The Wordrobe talks lockdown initiatives, dish inspiration and Courmayeur cuisine with Paolo Griffa, renowned and leading chef throughout the picturesque Courmayeur Mont Blanc resort
Recently awarded his first Michelin star, chef Paolo Griffa swapped fine dining for cake baking during lockdown, spending his time baking delicious cakes and delivering them to the retirement homes in nearby towns.
The flour-powered initiative aimed to help cheer up the most vulnerable members of the Courmayeur community, whilst also making use of standby kitchen ingredients.
Situated on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, Courmayeur Mont Blanc is a traditional yet sophisticated resort full of history and charm and surrounded by spectacular scenery. Sophie Ritchie caught up with Paolo to find out more about his heart-warming deliveries, as well as his career highlights and the Michelin-starred mouthfuls on offer at the world-class resort.
What inspired you to become a chef?
Baking has always been my passion, right from a young child, so I always knew I wanted to become a pastry chef. I also love all things sweet!
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
I studied at Giovanni Giolitti Hotel Institute in Turin and my professor, Alessandro Ricci, really is my inspiration. He taught me to improve each day and to keep learning – which is my ethos to cooking.
Tell us more about your cake baking initiative during lockdown…
During lockdown our restaurant kitchens were closed but we still had several ingredients to work with. We were finding the current situation challenging, which got us thinking about people who were in far worse situations, isolated from their families and living in micro-communities, such as a retirement home.
As we were not able to see our relatives either we thought the best way to spend lockdown would be cheering up other people – and what better way to do that than through cake deliveries.
We started delivering cakes around Easter time because so many of our regular customers got in touch with us to wish us a happy Easter. Following our Easter deliveries, we had so many messages of appreciation that we decided to keep going and visit different retirement homes in the area. We also started catering to different needs so our baked goods became gluten-free, lactose-free and sugar-free.
What can guests expect from a meal at Courmayeur Mont Blanc resort?
A unique dinner, not just in terms of the food (which is delicious) but also the way it is locally sourced and carefully prepared. A dinner in Courmayeur tells you the tale of the region.
What’s been your biggest career highlight to date?
There have been so many moments but winning the San Pellegrino Young Chef prize in 2015 was a real highlight and of course receiving my first Michelin Star in 2019.
How did you celebrate your first Michelin star?
I took all of my staff out to dinner for a great evening.
Other than Courmayeur Mont Blanc, do you have a favourite culinary destination?
I don’t have a favourite destination but I love to travel and try the different cuisines all across the globe.
What does hospitality mean to you?
Opening your restaurant doors wide, welcoming your guests and giving them a great experience – spending time with loved ones, eating great food and enticing them to want to return.
What gives you inspiration for your dishes?
I get inspired wherever I go from nature, books, exhibitions, museums – anything can be inspiring.
Do you have any role models?
I look up to so many people, including my professor Alessandro Ricci who I mentioned earlier. Italy plays host to incredible artisan chefs that I am often inspired by.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs, especially in these tough times?
Keep learning, spend this second lockdown studying and experimenting with your dishes. Keep being curious and amazed by what is right in front of you, even the smallest or simplest thing.
What do you think will be 2021’s biggest food trend?
Everyone will want to return to restaurants, to enjoy celebrating and spending time together. I think it will be more important than ever to make guests feel welcome, well attended and almost pampered when eating out.
To try Paolo Griffa’s dishes for yourself and start the adventure, visit courmayeurmontblanc.it