Nonna knows best for celeb chef Gennaro

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Gennaro Contaldo (left) cooking up a storm in Dundrum

CELEBRITY chef Gennaro Contaldo was in Dublin just before Christmas for an exclusive festive masterclass.
The warm, friendly and insanely talented Italian chef and restauranteur is most known for his association with his protégé, Jamie Oliver, teaching him everything he knows about Italian cooking.
He is also well known for his partnership with fellow Italian chef, the late Antonio Carluccio and their BBC Two television series Two Greedy Italians.
Dublin Gazette caught up with the much-loved chef in Jamie’s Italian in Dundrum for the exclusive masterclass. He was full of praise for the popular Dublin restaurant.
“It’s beautiful. The way Gerry looks after this place. All the chefs are so passionate. They’re all on it. Everything is tasty. I went back to show them how to make a fish dish, my God they were better than me!
“This is what you want, you want them to do better, because if they do exactly what I do, it is a photocopy. They have to do better. You feel happy.”
Gennaro was brought up in Minori, a small fishing village on the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
He learned from an early childhood the importance of fresh, seasonal ingredients, the potential of taste and texture and, in true Italian style, the family man knows and values the sheer pleasure of mealtimes.
Jamie and Gennaro go way back. When Jamie was a young man, his dream was to make the “best pasta in the world”. His friend told him about Gennaro and gave him the address of his restaurant in Covent Garden.
Jamie knocked on Gennaro’s restaurant door looking for a job. Gennaro took him under his wing and quickly realised his potential. He also wanted to have someone he could pass on his knowledge to and Jamie was the perfect candidate.
Both Jamie and Gennaro have been heavily involved with Jamie’s Italian. Their latest project was touring around Italy for two years for the new Jamie Cooks Italy Book.
The famous duo were passionate to learn authentic Italian recipes from nonnas [grandmothers] so that the recipes would never be lost.
Gennaro said the nonnas are the “real cooks” and meeting them changed the way he cooks today.
“[Jamie and I] planned this trip a few years ago. We’d been very busy with the restaurant and filming, we had to find the time to go. We travelled all over Italy from right in the north to the mountains to the last island in Italy.
“With the nonna, filming is quite slow. You have to go with the pace of a nonna. Some of the nonna needed a little rest. Some of the nonna can be very cheeky!
“When we found the nonna, we said hi, we stayed with them, we talk with them. You fell in love as soon as you see them.
“They treat you like a little child because under their eyes we are little children. After a few days with them they become your real nonna.
“The most difficult thing was when we had to say goodbye. Because of their age, they are quite old, in the back of your mind you think are you going to see them [again], perhaps it would be the last time.”
Gennaro added that the nonnas taught Jamie and himself so much about cooking.
“We had to learn how to ‘un-chef’. I think we do everything wrong! You have to be with a nonna to see how to cook!
“We learned so much. At my age that’s a privilege. It’s changed the way I cook.”
We couldn’t leave without asking Mr Italy himself what his favourite Italian dish is, but it was a very hard choice for him as he likes them all!
“Ah! It’s very difficult because I like everything! What I like for myself to have on New Year’s Eve is simplicity. Stock fish, salt bacalao, just boil it, twist of olive oil, a little bit of garlic, parsley and a squeeze of lemon. But I like everything else as well!”
Gennaro’s latest book ‘Gennaro’s Fast Cook Italian’ is full of enticing, authentic and quick to prepare recipes which is now available.