must accurately follow the seasonal cycles in order to successfully delight the palate.
Obviously the menu has to be refined as requested by the occasion, without overpowering flavours. It is a good occasion to show my own tecniques, and I dare say that a chef also wants his moment in the sun.
How would you define your cuisine in 3 words?
Territorial, aware, contemporary.
What would you say to spouses who choose Italy as their wedding destination?
Italy is a country rich in culture, history and tastes which changes in every area, even in the same region. A treasure of villages, archeological sites, breath-taking scenery and different cultures layered and amalgamated over time. It would be a shame not to enjoy such a natural and historical landscape, making such an important day memorable, by experiencing it without its own gastronomy which is one of most popular cuisines in the world.
Playing such a key role in the wedding has also highlighted how much superstition surrounds it.
The day before the wedding, any form of communication between the spouses is forbidden. If necessary, a messenger can be used; once the groom has left his house he cannot go back and the couple must be very careful what they see along the way. It brings luck to see a spider weaving its web, meeting a chimney sweeper,seeing a frog, a black cat or a dove; while it brings bad luck to see a pig, a funeral procession or hearing a cock sing when the sun is already up.