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Costardi Brothers Interview:
The 2 Bodies & 1 Brain
of Modern Italian
Love Italian Life Profile
Name: Christian and Manuel Costardi
Place of birth: Vercelli, Piedmont, Italy
Born: 1978 (Christian) and 1987 (Manuel)
Restaurant: Christian e Manuel
Michelin stars: one
The Costardi Brothers Christian and Manuel of Vercelli in Piedmont have developed an international reputation for revolutionising classic Italian products and recipes into modern creative ideas with unique concepts.
One obvious example is how they took rice which is Piedmont’s most famous crop and made it into over twenty different varieties of Michelin-starred risotto dishes that guests from all over the globe come to taste.
As older brother Christian proudly states “It is important to understand that you can find pasta or pizza anywhere in the world however risotto is the true dish that really represents Italy in the world today.”
Christian and Manuel Costardi were born into the hospitality industry at Hotel Cinzia which is the home of their restaurant and originally built by their grandfather in 1967. Christian is the older of the two brothers by 9 years having early aspirations of being a chef ever since he was given a dolce forno (a Italian toy oven) at the age of three. At fourteen years old he attended catering college and immediately started working at his grandfather’s Hotel Cinzia in Vercelli, west of Milan.
His brother Manuel is nine years younger and eventually followed suit just like Christian to enter the world of gastronomy. In diverse nature to his brother his culinary interests were more aligned to sweeter dishes which were refined from working at the Four Seasons hotel in Milan with Sergio Mei. Manuel eventually joined his brother Christian in 2005 to work in the kitchen together professionally.
The Costardi Brothers soon won their first Michelin star in 2009 and overnight quickly became international ambassadors for Piedmont and the biggest global export of their region – Risotto.
Christian and Manuel uniquely have four tasting menus known as Evolution, Passion, Emotion and Territory.
Evolution shows the past, present and future progression of their dishes while Passion pays respect to ‘The Silent World’ directed by Jacques Cousteau where each dish represents the six themes of the film being stone, sea, ground, grass, blood and smoke. The ‘Emotion’ menu symbolises the passion of farmers while ‘Territory’ represents the best of local produce in Piedmont including the traditional dish known as ‘panissa’ which is made with red wine and beans.
The Costardi Brothers and their restaurant ‘Christian and Manuel’ have just been nominated for the following 3 award categories at The Love Italian Life Awards 2019 in Dublin this November with online public voting commencing shortly:
1. The Best Contemporary Restaurant in Piedmont 2019
2. The Best Contemporary Italian Restaurant in Italy 2019
3. The Best Male Italian Chef in Europe 2019
Here is the exclusive interview between the Costardi Brothers and The Love Italian Life Awards:
Love Italian Life:What are the ingredients that make a restaurant truly contemporary in Italy today?
The Costardi Brothers:We do not believe that there are specific ingredients that make a contemporary restaurant in Italy today.
However what we feel makes a restaurant contemporary is the ability to create new memories while carefully making sure not to lose the traditions of cooking. At the time it is crucial that the recipes are current where they can move progressively from the past to the present and into the future through modern techniques and utilising the incredible culinary technology we have today.
Being recognisable is essential in achieving a contemporary focus – both me and my brother strongly believe in the importance of people being able to recognise your dishes from the first all important taste.
At the same time being contemporary does not necessarily mean being strange or extreme, yet it does certainly involve working on innovative ideas, doing careful research and studying a lot.
Love Italian Life: What exactly inspired the Costardi Brothers to be passionate about food and become chefs?
The Costardi Brothers:We were born and raised within the Cinzia hotel which was built by our grandparents in 1967.
From an early age we always had the tendency to spend our days in the kitchen, for example as a child I (Christian) used to play with the toy oven for hours on end forcing everyone in our family to eat the make belief tarts that I prepared. While my brother Manuel who was 9 years younger than me eventually followed suit and also began playing with me in our toy kitchen at the hotel.
