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Interview with the chef

Lovers of great food and seekers of flavors that feed the soul: if you’re in Florence, you absolutely must make a stop at Cibrèo, chef Fabio Picchi’s famed restaurant.

Chef Picchi’s cuisine is based on the best Florentine traditions while deftly evolving and mingling with new influences. We sat down with him to ask a few questions.

How do tradition and innovation marry in your dishes? Tradition is never at a standstill. The past merges with the present and the future. It’s about rediscovery, and it’s about creating new flavors. Think how in the Renaissance spices were not part of the culinary tools. They only came into it later and now are considered traditional. I like being able to experiment with new (old) ingredients like chia and turmeric that could be traditions someday.

How important are the land and the seasons in your menu choices? The seasons are our lodestars and the land is our home. Cibrèo’s menu changes with the slow turn of the seasons and its foods. Right now, for instance, there are fabulous artichokes. The land is where we live and we have to respect and value it. We meticulously choose our ingredients, favoring local ones, grown by farmers who I like to call crazy, who love what they grow and respect the environment. We use local producers of exceptional meat and enlightened millers and farmers who have rediscovered our land’s great variety of grains and fruits.

What are the star ingredients in your cooking? There’s a lot of them, and I couldn’t do without any of them because I love food so much. Oil and bread, first off, and then flavorings. I swoon over the intense aroma of catmint, sage or rosemary, grown with respect and without artifice.

Where does your passion come from? And your recipes? My recipes come from my nature as a big eater. I was born in a family of women who were great cooks and I was surrounded by the scents of food since I was little.
My parents wanted me to be a doctor, but unwittingly, they were already turning me into a cook. The recipes also come out of studying and reading, which have given me the creative breadth to invent new dishes. At any rate, in my dishes I’m not interested in spectacle. I’m interested in emotions and the feeling of empathy that we can create.

What’s your favorite dish? Strangely enough, it’s not Florentine. On my headstone I’d write, “Fabio Picchi: lover of Eggplant Parmesan”!

What do you hope a patron takes home after dinner at your place? A woman who came to my restaurant said after the dinner, “I’ve found a home in Florence.” I think that kind of a comment is a crowning achievement for a chef.

Chef Picchi is a true force of nature. He juggles managing the kitchen of his restaurant with writing books and a blog.