When I met Riccardo de Prà, up in the Veneto for one of our DigitalDiaries, it was in amazing circumstances: an incredible gourmet picnic, fixed and served by the charismatic, radical chef himself – all dressed up in jacket and hat – from his mobile kitchen, a remodelled vintage caravan he tows about precisely for such occasions. It’s just one of the cool things he does. Mostly or officially he works alongside his father Enzo in the restaurant of a 7-room hotel in Pieve d’Alpago, the family business. On the lower slopes of the Dolomites overlooking the Lago di Santa Croce, hotel and restaurant (like the mountain) are called Dolada, were established in 1923, and boast Italy’s oldest Michelin star. So, you see, Riccardo comes from eminent culinary stock.
Dolada today, though, is the showcase for a contemporary regional cuisine exquisitely re-fashioned from manically selected raw materials (some raised, grown or otherwise produced by the family), infused with flavours and influenced by techniques and disciplines from Riccardo’s manifold experiences with past masters of his profession around the globe. From classical cuisine to traditional Japanese food preparation to molecular gastronomy.
A sort of Renaissance Chef, then, apparently tireless in deconstructing, reinventing, innovating, radicalising, defying expectations and even descriptions and earning acclaim – in the kitchen and out of it. He has a spectacularly successful international catering operation, Doladino, hired for the grandest of events; he’s linked cinema with food (both Italian) in LA; he’s designed a wineglass, cooking utensils and tableware; in 2009 he opened a Dolada in London’s Mayfair which needs no further introduction; he’s written books; he’s a consultant for several food companies and collaborates with Slow Food; and on and on and on. Goodness knows how, now and again he also finds time to park his retro caravan-kitchen in some secluded spot and cook up a storm for a lucky few. And – breaking news – Riccardo is leading the Italo-French catering team for the wedding of the year: Clooney-Amal, Venice, September 29.