It is fair to say that we had the love of food in our veins from a very young age at the hotel – almost like it was coded into our DNA.
We always followed this passion and as the famous saying goes – today we can honestly say that we have never worked one day in our lives because we truly love what we do.
“Working together personifies the glorious phrase our mother used to say about us which was “two bodies and a brain.”
Love Italian Life:Why is the region of Piedmont so important to you both?
The Costardi Brothers:Piedmont is our home, it is the place where we grew up – it is our region which offers extraordinary products and remarkable unique landscapes.
If Piedmont is all of the above – then the city of Vercelli in this region means even more to us because it simply continues the legacy of our family tradition. Over generations the restaurant interior of the hotel built by our grandparents has changed however our family mission has always stayed the same.
We are the first restaurant in the city to have received the Michelin star which was awarded in 2009 and this year we proudly celebrate our ten year anniversary in the guide.
Love Italian Life:What are the major similarities and differences you both have as brothers that work together in the kitchen?
The Costardi Brothers: Working together for us personifies the glorious phrase our mother used to say about us which was “two bodies and a brain”.
We are two brothers with an age difference of 9 years but we have a symbiotic relationship where we complete the work of each other i.e. what is missing from one brother – the other brother has. Therefore the approach to our work in the kitchen is completely different to any other chef on their own.
For example I (Christian) normally deal with the immediate and explosive moments where as my brother Manuel deals with the meticulous and perfectionist issues.
This balanced approach is what makes us unique.
Love Italian Life:After winning the Lavazza Prime award for ‘Best Espresso Coffee’ in L’Espresso Guide – what is it that makes the perfect Italian coffee?
The Costardi Brothers:The perfect coffee for us certainly starts from the selection of coffee chosen.
It is very important to choose coffee that best matches a kitchen and above all what allows us to ensure that the meal finishes at the highest level possible.
Care and attention should also be taken when deciding the choice of the coffee machine and grinder along with making sure the hands that use them are well qualified and experienced to ensure the perfect Espresso is made.
“It is fair to say that we had the love of food in our veins from a very young age – almost like it was coded into our DNA.”
Love Italian Life: Your restaurant at Hotel Cinzia famously specialises in risotto – why is this dish so special to you both?
The Costardi Brothers:Our saying is “We sowed a grain of rice and from there the Costardi Brothers were born”.
When we decided to start our restaurant in Vercelli we thought deeply about how we could pay tribute to our territory. In the end it was very clear that celebrating the true product of our local land (risotto) was how we could do this.
We decided to choose the finest quality of rice grains with an incredible selection to match.
It is important to understand that you can find pasta or pizza anywhere in the world however risotto is the true dish that really represents Italy in the world today.
Love Italian Life: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of coming into the industry as a young chef?
The Costardi Brothers:This work is made up of 95% passion, it is not a job, it is a life choice.
It is important to study, read and take an interest in Art, Fashion, Music, Cinema because at the end of the day real cuisine is about real culture.
Above all through our work in the kitchen we have an obligation to help shape and create new forms of culture.
Love Italian Life: What are your opinions on the Italian food scene in major English speaking cities?
The Costardi Brothers: Italian food is certainly the most sought after in the world, cities like Dublin and London are perhaps the best places globally where Italian cooks in the kitchen have the possibility to express themselves the most creatively.
Love Italian Life: For anyone who hasn’t eaten in Ristorante Christian e Manuel before, how would you sum up the dining experience?
The Costardi Brothers: Eating in our restaurant for us is an intimate reflection of who we are.
Through our dishes we aim to express our character in every recognisable bite. Our restaurant is run by a family consisting of us, our Mother and all the important people who work with us.
The experience at the table is personalised through the great qualities of Elisa Bellavia who is our dining room manager and is like a sister to us.
We truly feel Elisa is the personal bridge between us and the customer.