Calabria in Shanghai
‘Brezza di mare’ is the name of the restaurant in Shanghai where Paolo Dodaro and his assistant chef de cuisine Roy Liu are winning over Eastern palates, mixing flavors from Mediterranean cuisine with Eastern touches. Attention to detail, visual harmony and Calabrian delicacies are the ingredients that are never lacking in the chef’s dishes.
You are an internationally renowned chef, born in Calabria, Italy, and famous throughout China. How did you gain success in a country in which food traditions are so different?
Consumers globally are increasingly interested in products that are of above-average quality. Italian know-how allows us to apply maximum operational standards to every type of cuisine and replicate them. So, I have applied that attention to detail and carefully crafted flavor mixes that have made our culinary tradition remarkable in the world and that the Chinese seem to appreciate without hesitation. I have always thought that, whoever is the ‘end user’ of a product, they should be educated about what they are about to taste.
What aspects of the Mediterranean diet are most valued in China?
Its lightness, the need to have a product that is nutritious and minimally processed. Mediterranean cuisine’s simplicity has been the key that has allowed our way of eating to become a world leader. Chinese culinary tradition has been very similar to the Mediterranean one for millennia. Of course, with the globalization of the economy and different lifestyles, food has also undergone transformations that have favored quicker and often not very nutritious products. Now the trend has reversed: the Chinese are back to being, like most of us, even more careful about what they eat. It no longer matters how much we eat, but how well.
Does your cuisine also feature Eastern influences?
The secret of a popular cuisine lies in its being carefully influenced by the surrounding reality. Elaborate aftertaste and slightly more spicy accents are perhaps the hallmarks of this new way of cooking Italian food from an Eastern perspective.
What is the most appreciated Calabrian dish in China? How do you use the famous Tropea onion in your dishes?
I could not pick out a dish that is more popular than others. However, anything that comes across as spicy always meets with considerable success among the people I cook for. Obviously Nduja and Piccantino are catching on and are often requested to enrich sea and land dishes. The Tropea onion? It is increasingly present.
In your opinion, how can the marketing and internationalization of products made in Calabria be encouraged?
It is a complex project and not entirely obvious. You need to have a solid base of operations, digital presence, and a lot of commitment. The fruits do not ripen instantly, but with dedication and a high-quality product you can do great things.