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Recipe for success

Swiss chef Ivo Adam convinces Catherine Richards Golini that rap music and gourmet cookery are not as incompatible as most people would think…

Ivo Adam is a man of many talents. This multilingual, skateboarding, world-champion chef is creating quite a name for himself on the Swiss gourmet scene. He’s also a recipe rapper – which is exactly as it sounds. He raps recipes – ‘rapcipes’, in fact. Impressive enough by any standards, but even more so when you consider that Adam is only 30.

The entrepreneurial foodie’s first venture was Seven, a restaurant in Ascona, in Italian-speaking Swiss Ticino, which opened to rave reviews in June 2007. As well as tempting the locals’ tastebuds, Adam and his team give Ascona an exciting taste of urban glamour.

With a newly opened second restaurant (more about that later), an award-winning cookery book published out and another due soon, does Adam think he’s achieved a lot? “Sure,” he says confidently. “But, you know, I push myself. I want to do as much as I can now, when I’m young. My creative energy won’t be around forever.”

Describing Adam’s food at Seven as crossover and experimental, regional and exotic, still somehow fails to do it justice. It’s all of that and more. Mediterranean favourites appear in new guises, re-interpreted and reinvented with flavours from every continent. Lobster is partnered with mango, couscous and vanilla, while that Italian favourite ravioli is stuffed with duck and appears with peanuts, popcorn and dark chocolate. You’ll get a risotto at every restaurant in the region, but only Adam offers a sauerkraut risotto with calf’s tongue, champagne and capers.

Sauerkraut risotto? Somehow these combinations shouldn’t work – but they do, and beautifully.

Food at Seven is a bit like visual foreplay: a precursor to an exciting explosion of taste and texture. Each dish looks stunning. There’s an audible silence as diners absorb the food with their eyes before tucking in.

Each component part – there are rarely more than four – makes itself known. “For me, it’s very important that you see and taste each component. It’s like Lego: one brick isn’t enough. Maybe I like the blue cube, but it looks even better when I add the yellow rectangle,” explains Adam.

I ask him where he sees himself in the world of ‘molecular gastronomy’, the modernist form of culinary alchemy espoused by the likes of Heston Blumenthal. “We’ve definitively incorporated some of the techniques into the kitchen,” he says, “but I design the food… I don’t play with it.”

That said, there is an element of play and humour in some of his dishes. One of his most out-there desserts, a tobacco ice cream with lemon, apple and whisky, arrived with the ice cream shaped like a cigarette and sitting in a tiny glass ashtray. But those not quite ready for some of Adam’s more fantastical combinations won’t be disappointed.

A vegetable terrine with basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil had my dining companion in raptures. “So fresh,” he murmured happily between mouthfuls.

“We’ve got great produce in Switzerland, local produce here in Ticino and we’re moments away from Italy,” says Adam. “I only use foods in season – you won’t find strawberries on my menu in December.”

Complementing an innovative menu is a non-traditional approach to dining. Out goes the standard three or four courses and in come assaggini, an Italian term meaning ‘tasters’. Portions are smaller, and diners are advised to choose three or four, although there’s no obligation to follow the usual starter, main and dessert route.

Seven’s slick, chic take on dining is evident throughout. Concieved by German interior designer Bert Haller, the restaurant enjoys fabulous views across the bay of Ascona, one of Lake Maggiore’s loveliest resorts. When diners aren’t gazing across the water or at one of Adam’s creations, they’re casting an eye over the décor. Stone, granite, glass and leather predominate.

And at Seven, style is for sale. Diners can buy everything they see, from the sleek steel cruet sets to the leather loungers in the funky bar zone. Like the food? Buy the Seven recipe book, out later this year, and experiment at home.

Adam’s nickname ‘The Recipe Rapper’ is fun, but it’s no joke. “Back in 2004, I gave a presentation on diet and healthy eating for my diploma and wanted to get my message across to young people. Rap and hip-hop seemed a great way to do that,” explains Adam. “I put together a CD with some rapped recipes – good, simple food like pasta and Birchermuesli.”

Adam laid down 16 ‘rapcipes’, the Räpzept CD was presented in a pizza-style box and, thanks to a tie-in with a Swiss cereal producer, the single Birchermuesli went double-platinum in Switzerland. Swiss-German recipe rapping may not be to everyone’s taste, but there was a serious point behind it, one that draws comparisons with Britain’s Jamie Oliver, who has been educating school children on healthy eating through his TV shows and media campaign.

Adam went on tour to over 40 Swiss schools, encouraging kids to get into the kitchen, eat healthily and get more exercise. Earlier this year he popped up on a Swiss snowboarding TV show, this time exhorting the nation’s young to “pimp my fondue”.

In April, he opened a second restaurant is Ascona, called Seven Easy, with an emphasis on the informal and familial. Chefs from Sicily and Naples serve up hearty portions of fresh pasta, pizza and grills. Adam is as excited about the design of the place as he is about the food: “We’ve got huge wooden tables where you sit next to people you don’t know. I love the idea of people having to talk to each other…. ‘Pass the sauce please…’ By the end of the meal, you’ve met someone and you’ve shared an experience.”

Is this sharing of food and space a Swiss thing? “Yes, it is. But we’re in danger of losing these moments. Families don’t eat together any more. The parents are out at work, the kids are in MacDonald’s.”

