Claudio Del Principe, is an autodidactic chef, cookbook author and copywriter. He is a blogger, too and that is how I met him. Some ten years ago. His blog in German called ‘anonymekoeche.net’ is the only cooking blog I follow. I would not make my Bratkartoffeln (pan fried potatoes) any other way and have impressed many of my guests with Claudio’s spare ribs cooked in lemonade or cola. The blog started in 2007 and the very first article is about the joys, fears and merits of eating a real Côte de Boeuf. Yeah man!
Claudio is of Italian decent and Swiss nationality; he lives in German speaking Basel and writes in German. The blog has influenced his life, it seems, allowing him today to follow his true passion: Cooking, baking, eating – and writing about it. His style and taste can be described as simple yet refined.
Makers Bible: Claudio, you blog on food and cooking since 2007. I recall that your bio stated “copywriter” as your profession, a few years ago. Today you describe yourself as cookbook author, copywriter and storyteller. Is this a change in career? Does food take up more of your time professionally today then ten years ago?
Yes! And that is truly the biggest reward I got in return from blogging. Finally I can combine my passion with my profession. That’s a bingo. I still work as a freelance copywriter though. But 80% of my clients come from the food, wine and gastronomy sector.
MB: For our book “Makers Bible – The Alps” we talked to a lot of restaurant owners and chefs about “Alpine Cuisine” or “die wahre oder neue” Alpine Küche. We want to ask you about your definition of Alpine Cuisine?
I feel strongly connected to the alpine culture and cuisine, since my parents come from Pescasseroli, a small village in the center Apennines. It’s also the head quarter of the national park of Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise. A very rural region where bears and wolves still live in the wild. Life and tradition at 1200 meters above sea level are very similar to the alpine regions. People were forced to make the best out of little. This is very formative and a big influence for me. When cooking, I always try to reduce things to the max. I ask myself, what ingredient can I omit instead of adding it? The food that is produced in the alps, is what I call real food. It should always speak for itself. It is artisanal produced food. This means humble people put great effort, time and hard work to it. We should appreciate this and be humble and aware of it when we enjoy it. The quality and the taste of traditional (sometimes also innovative), artisanal alpine food is incomparable.
MB: I had the feeling that Alpine Cuisine means something different to many. It became some sort of trend word? From ‘Viennese Schnitzel’ to ‘pickled’ and ‘only grown in the surroundings’ Alpine cuisine seems to round up a lot. Is it a trend?
Consumers are loosing more and more orientation. What should one buy and eat? What is good for your health, the planet, your karma? The hunger for authenticity and “doing the right thing” is growing. The Alpine Cuisine has some sort of intact world image. Unfortunately it is also a convenient vehicle for the food industry and marketing. What they do is in my eyes “culinary appropriation.” They sell fake food that pretends to be traditional. It pretends to be regional. It pretends to be good, healthy, authentic, pure and of superior quality. Well, we know it’s not. But we who are aware of it are still a minority.
MB: You are a brother-in-mind of Richard Käggi who loathes food trends and preaches the unpretentious and traditional. You are a fan of many Swiss restaurants writing ‘alpine cuisine’ all over their websites. Is it a term you two agree or fight about?
If it’s real, we agree, yes. Definitively! People need to know about the incredible diversity of the alpine region. About alpine custom and culinary heritage. They need to know how alpine food is produced (not in a multinational food corporation for sure). And – once you discovered and tasted those products, recognize that we must protect and promote those culinary treasures.
You got no time to cook?
MB: A strengths of anonymekoeche is that you ‘preach liberal dogmas’ an advice to your reader and virtual fellow-chefs like “there is no cream in Carbonara” or “place your Schnitzel up-right after taking it out of the pan” and on Schnitzel again “trickle the lemon only onto the next bite in order to avoid the coating getting soggy”. Name your top dogma or trick, please.
