“If there’s no chocolate in Heaven, I’m not going! And what about you?”
by Claudia Ferronato
Ernst Knam: pastry chef, chef and TV personality. Let’s welcome the lover and king of chocolate.
- Which Country has most influenced your style?
Italy, where I’ve been living for over 30 years. I took my first steps in Germany, then many travels and experiences around the world helped me open up my mind and work on different projects, without revolutionising the Knam style. Sakura Cake “blossomed” after a journey to Japan; besides the use of Shiro-an (white bean paste) for the preparation of the dough, the decoration with salted cherry blossoms recalls the blossoming of cherry trees in Japan. I also took inspiration from Peru for my ceviche cake: fruit base, coconut misérable cake, dark chocolate cremoso and a multicolour glaze. These recipes are included in my new book entitled “La mia storia con il cioccolato”, where the “food of the gods” is combined with different ingredients which I learnt and studied during my travels.
- How would you describe your working experience with Gualtiero Marchesi?
It has been very important to me. I started to work with him in 1989. This experience greatly influenced and defined my cooking philosophy. For example, I learnt that “less is more”, which means that, in order to enhance the taste of the raw materials, you must reduce decorations.
- You are both a chef and a pastry chef. How do you combine these two roles?
They work in perfect synergy! I started to work as an apprentice in a pastry shop; then I joined the kitchen brigades of some of the best restaurants in the world. If you want to improve your skills as a pastry chef, you have to learn the basics of cooking, because an excellent pastry chef can be also a good cook, while the converse is unlikely to happen.
- Now let’s talk about your passion for chocolate. What is your favourite type?
Chocolate is the main ingredient of my sweets: cakes, pralines and creations. It is malleable: a solid element that can be melted to create different shapes in a wide range of styles and textures. I mostly use dark chocolate but each person has their own taste.
- In addition to professionalism and experience, what are the characteristics of an excellent pastry chef?
Knowledge: every creation necessarily relies on raw materials, either sweet or savoury, therefore every chef should always know how to exploit their potential.
- When did you become aware of your ability to share recipes on books and even on the television?
Books have always been a part of my career; every recipe is a project and it is satisfying to put it down in writing. As regards the television, it made the first move towards me: an author asked me to become the protagonist of “Il re del cioccolato”. Initially, I didn’t want to participate in the show, but then I immediately became familiar with the set and realised that I felt comfortable in front of the camera.
- Is it useful to have a sweet tooth?
Surely, greediness and curiosity are the perfect combination to try new ways. Whenever I visit a place, I always taste the typical dishes and products. For example, during my last trip to Canada, I studied the whole maple syrup production chain and prepared some pralines precisely inspired by the properties of this ingredient.
- Have you ever been to Jesolo?
No, but never say never! I am very curious, so I would be glad to visit this city.
- Does our city remind you of a recipe in particular?
Yes, my Extreme Blue cake with anchovy sauce: it is made of 70% dark chocolate, milk chocolate and anchovy sauce. The perfect dosage of the ingredients and the correct use of raw materials lead to an amazing result!