During his gastronomy career spanning longer than three decades, Enrico Crippa worked together with some of the best European chefs. These include Christian Willer from Palme d'Or in Cannes, Gislaine Arabian from Ledoyen in Paris, Antoine Westermann from Buerehiesel in Strasbourg and Ferran Adria from elBulli in Roses, Spain. The North Italian chef mentions his time spent with the culinary legend Gualtiero Marchesi in Milan, and his years in Japan where he lived and worked in the mid-1990s. All these influences are clearly visible in his work. Crippa has been the president of the Italian Academy des Bocuse d’Or since 2017.

Mr. Crippa, this is not the first time you have visited Budapest, having been several times in the past few years and, as you said once in an interview, you always had a good time here. What do you like so much about Hungary and the capital?
Budapest always had the impression of a magical but also mysterious metropolis in my eyes. Maybe it’s the fact that I have always been here in the winter, but the atmosphere I experience here always makes me feel like I’m stuck in a spy movie. There is suspense in the air.

Is that true for Hungarian gastronomy too?
The most fascinating thing about Hungarian gastronomy for me is that it gives us a good overview about the history of your country. The classical dishes are particularly nutritious – this speaks of a rather agricultural lifestyle. People used to work hard and for that they needed food rich in calories, which would give them the necessary energy. It’s also a kitchen that uses a lot of meat. In Italy we work a lot with vegetables, but when I was here in Hungary for the first time they explained to me that the first thing a proper meal requires was meat. Of course, this has changed over time, people’s lifestyle changed, and in the meantime the trend moved on towards lighter meals as well. However, the roots of the tradition are still there. I think that for Hungarian chefs it’s important not to neglect the traditional Hungarian ingredients.

As a member of the “Volkswagen Dining Guide” committee you took part in deciding about the best Hungarian restaurant this year. What was your job exactly?
I have been to Budapest about four or five times in total, on the last occasion even for a whole week. I tested many different restaurants. It was important for me to visit each place several times. You can’t get a full picture by making only one visit. People working in a restaurant are only people – everyone can make mistakes or have a bad day. However, by visiting several times I got a broader spectrum of experiences and I was able to make a more reliable judgement.

The places you visited were already the best restaurants, since a pre-selection had already been done: Are the differences between the best ones not so obvious? What were the criteria you paid special attention to?
In order to decide who the best of the best is, we have to take a closer look at details. Of course, the first thing was food, then the service and the restaurant’s atmosphere. I also paid a lot of attention to how other guests around me were feeling. Did they look happy? Then this must be a good restaurant. I tried to focus on the Hungarian guests and not tourists, after all, they should be the ones who should enjoy their own country’s cuisine most of all.

You are considered a real artist when it comes to presenting your dishes – colours, textures, positioning on the plate – nothing is left to chance with you. In your experience, does visual quality also play a large role in Hungarian top cuisine?
First of all, this has to do with my personal style. For me the aesthetics of my dishes, but also the choreography of serving them is very important. Of course, quality and taste of the food should come first, everything else is just on top of that. I cannot make a verdict about Hungary as a whole: in my experience this was a question of the location, whether you are in the city or in the countryside, maybe just in your backyard garden. I am influenced by the changing of the seasons and what nature is offering at the moment. It all has an influence on what I put on the plate. When I am in my own garden, the location is a source of inspiration for me – there are so many colours and shapes. Besides that my personality and my mood have also influence on my creations.

# Enrico Crippa earned his third Michelin star with the Piazza Duomo restaurant

We could say that you are the real expert when it comes to Michelin stars – after all, you have earned three already by yourself. Since 2018 we also have a two-star restaurant in Hungary, the Onyx. What could the Hungarians still do to continue this positive development?
First of all I think that it’s important for Hungarian chefs to deal more intensively with traditional Hungarian ingredients. The national cuisine is based on these and only by using them will they be able to show the world what it means to eat Hungarian food. The second thing is that chefs are responsible for cultivating the palate of their own compatriots. This will be a long process, which will happen in small steps, during which restaurants and consumers will have to get closer to each other. I would like to advise against orientating towards foreign cuisines. Hungary has its own history and its own traditions in the kitchen, and you should take that as a base.

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