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Keisuke Koga and Guglielmo Paolucci

Keisuke Koga and Guglielmo Paolucci

GONG

 Chef Keisuke Koga

A free and creative spirit, Chef Keisuke Koga owes his professional formation to his experience around the world: he came to Italy from Japan, by way of Budapest and Bodrum. His multi-faceted creations express an artistic temperament that extends to music and drawing, and his dishes are meant not only to be savored, but to be admired, to delight both eyes and palates.

What’s the thread that joins tradition and innovation in your dishes?

I start from Eastern cooking, which has very rigid rules. I try to move within these rules but enrich them with ingredients from Mediterranean and Western cuisine. In Japanese cooking, the seasons are very important, and that’s reflected in the presentation of each dish. Eating becomes a real pleasure for both eyes and palate. Dishes are first admired and then tasted.

In what way does food mean “feast” to you?

In eastern culture, some dishes are connected to precise moments of celebration. On New Year’s Eve, for example, it’s traditional for Japanese to eat various foods, each with a precise meaning. Shrimps are the symbol of a long life; Ikura, or fish roe, and soy beans mean lots of children and money. Through the holes in the lotus root, it’s said you can see your future. When a person moves to a new house, it’s customary to invite neighbors and friends to the new home to eat a dish of soba together. There’s a reason why we eat sobaon this occasion: in Japanese, the word also means ‘near’.

What does “tasting life” mean to you?

To me, enjoying life means seeking out pleasure, the joys of food, of flavors that stimulate the palate, of music, of drawing – of everything that inspires emotion.

Is there something – an inspiration, an ideal, anything else – that brings together passion and talent, and keeps them alive every day?

I am motivated by curiosity. I didn’t study to become a chef, I got there following other pathways. This allowed me to be freer and to bring into my creations everything I see, even if it comes from other fields. I love to express my creativity through my dishes in which different inspirations converge. I also like to pursue my interests outside the kitchen, too, especially my love of music and drawing.

Chef Guglielmo Paolucci

Gong’s young and eclectic chef, Guglielmo Paolucci, has worked with renowned professionals in Italy and abroad. He brings to Gong the creativity and elegance of European cuisine, applying his knowledge of Italian and French cooking and his familiarity with modern approaches.

What is your philosophy of cuisine?

In the Gong kitchen, I began using products in my cooking that I had never used before. I discovered, and continue to discover, new products and seasonings, because Asian cuisine is extremely complex and varied. Adding an eastern ingredient mustn’t ever be forced: each single element has to contribute to the balance of the whole and enhance the basic ingredients. The choice of preparation method, whether traditional or innovative, should be dictated by the ingredients, which must be enhanced and never relegated to a secondary position.

In what way does food mean “feast” to you?

Cooking for a celebration, a party, for me means a good, abundant classic dish for everyone to share. It means a traditional dish, like a plate of pasta, simple but well made, or something fried, served with a bottle of good wine. When I cook for my family and friends, I tend to make the dishes I grew up with, the ones which belong to all Italians.

What does ”tasting life”mean to you?

Every day at work I relish life: it defines everything I taste, prepare, experiment with. I don’t think there’s a better way to live life fully than to spend the whole day in the kitchen. Even when I’m not working, I’m always looking for ingredients and dishes that can still surprise me, arouse my emotions.

Is there something – an inspiration, an ideal, anything else – that brings together passion and talent, and keeps them alive every day?

For me, cooking is passion and talent, but it’s also commitment and sacrifice. I love my work and every day I try to get better at it. I never manage to be totally satisfied with a dish because I always think I could do better. You can’t go far without commitment and sacrifice. Talent has to be developed and never wasted. Cooking calls for great dedication and seriousness if you want to obtain important results.

Tell us about your special dish for Taste of Milano:

Il Piccione sulla Via di Seta (in homage to Antonio Guida) was inspired by one of the best known and most iconic dishes of Antonio Guida, my Maestro. I wanted to reinterpret it in an Asian key, in line with Gong’s characteristic style. Pigeon breast, the central ingredient of the dish, is cooked in a pan with butter and herbs, in the classic French manner. It is then served with a Chinese pain d´epicesand foie grascream that gives the meat consistency. To this we add a touch of acidity from the turnip withtosazu, replacing that given by pineapple in the original recipe. We finish it with the crispness of quinoaand the bitterness of powdered Tuscan kale.

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