Recently, twenty-six Italian chefs from restaurants all over the world converged on the iconic Italian city of Parma to participate in Italy's first World Pasta Championship.
Overseen by Parma's own Academia Barilla, the event was organized to celebrate the evolution of Italian cuisine in places outside of Italy. An Italian jury was charged with the duty of evaluating how well the foreign chefs interpreted the basic concepts of Italian dishes.
While Chef Boyardee's Spaghetti-Os with Meatballs was noticeably absent from the competition, a Canadian chef prepared a Toronto favorite, strozzapreti alla romagnola in camicia di Prosciutto di Parma. In case you're curious, these would be Romagna-style priest stranglers wrapped in Parma ham. I don't think they're on the menu at Olive Garden.
A Parisian chef concocted a dish of spaghetti with poached quail eggs and prosciutto, kind of an upscale carbonara.
A competitor from Sao Paulo, Brazil created an open ravioli made from sliced pumpkin and filled with a pasta risotto flavored with sausage, tomato and zucchini.
The judging panel consisted of a group of culinary professionals augmented by a number of judges drawn by lottery from the general audience. The competitors had to prepare three plates of their dishes; one “beauty” plate for photography, and one each for the pros and the “polpolane.” (Those are the “regular folks.”)
Academia Barilla head Gianluigi Zenti said judging was based on how al dente the pasta was as well as on its appearance and taste. The most important criterion, however, was how Italian the dish was. “We have a bonus for Italianity,” said Zenti, probably creating a new word.
In the end, it was a preparation of bavette allo scoglio, a “baby bib” pasta with seafood, that won the approval of the judges. The winning dish was created by Japanese chef Yoshi Yamada of London's Tempo Restaurant and Bar. While fairly obviously not of native Italian stock, Tokyo-born Yamada trained extensively in Naples and playfully considers himself to be a “Japoletano,” creating still another new word.
So what causes a good Japanese boy to eschew his roots in rice and miso soup in favor of pasta? The Italian culture, he proclaims. “I just simply love it. The culture, the lifestyle, the people. Not only the food, but the very slow style. Slow life. Slow food."
I would quickly agree with you, Signor Yamada. And congratulations.