Claudio Urciuoli on Nancy Silverton, Noma, and Italian Cooking
This is part two of my interview with Noca chef Claudio Urciuoli. If you missed Monday's interview, in which he dished about Olive Garden, truffle oil and the weirdest thing he ever ate (which pretty much tops everybody else's), read it here.
Buchanan Claudio Urciuoli
Best food memory: I have a lot, but I would say being with my family when my grandma cooked, being with my aunts and cousins, my mother, everyone. These dinners, they were very simple, a labor of love. I remember sitting at the table with my cousins. The memory is of the people, the whole picture of eating together.
Dish, trend, or catchphrase you wish would go away: I don't get affected by these things because I don't really pay attention. Wendell Berry said, "Eating is an agricultural act." But it's whatever rocks your boat. It's whatever makes you happy. When I see the raw juice trend, I see the product and I say, "Wow! It's $9!" But I believe that food is always a choice. You have to make a choice on many, many things, and you're affected by your ethnicity, your childhood, your environment, everything.
Courtesy of Noca Prosciutto-wrapped Kurobuta pork chop, Manchego and fennel-stuffed, wild rice, roasted peaches, corn sauce
What really turns you off when you're dining at a restaurant?: I never look at that. I'm in a different state of mind. If I go out to eat, I want to eat something I cannot eat cooking by myself. I know the restaurant business in depth. I know many things that could make me mad, but I have no interest in that.
Name one of your favorite places to dine in Phoenix: Sushi Roku, because I have always had great fish there. And I like [chef] Shin [Toyoda].
National/international chef you greatly admire and why: I like Victor Arguinzoniz at Etxebarri [a Spanish restaurant in Basque country]. He cooks everything on a wood-burning grill. His food is very minimalist -- just pristine, beautiful products of his region cooked on fire. His devices, which he created to cook over fire, are genius. And I admire Noma in Copenhagen. They're extremely talented people working in such a harsh territory. They're number one in the world. It's out of the ordinary. My wife is Swedish, so I'm interested in the food of that region, including what's going on with Magnus Nilsson of Faviken in Sweden.