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17.12.2013. Le Sirenuse
When Matteo Temperini was a promising young talent straight out of hotel school, he was given the chance to work in an Italian restaurant in Paris. Determined to make the most of his experience in the world’s culinary capital, it wasn’t long before the Tuscan chef had jumped ship to Spoon - Food & Wine, super-chef Alain Ducasse’s first concept restaurant. “I learned French pretty quickly”, Matteo recalls, “as the only Italian among the staff, with orders being shouted at me constantly”.
This was the beginning of a brilliant career that would see Temperini rise to become executive chef of Le Sirenuse’s fine-dining restaurant La Sponda, which in 2010 was awarded its first Michelin star. Now, during Le Sirenuse’s winter break, he’s been invited back to Paris, as a guest chef at Le Royal Monceau - Raffles Paris. Until 21 December, Temperini is working alongside fellow Tuscan chef Roberto Rispoli from the Parisian hotel’s Il Carpaccio restaurant to bring the warm, sunny flavours of the Amalfi Coast to Parisians who are busy with their Christmas shopping. Rispoli and Temperini have together devised a ‘four-hander’ menu, with each taking charge of two or three antipasti, pastas or risottos, and main courses.
Temperini’s command of technique and instinct for seasonal flavour combinations comes through in his contributions to the Royal Monceau menu – for example, in creations like amberjack marinated in citron with courgettes and risina beans in clam sauce, or poached sea-bass in wild fennel milk with a carpaccio of funghi porcini and mussel ‘marmalade’. But he’s also a great believer in simplicity – a quality on display in another dish he has brought from Positano to Paris, Gragnano spaghetti with piennolo tomatoes, the recipe for which can be found here. For his part, host chef Rispoli draws eloquently on his Tuscan heritage in dishes such as Chianti-marinated wild boar, or caciotta-cheese risotto with Norcia black truffles.
“The French codified cooking”, says Temperini; “they set down the techniques and brought the organisation of kitchen staff to the level of a Ferrari Formula 1 team. What Italians have brought to the table is a talent for improvisation, as well as a respect for fresh, local, seasonal ingredients”. Describing his approach as “classic, not decorative”, Temperini believes that “you need to be able to taste what you see on the plate. If I’m doing a scampo or langoustine, I put it centre stage and try to exalt its taste. There’s no sense in taking such a delicious fresh ingredient and masking it with a heavy sauce”.
Those who have come to appreciate Temperini’s culinary flair at La Sponda will be relieved to hear that his Parisian sojourn is only temporary. He’ll be back with a new spring menu when Le Sirenuse reopens on 29 March 2014. And if that sounds like a long time to wait, we’ve persuaded Matteo to share a few more recipes with the Sirenuse Journal over the winter months. Watch this space.