Pandemic forces Michelin-starred chef to ‘deliver’ his gourmet meals

French chef Marc Lanteri wears a facemask as he cooks in his restaurant in the Castle of Grinzane in Grinzane Cavour, Langhe Unesco Heritage, northwestern Italy. (AFP pic)

PIEDMONT: When one thinks of food deliveries, the mind turns to pizza. Maybe Chinese food.

But a chef in northern Italy has begun a delivery service from his elegant Michelin- starred restaurant — in response to the two-month shutdown due to Covid-19.

French chef Marc Lanteri has been at the helm of the Ristorante al Castello Grinzane Cavour in Piedmont since 2015, never imagining that a health crisis would drive him to start doing deliveries.

But recently, the protege of Alain Ducasse and other renowned chefs decided to make the best of things as the restaurant awaits reopening.

In cooking for deliveries only, Lanteri has become a culinary one-man show — sous chef, cook, and delivery man to boot.

“We decided to do delivery so we wouldn’t get out of the habit and to acquire a new clientele,” Lanteri told AFP.

“We have to welcome a more local clientele.”

Located about five kilometres (three miles) from Alba within the hilly UNESCO region of Langhe, known for white truffles and Barolo red wines, the restaurant usually attracts clients from further afield in Italy, as well as international tourists.

They come not only for the food, which has garnered one star from Michelin, but the spectacular setting, located inside a 11th century castle atop the town of Grinzane Cavour.

The castle was once the home of Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, a 19th century Italian statesman.

To make it work, Lanteri has lowered prices and focused on a simpler, more rustic Piedmontese menu.

For 35 euros ($38), a client receives a full meal based on seasonal produce, delivered to the home by the chef himself.

And, in a nod to the exceptional circumstances that have touched Italy and the world, a mask is included with each order.

On a recent afternoon, the menu included a homemade pasta, a beef dish featuring rump steak, and a traditional Brittany dessert.

“The meats are pre-cooked, barely pink and vacuum-packed,” said Lanteri, adding that instructions for the final steps come with the meal.

“The customer, following our instructions, can make a gastronomic meal.”

One downside — clients won’t be able to enjoy the restaurant’s luminous dining room featuring well-worn terracotta tile floors, heavy beamed ceilings and ancient, weathered bricks.

But Lanteri says that little by little, locals are getting used to the idea of delivery.

“It’s more busy on weekends, during the week it’s a bit quieter. But people have to get used to it,” Lanteri said.

The restaurant has not yet decided when it will reopen its doors for normal dining service, although Lanteri acknowledges that things will inevitably change.

“And it won’t be easy anyway,” he said. “The client will have to get used to it, especially at the beginning. He will be a little reluctant to come. We’ll have to make him feel confident and it’s a real challenge.”

“We’re going to make it, we hope.”