30-01-2018 by Freddie del Curatolo
From television escalation to her beloved Kenya.
Erika Ciaccia is going through a wonderful moment, professionally high and satisfying, and as a reward she gave herself the usual holiday in Watamu.
The Apulian chef, second classified in the lucky program of Carlo Cracco "Hell's Kitchen" on Sky, is a "sick of Africa" and every year, in January, he looks forward to dive into the warm and colorful world of Watamu.
It's our paradise - Erika says - my family and mine. A place of soul and well-deserved relaxation after the seasons of great work in the restaurant "Porta Nova", where I am fed up since I was a young girl thanks to my father Tonino. But Watamu is also a fundamental place for my training in the kitchen: it has opened me up to perfumes, colours and new tastes. This is a land of great contrasts, and the contrast and almost daring combinations were the basis of my success in the Cracco programme.
Erika, tasting a cannolo di Anna, at her ease on the sofa of "Nonsologelato" in her colourful African dress, reveals how this country has influenced her artistic career in the kitchen.
The love for spices was born here - confirms the girl, sunny and brilliant as her homeland - I am a fan of the ginger, because like me it's small and strong. But I also love cinnamon, for its ability to give that bit of sweetness where you don't expect it, like the smile of a child among Malindi's huts, and the turmeric to be used sparingly ".
But if he has to put a taste of this corner of the equator on everyone, Erica speaks of exotic fruit.
When I eat so much here, it's wonderful. As well as vegetables, whose taste is unparalleled with that of vegetables, tubers and leaves that we have in Italy. One of the recipes that have given me most satisfaction to "Hell's Kitchen" is that of the "Paccheri Revolution", filled with mango and swordfish stuffed with cubes and dusted with pistachio kernel and pink pepper: put them in the oven, then garnish themselves with a cream of Indian fig...".
Acquolina in the mouth guaranteed, and we understood the love for contrasts and adventure of apparently combining ingredients with the antipodes.
During my climb to the "Hell's Kitchen" final, I happily matched gorgonzola with liquorice, adding pollen for the sauce to be paired with beef. I was reminded of the cheetahs admired on safari safaris here in Kenya, and I called the dish "spotted chiaroscuro". Shrimps and prawns and Norway lobsters, on the other hand, I matched them with almonds, or I just let them pound and crumble them over a sepia black meringue, serving them with a rag. Crustaceans and dairy products? And why not?”.
To stay on simpler things but no less delicious, in the restaurant that has created daddy Tonino, Michelin-starred chef, the cruelty of the sea (very specialty of the house) is often combined with the fruit of passion.
The same passion that Tonino passed on to his daughter and that when talking about Africa infected both.
I come here to rest and enjoy the wonders of this land - admits Ciaccia senior - but in the end I always have to cook for the many friends I have met here. On the other hand, with such a good raw material, temptation is always lurking. And then Kenya reminds me of Apulia when I was a child, rural poverty, life in contact with nature but also that taste of freedom. With the blue sea in common ".
We close with the concrete objectives and dreams of the young Sous Chef who has been so successful on Sky, for his boldness and originality, as well as for his competence.
I want to go ahead and specialize more and more, using my ideas and without losing the desire to venture, to invent things seemingly "crazy" - Erika reveals - I would like to create a personal brand, always keeping in mind the sea. Open local locals in the world.... and one obviously in Kenya!
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
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