interview with Carla Ferrari of Top Chef
Carl Ferrari. With a name like that, we could expect a delicious layer of Italy in this season of Top chef, and the least we can say is that we did not miss it. At the end of the twelfth week of the competition, it was finally the young Franco-Italian mother who made her headlines, after tests which called on the creativity, audacity and political commitment of the candidates. s, then the duel against the titanic Danny who once again imposed himself to be part of Hélène Darroze’s hidden brigade.
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The TV sets, she knows. Indeed, the most attentive will have recognized the features of this former TV presenter, regularly on screen in the children’s show cooking, all at just 13 years old. A bunch of years later, the one described as the “young prodigy of the stoves” has come a long way, honed her technique in several starred houses, moved to Naples in Italy to build her small family there but also to develop its culinary project, even rising to the prestigious ranking of the best pizzerias in the country.
We discussed with her the importance of this Mediterranean cuisine in her career, the philosophy of simplicity, her life as a young mother and her role as a model. From one Italian to another.
Konbini | Compared to your cuisine, we notice a lot of Mediterranean influences. What attracts you so much to this kitchen?
Carla Ferrari | What I like most about Italian cuisine in particular are the values of sharing. Large dishes to share in the middle of a table. It is also gluttony: dishes in sauce. And then, it’s less known, but Mediterranean cuisine is extremely rich and varied from one region to another, always based on this Mediterranean diet based on olive oil, a lot of fruit and vegetables. . In short, I love it. [rires]
When you started out in the world of cooking, did you suspect that Mediterranean cuisine was going to take up so much space in your job?
Not necessarily. Especially since when I started, I worked with chefs who had rather Asian influences, focused on plants and finesse. But, quickly, the natural came back at a gallop and my cooking became simpler over time, for the simple and good reason that this finer cuisine never moved me as much as pasta with tomato and basil from the garden. from my aunt. I wanted to rediscover these feelings and that naturally went through a more noble cuisine.
Precisely, do these “more noble” dishes, such as pasta or pizza, find their place in gastronomy, in your opinion?
It’s changing, a little bit. But it is still limited. We tell ourselves that pasta is a dish to eat at home, that pizza is junk food. While not at all. These are preparations that require enormous know-how which is almost sacred in Italy.
You’ve been awarded in Italy for your own pizza know-how, by the way.
I opened my pizzeria in Turin in 2019. The idea was to offer something different, cooking on pizza, developing real recipes from it. Thanks to this approach and the recipes created, the establishment found itself in the ranking of the 50 best pizzerias in the country, just one year after its opening.
Yes, and above all enormous pride.
You have been able to put this know-how into practice on various events, in particular pasta dishes that you have offered on several occasions. You expected that Top chef allow you to highlight this kitchen?
No not necessarily. If we look at the previous seasons, I find that there was less room to let this more popular cuisine express itself. However, this year, we were given the freedom to make things more accessible and simple, and that’s exactly what I try to defend as a value in the kitchen, so it was very good.
Despite this, in the technical events, you did well anyway. Did you feel comfortable there too?
What harmed me the most in the contest is the fact that my years of experience in starred go back quite some time. But hey, technique is like cycling, you can’t forget it. But even on the technique, I tried all the same to remain faithful to my values concerning simplicity, and therefore even on these events, I made sure that the technique was never an end in itself. Let it rather serve as a vector for gluttony and taste, but never do technique for the sake of technique.
If there is one event that symbolizes this balance between technique and simplicity, it is that of the palace, where you revisited the club sandwich in a gastronomic version, which earned you a crush from the jury. Is it a symbolic ordeal for you?
Absolutely. Obviously by the result, with this crush that gave me a big boost at that time of the competition, but the dish offered represented the cuisine that I love, with the frank, authentic tastes of the club sandwich , revisited as cannolo precise, meticulous and technical.
You are a young mother, and in addition to the pressure of the contest, you had to take up the challenge of being separated from your son for the very first time since his birth. How did you handle that? Did you feel supported?
I was lucky to have wonderful support from my family, who helped me both physically and logistically to make it work. The other candidates were also there for me, although obviously not everyone can quite understand the difficulty of a situation like this. But I felt supported, yes, and I really needed it.
It was also quite new to hear you share your story as a young mother on the show, especially on the test of Adrien Cachot where you decided to politicize your dish around breastfeeding. Did you want to get these messages across?
What is funny is that I am absolutely not an activist for a penny. [rires] I’m not actively advocating for big causes, and that was interesting of Top chef to propose this test around the politicization of his cuisine, and especially to see how obvious it was for me to talk about this subject in particular.
Is there a lack of talk like this on TV?
Yes, it is missing. In this specific period of my life, I would like to hear more experiences. It’s not necessarily that there aren’t enough of them, but rather that more will always be needed, because each story is different. The goal is to normalize these things and provide support to other young mothers who identify with these stories. Talking about my life as a young mother in Top chefit was to bring my stone to the building.
At the start of the show, you self-proclaimed yourself a bad loser, and yet, we see that you are handling your elimination with great humility and optimism. Did that surprise you?
I think it’s due to the fact that a lot of things have changed in my life since I became a mother. It’s true that before, I was rather a great competitor, I’ve always played sports and I’ve always had this sense of winning. But it’s true that at the time of my elimination, I especially realized that I had had a great adventure, that I had come further than I would have thought. And if it had to end, it was because the circle was complete. I took it with a lot of philosophy, telling myself that it was a door that was closing and others that were opening.
And one of them is the famous Cantina Francesa restaurant, which you weren’t able to open in the restaurant war but which is finally opening this month in Paris. What is the crazy story of this project?
For once, with Jean and Mathieu, we were very frustrated not to be able to open it on the show. We had so much fun setting up the concept of this restaurant that we finally decided to bring it to life in real life. At the time of the test, we had absolutely no idea that we would end up opening it, but following a combination of circumstances, with Bérangère Fagart, another candidate for this season, who was temporarily closing her restaurant, everything worked out perfectly. so that we can set up our Cantina Francesa there.
What can we wish you for the future?
I have a lot of projects coming up, especially in France. I’ll be cooking at the Top Chef bistro soon, I have a four-handed dinner planned with my girlfriend Sarika. And finally, it’s still a secret, but I’ll be back in Paris in September for a great project for which I’ll be in the kitchen.