celebrity chefs  March 2009

And the Academia Barilla Film Award goes to …

This is not your average Hollywood award show. And thank goodness for [...]

This is not your average Hollywood award show. And thank goodness for that.

At this year’s Academia Barilla Film Awards, in place of red carpets and designer gowns, there were potato and onion frittata. The films nominated for an Academia Barilla film award included stories of chefs hard at work, a family of wine-barrel makers and even an impromptu cooking lesson.

On March 4th, a group of talented filmmakers gathered in the Academia Barilla auditorium to learn the results of this year’s competition for the best short film relating to food culture, and more specifically, to the role of the chef. For the fifth year in a row, a expert jury of culture, cinema and food professionals screened and judged all the nominated films in order to select the winner of the coveted Academia Barilla Storie di Cucina, or “Stories from the Kitchen,” Award.

Academia Barilla prize The competition was fierce, but ultimately first prize was awarded to Vicenzo Cascone for his film La Variante Sultano about a Sicilian chef, Ciccio Sultano. Congratulations Vicenzo!
Vicenzo’s film and interview with Chef Sultano really captured the spirit of what it is like to work in a restaurant kitchen. If you have ever spent time stirring sauce as a line cook, or prepping vegetables late into the night, you know that the work of the chef is both tiring, yet rewarding. Nothing can compare to the satisfaction of a happy customer. But if one thing is for certain, it is the kitchen hierarchy.
As Chef Sultano explains, “cooking is one of the few professions left in the world where a real military hierarchy still exists. A young chef or cook’s assistant must take orders from who ever is on top, otherwise the system will break down.”

The film also captures the importance of the artisinal food producers. Without the natural salt miner, the cheese maker or the olive grower, Chef Sultano would not be able to do his job. The local products that he chooses to use in the kitchen are made with the same integrity he works with himself – and hopes to pass on to the rest of his kitchen staff.

And then, of course, there are the bread and pasta makers. The farmers, the millers and the bakers who transform flour, yeast, salt and water into something much more than its component parts.

Another interesting point made by Chef Sultano is that food should not be judged by a single forkful. In order to evaluate a dish, one must sit down at a table and eat it from beginning to end. Only in this way are you able to understand whether or not it is a success. “The food should not be difficult to eat. This plate itself should not be uncomfortable to eat from,” says Sultano. Attention should also be paid to the presentation and the colors on the plate.

Thanks Vicenzo and thanks Chef Sultano for giving insight into the life and job of a chef!

If you are interested in watching Vicenzo’s winning film, it is currently available on the Academia Barilla website, along with this year’s other winners and nominees. Buona visione!

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