Time is one of the most precious ingredients. Not only for cooking. You need to take your time to carefully choose the right ingredients. You need to let time do it’s magic –flavor needs time to develop. You have to take your time to do things properly. You got no time to cook? Don’t cook. Don’t try to take shortcuts. Your food won’t taste and look as good if you rush. Be humble, learn your basics. Enjoy every little thing you do in the kitchen, pealing and cutting onions can be meditative. Learn the tradition, master the authentic recipe of a dish, only then you can innovate and be creative. And finally – less is more, try to be happy with what you got and bring out the best of it.
MB: There is a point on your blog when you seemed to have mastered the craft and art of baking bread. What is so satisfying about sour dough and the first perfect bread?
Oh my god! It is the biggest love story of my culinary life. For ten years, I’m not kidding, I was too scared to start my own sourdough. I thought you have to become a professional baker first or at least study chemistry. Instead it’s very intuitive and natural. My lievito madre, a traditional Italian sourdough, is now three years old. I called her Bianca! She lives in the fridge and I have to feed her every week. She even comes along when I travel. She has become a family member. And when you think about it, with only water and flour she became a wild yeast and only by adding more flour, more water, salt and time, I am able to bake bread only by hand, with no machine, that tastes better as every bread I can buy. That’s not only satisfying. I call this a miracle!
MB: You visit and write about chef’s and cooking conventions. What’s the point about these conventions? How much is learning and how much is Fandom?
I am a very open and curious person. And I believe you can learn something new every day. And as much as I am a fan of Italian granny cuisine and simple, traditional food, I also love the high-end cuisine of top chefs. They are just massive characters. Strong personalities with and incredible workload, positive energy and unbelievable creativity. You can definitively learn a lot on cooking technique and plating and it’s often extremely inspiring.
MB: In your opinion, what is the driver behind the superstar-chef and general cooking trend?
You are what you eat, right? But you are also “where” you eat. I think it’s a purely social thing. People like more and more to distinct and define themself through food and culinary knowledge. Let’s face it: Food is the new religion. And top chefs the high priests!
MB: What do you admire in a chef?
First of all: Honesty. I like chefs with a clear attitude. Chefs who assume responsibility. Towards their craft, team, partner, supplier, produce and guests. And then again, their perseverance, energy and creativity.
MB: I would think that besides cooking your ‘other’ passion is writing. What we found is how well the recipes are described: Short, on eye-level, no lists and no exact measures and always with a dash of humor. Who are your favorite authors?
I always name the same author since years: Martin Suter. He was a brilliant copywriter and became an even better author. I like how sharp he writes. Trenchantly.
MB: Writing is a craft. Cooking is a craft. Are you a craftsman?
More and more, absolutely. Especially after becoming an amateur baker. That made me realize what it means to be a good craftsman. It’s not talent or creativity. It’s endurance, patience and repetition. You got to earn your skills by doing the same grip over and over again. That’s one of the few things you can’t buy. It’s called: experience. My next cook book will be about handmade pasta. And we know who makes the best pasta … old italian ladies with uncountable hours of practicing!
Let’s face it: Food is the new religion.
And top chefs the high priests!
MB: Is the preparation of a meal craft and manufacturing? What has impressed you most when you looked at chefs at work, especially their hand-craft skills?
The answer to this can be seen in every Netflix episode of “Chef’s Table”. On a personal level, and since we talked about Alpine Cuisine, I would say the work and philosophy of Swiss female chef Rebecca Clopath. She lives in the alps and is taking over her parents organic farm. She is very talented, creative and earthed. Her vision is to serve strictly seasonal food that she grew or foraged herself around her farm. She definitively opens your horizon with her skills and approach.
MB: You know our last two books. What is your opinion about them? Would you do anything differently? Or suggest a theme for a next book?
Please, don’t change anything on the concept! The look and feel when you hold it in your hands is just pure joy. It’s one of the rare books that reveals more than the words and pictures in it. It’s something between the book covers that speaks to the reader. It says: This is a real book about real things from real people.
Claudio wrote and published some four cookbooks. The main theme is simple Italian home cooking. “Al Forno”, “A Casa”, “Ein Sommer wie damals” and “Italien vegetarisch”. All books are in German. His next book is about handmade pasta and will appear this fall.
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