CHEFS AND RECIPES

Davide Catalano

Products have a prominent place: my cuisine is based on seasonality and on the enhancement of vegetables.

Let’s start with a rather simple question: why did you decide to become a chef?

The idea came about almost by accident. I was studying Law but had always had an interest in cooking which undoubtedly came from watching my mother and my great-aunt at the stove, both of them were excellent cooks. This passion remained somewhat hidden throughout the period of my studies until one day, I decided to try my hand at preparing a pizza. From that moment on, I became more and more interested in cooking and started doing some research regarding potential cookery schools where I could quickly pass through the initial stages as I had not done any catering studies at all.

The first significant experience I got was definitely at the Locanda Gulfi (in Chiaramonte Gulfi) where I was able to work with a high-level chef.

After that, I attended the Cast Alimenti di Brescia, a prestigious cookery school where I met various different chefs and bakers of national and international renown. After that experience, I worked during the summer season at the starred restaurant “Il Bavaglino” in Terrasini and then I also spent some time abroad. Thanks to the experience overseas, born from the desire to learn and to experiment, I cottoned on to the fact that Nordic cuisine had become very popular and I got the chance to meet chefs of a certain calibre. The summer season in Norway provided me with the maximum imaginable when it came to training and enabled me to understand why Nordic cuisine was able to exploit such a small range of ingredients to make such a wide variety of dishes and how much Italian cuisine could learn in terms of management, marketing and image from the Nordic system.

 

What would you never be without in your kitchen?

After several years of studying, I realised how important the right tools are when it comes to doing work at a high level. But definitely, pride of place goes to the ingredients. My cooking is based on seasonality and on the enhancement of vegetables. I prefer to work with ingredients that are fresh and seasonal in order to ensure the best results in the kitchen, (a seasonal product will give out strong aromas and flavours) and also to convey my way of understanding what living with cooking and food is all about.

 

What, according to you, are the three qualities that every chef should have?

Surely a prerequisite, which may seem banal, is passion. For example, creating well prepared dishes which are also accessible for every budget is what I have endeavoured to create in Qualia. You need a lot of time, hard work and sacrifice.
And then obviously, there is the studying, something that is indispensable when it comes to reaching a certain level of specialization and the continuous research into everything innovative.
Research is aimed above all at finding top quality ingredients which have been selected from the local area.
In addition to craftsmanship and technique, which are two talents that can only be perfected over time, one of the characteristics that distinguishes a high-quality chef is the sensitivity with which they handle the ingredients and the creation of new combinations.

What, in your opinion, is the cuisine of the future?

That is a good question because the world of cooking is a world that is continually evolving, that changes a lot and can also change very quickly. In recent years we have moved noticeably from traditional cuisines, which, maybe are no longer fashionable, to a molecular cuisine that is made of foam and air.
The next step, in my opinion, will be a mix between the traditional cuisine of our grandmothers and some technical molecular cuisine. This union might be the right compromise with which to create dishes that are new and innovative and which are capable of astonishing and stimulating customers, turning them into fans of a cuisine that is created of many nuances.

 

What is the dish that you are going to introduce to us?

The dish in question is frequently ordered and much appreciated by customers. It is a revisitation of the classic combination of octopus and potatoes. The octopus is served warm with a potato mousse which we have substituted for the traditional potato in chunks. The octopus is cooked at a low temperature and then seared in a hot pan. It is then placed on the potato mousse and is served with different sauces: one with tomato paste and the other made with squids’ ink. And then finally, we round the dish off with some freshness provided by a sprinkling of mint leaves.

The Restaurant

Qualia. A-typical sicilian cuisine

The idea for Qualia arose in 2016 thanks to a brave decision: having gained a wide range of experience abroad in some of the best starred restaurants in northern Europe, the desire to return to their homeland of Cefalù was rekindled in a young couple. Having had the opportunity to learn from a completely different milieu, they had become aware of the potential culinary richness of their homeland with its abundance of fresh raw ingredients and this resulted in a project aimed at show-casing a new and very particular type of cuisine.

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