After such a rapid rise to fame, is Adam settling down? “Well, I’m not slowing down,” he laughs, “but I want to develop this project. You don’t get respect as a chef if you’re constantly moving from one thing to another. I’m at a stage in my life when I’m getting a real buzz from mentoring, working with my team and encouraging their creativity. It’s a great feeling when one of my chefs wins something.”

Looking out at Lake Maggiore and a deep, Mediterranean blue sky, it’s easy to see the attraction of the place. “It’s fantastic! Look at it, it’s like St Tropez,” enthuses Adam. Not quite, not yet. But perhaps it’s just a matter of time.

FR Recettes du succès

Ivo Adam s’est créé une sérieuse renommée sur la scène des gourmets en Suisse.

Depuis l’ouverture de son dernier établissement, Seven, en juin 2007 à Ascona, en Suisse, ce chef n’a reçu que des critiques enthousiastes.

Avec à son actif deux restaurants, un livre de cuisine récompensé par un prix et un autre en préparation pour cette année, ce trentenaire a-t-il le sentiment d’avoir accompli quelque chose d’important?

“Bien entendu, mais je veux réaliser le plus possible maintenant, tant que je suis jeune.”

Tenter de décrire la cuisine expérimentale d’Adam, dans son restaurant Seven, serait d’une certaine façon ne pas lui rendre justice. Les suggestions de plats méditerranéens apparaissent sous de nouveaux traits. Vous trouverez un risotto dans chaque restaurant de la région, mais seul Adam vous propose un risotto de choucroute à la langue de veau, au champagne et aux câpres.

“Nous avons de très bons produits en Suisse,’ confirme Adam. ‘Je n’utilise que des produits de saison – vous ne trouverez pas de fraises à mon menu en décembre.”

Le menu innovateur repose sur une approche non traditionnelle du repas. Fini les menus standards à trois ou quatre plats, bienvenue aux assaggini – un terme italien signifiant ‘dégustations’. Les portions sont plus petites, et l’on conseille aux convives d’en choisir trois ou quatre.

Adam est également connu pour ses ‘recettes en rap’. “Je voulais faire passer le message auprès des jeunes générations. Le rap et le hip-hop sont de bons vecteurs pour y parvenir,” explique-t-il. Seize ‘recettesrap’ (rapcipes) ont été conçues par Adam, le CD présenté dans une boîte de style-pizza, et grâce à un lien de merchandising avec un producteur de céréales suisse, le single ‘Birchermuesli’ est devenu double disque de platine en Suisse.

En avril, s’ouvre un second restaurant, Seven Easy, qui met l’accent sur l’informel. Des chefs de Sicile et de Naples serviront des portions généreuses de pâte maison, de pizzas et de viandes grillées.

En regardant Ascona baignée par les rayons du soleil, depuis le Lac Majeur, on peut facilement comprendre l’attrait de ce lieu. “C’est fantastique… regardez… c’est comme St-Tropez,” s’exclame Adam.

Peut-être pas complètement, pas encore… mais ce n’est qu’une question de temps.

NL Een recept voor succes

Ivo Adam is flink op weg om naam te maken op het Zwitserse culinaire schouwtoneel.

Seven, het recentste project van de chef-kok in het Zwitserse Ascona, werd bij de opening in juni 2007 op luid gejuich onthaald.

Vindt de 30-jarige kok dat hij, met twee restaurants, een prijzenwinnend kookboek en nog één dat dit jaar verschijnt, al veel heeft bereikt?

‘Natuurlijk. Ik wil zo veel mogelijk doen nu ik nog jong ben.’

De gerechten van Seven zijn meer dan enkel ‘experimenteel’. Mediterrane favorieten verschijnen in een gewaagde uitvoering. Risotto vind je in elk restaurant in de streek. Maar enkel bij Adam vind je zuurkoolrisotto met kalfstong, champagne en kappertjes.

‘Zwitserland heeft prachtige producten’, vertelt Adam. ‘Ik gebruik enkel seizoensproducten. In december zul je geen aardbeien op mijn menukaart aantreffen.’

Een vernieuwend menu samenstellen is een onconventionele benadering van dineren. Gedaan met de traditionele drie- of viergangenmenu’s. Hier heersen assaggini, wat Italiaans is voor ‘proeverijen’. Omdat de porties kleiner zijn, wordt aangeraden er drie tot vier te kiezen.

Adam staat ook bekend als de ‘receptenrapper’. ‘Ik wilde mijn boodschap overbrengen bij jonge mensen. Rap en hiphop leken me een fantastische manier om dat te doen’, legt hij uit. Adam nam zestien ‘rapcepten’ op en stak de cd in een soort van pizzadoos. Dankzij een samenwerking met een Zwitserse ontbijtgranenfabrikant kreeg de single ‘Birchermuesli’ dubbel platina in Zwitserland.

Een tweede restaurant, Seven Easy, gaat open in april en legt de klemtoon op het informele. Koks uit Sicilië en Napels zullen er hartige porties verse pasta, pizza en geroosterde gerechten bereiden.

Uitkijkend over Lago Maggiore, met Ascona badend in het zonlicht, is het niet moeilijk je aangetrokken te voelen tot deze plaats. ‘Het is fantastisch … Kijk toch eens, net Saint-Tropez!’ verklaart Adam.

Niet helemaal, nóg niet … Maar dat is slechts een kwestie van tijd.

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