Maître Rôtisseur Massimo Spigaroli has been at home in the kitchen since he was a child when he used to line up the anolini and tortelli as if they were toy soldiers. Today, his Michelin-starred restaurant, Antica Corte Pallavicina Relais serves a refined menu that represents the best of the Parmense lowlands with ingredients that are almost exclusively home-produced.
Massimo says he has always dreamt of becoming a chef, "For me there was no other choice." He also had another dream: to produce everything he cooks. Accordingly, Massimo has built the success of his restaurant on the heritage of his family, who have farmed the land since the 19th century. This heritage has earned him the nickname of ‘the farming chef’.
Living from the land is, Massimo says, part of his family's DNA. "I grew up familiar with the typical products of this area. I knew how to feed animals like cattle, horses and poultry. As a child of six or seven years old I had my own chickens. I used to collect the eggs every morning and would make fresh egg pasta with my mother, my aunt and the other women of the family."
The wonderful cuisine of the Antica Corte Pallavicini Relais is full of colour and is enriched by the main ingredients, all of which are sourced from the farm, where the emphasis is on traditional production techniques. For example, the animals are ancient breeds from the region; they are free to range and are correctly fed and the farm makes flour from its native varieties of wheat. "All of this means that we have a top quality product, which preserves the traditional tastes and flavours of the region. We follow our traditions, our ancient recipes and present them in a modern way."
All of the dishes served at Antica Corte Pallavicini Relais use seasonal produce. "We don’t use tomato in winter or goose in summer. There is a season for every product and every animal and we only use them when they are at their best," explains Massimo.
"My signature dishes are linked to my childhood, to my first introduction to the food and the kitchen and sometimes to the folk stories that my grandmother used to tell me. Like the one about the fishermen and farmers who would meet on the nearby beach of the River Po. The fishermen would bring fish and the farmers would bring polenta and cheese, which they would all cook together on a big fire built over a hole made in the sand."
Massimo's first signature dish, created when he was just 16, was 'pork liver wrapped in natural pork netting Spigaroli'. Since then, his skill as a chef has won him many accolades, including the Diploma in Excellent Cuisine from the Italian Academy of Cuisine. More recently, he joined Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, on his farm in Wales acting as a Consultant Gourmet and Pork Butcher.
Publishing Editor, Revue internationale de la Chaîne