RIYADH: Italian chef Valerio Cabri hosted a masterclass on how to make the perfect risotto at the Saudi Feast Food Festival.
Representing ALMA, the Italian School of Culinary Arts, located at the heart of Italy’s so-called food valley in Parma, he said: “We are here to represent Italy and our school for a couple of events starting from the Ritz Carlton in which we had a competition with Saudi Arabian students making a risotto.”
The aim of the workshop was to present a typical Italian recipe and highlight two of its best-loved products, Parmigiano Reggiano and Balsamic vinegar of Modena, both of which are classed as protected designation of origin products.
“The masterclass was a success,” Cabri said. “The guests understood the consistency that we want from risotto because risotto is very creamy and is like what we say in Italian ‘wave risotto.’ It’s very creamy, not liquidy, not sticky. It is even difficult for an Italian chef to make a good risotto.”
Hosting the class was a dream come true for the chef, who said it was a privilege to represent his country in the Kingdom.
“I feel so honored, it’s like the dream of my life,” he said. “I am 40 years old now here in this country. So important and so far away from home. I felt like representing my family, honoring my country and I feel like bringing the heritage of my country to an amazing place like this, in which I found a kind of kindness that I probably never seen before.”
The chef’s visit started in AlUla, where he took part in a project called “Dinner Incredible,” which involves a team of 12 world-famous chefs traveling the world and discovering new ingredients to create fabulous meals, as well as supporting small producers and local sustainability.
“The experience was amazing because it was a dinner in the desert in a canyon with no electricity, no water, no everything, and the dining room was under the sky. We love challenges so it was amazing and my role is to help the chefs to make it possible,” Cabri said.
He said he was delighted to have come such a long way in his 20 years as a chef. But things were not always easy.
“At the beginning, it’s very hard, you don’t have fun, you don’t enjoy it that much. The suggestion is to keep going, to keep pushing, to take care of yourself, to honor yourself.
“The fun time will come after. If you are talented, it is impossible to recognize immediately. So, you have to go on even if it’s very hard, if you don’t go on, you won’t discover, no matter if you are talented or not. So the point is to enjoy every time you are cooking even if it’s hard.”
Cabri said the main ingredients for anyone thinking about pursuing a career in cooking were passion and practice.
“If you put everything of yourself, of your art, of your soul in what you do, if you want to be a Michelin star famous chef you have to be talented and a bit of a genius.”
The Saudi Feast Food Festival at the King Saud University in Riyadh showcases the best of Saudi cuisine, including regional specialties. Organized by the Saudi Culinary Arts Commission, it runs until Saturday.