We spent a fascinating afternoon with the Master of gastronomy in his three-Michelin star restaurant in Rome.
It’s an honour to be sitting with Heinz Beck in his restaurant in Rome, La Pergola, asking him about his life in food, his culinary passions and his plans for the future. It’s about as close as one can get to having a masterclass in how to get a Michelin star, from a man who is widely regarded as a ‘chef’s chef’ and a leader in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Renowned as a ‘Master’ of gastronomy, Chef Beck has been recognised by the most important culinary authorities such as Michelin, Bibenda, Gambero Rosso and L’Espresso, to name just a few.
The restaurant, located at the 9th floor of Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotels&Resorts in Rome, offers stunningly beautiful views over the Eternal City and, under the guidance of Heinz, is the only three-star Michelin restaurant of the city.
Described as a temple of international gastronomy, the food here is elevated to a form of art. So, aside from the kind of magic Heinz brings to the process, what are the secrets behind its success?
As he leans forward to impart some of the secrets that have made the restaurant such a sensation, we know how honoured we are to get advice from the chef who has restaurants not just in Italy, but around the world, from Tokyo to Dubai, from Portugal to UK.
“For a restaurant that has to produce exceptional quality, it’s fundamental to have perfect ingredients,” he tells us.
“Not just perfect in terms of beauty, but above all in terms of quality, seasonality and flavour. And so we are extremely careful when choosing our suppliers and our ingredients.”
The menu at La Pergola changes regularly, reflecting the seasons and the availability of fresh produce. People from across Italy, and, indeed, the world, flock here for the light and healthy cuisine infused with the Mediterranean essences that Chef Beck is famous for.
“The menu changes just like the weather changes,” he adds.
“The process behind new dishes is inspiration. You have to be inspired, and then translate these impulses into actual dishes.
“At this point, once the dish is organised in your mind, you start putting it into practice – the tests, looking for the ingredients, and then finally plating the dish.
“For me the most important points are the quality of the ingredients, the flavour and the wholesomeness of my dishes.
“Then at the end I try to make the dish beautiful, but I would never sacrifice one of the important cornerstones – taste, lightness and health – for the beauty of a dish.”
Our very own Prosciutto di San Daniele is included in the list of quality ingredients that Heinz holds dear. “I think it’s a very authentic product since the whole process is controlled and they know exactly where their pigs come from. And then there’s an almost maniacal control in order to ensure the quality of the product remains constant over time.
“The quality of the production with the microclimate in which it’s matured, the quality of the ingredients and the methods used to raise the pigs which the prosciutto comes from, are very important to give this fabulous balance because we’re talking about two ingredients – the salt and the pig. Everything else is microclimate.”
After growing up in Germany, Heinz first arrived in Italy in 1994 to open La Pergola. Italian people now regard Heinz as one of their own, thanks, in no small part, because of the way he has put La Pergola on the worldwide culinary map.
“When I came for the interview I saw the place, which was still empty, because it was being renovated. I saw that spectacular view over the city and I immediately fell in love.
“Then, when I started working here, I also started studying the language. All of my staff at the time were Italian, so I had to make myself understood immediately. And then I started frequenting the city, because at first I still had a little more time to conquer the city, with all its beauty, its squares and alleyways, the movement, the trattorias, the food, the markets.
“So I spent a really wonderful period in an attempt absorb as much as possible of the Italian Mediterranean mentality and culture.
“We should never forget where we come from, and the products that we’re traditionally used to eating. Because these products have followed a thousand-year path to have reached us, and have reached us as an intangible heritage.
“It would be wrong to forget this tradition, and also because these traditions have been perfected over the centuries in order to become small jewels.
“So I’m very happy to live in a country which is so rich in culinary history and which has products as beautiful as prosciutto.”
*To read more about Chef Beck, visit https://www.heinzbeck.com
For information on La Pergola restaurant, visit https://romecavalieri.com/it/la-pergola-it/