Exotic bûche

Wildberry Charlotte

Green peppercorn grappa

Exotic cremoso with mango and lime fruit-salad


Here is an abstract of the interview with Luca Mannori who, in his shop in Prato, Tuscany, is working hard to conclude his first book "Come Musica - Elementi di Pasticceria" (Like Music - Elements of Pastry) which contains, in over 300 pages, his recipes and his applicative phylosophy.

Luca Mannori's pastry shop is, at all times, full of people coming and going as they buy or taste on location the products, choosing from a rich and varied list of products on offer, from tarts to chocolates, from petits fours to confitures, from savoury sandwiches to chocolate tablets. It's mid October and the shop is even busier than usual these days, because the photographer Giancarlo Bononi is in Prato for a long taking picture session. The “mise-en-scene” is carefully arranged not only with regard to lightning, but also as far as composition and aesthetic comprehension are concerned, because these images will provide the visual support of Luca Mannori's book, published by us at Chiriotti Editori, which will make its debut at Sigep exhibition (January 2004).
This is why we, editors of "Pasticceria Internazionale", are in Prato, in order to work to the editing of the book. That means overseeing the contents, from the text to the recipes, but also the layout, and finding the right balance between words and images. And this is because it's a teaching tool that doesn't just communicate through recipes and illustrations, but also aims at being constructive and original also by grouping the pastry products into the four vital and primordial elements: earth, water, wind and fire.
Creating a book takes time, precision, and patience: this is a recipe that reminds us pastry-making that is the result of creativity, professionality and personalization.
While we keep a close eye on the first picture session, we grab the chance to write the interview on location, while Luca Mannori walks around vigilantly, checking the recipes and preparing the desserts to be captured by camera. He's obviously moved, just like all of us.
These last few months we have got to know better this man, working to make the art of pastry richer. Quiet and reflective, shy but vigilant, at times untalkative, but able to turn into a fine talker, his sense of humour comes out making his eyes glitter with the playful look of a youngster. Luca is a volcano of ideas, always in full eruption. As soon as than he has defined a new project, he's already thinking up another one. A conveyor belt of ideas that doesn't make him restless, but quite the opposite. His passion is research, carried out with great care, but also with the desire to share, to convey knowledge to others. A desire that has lovingly turned into this book, which tells of his career, his sentiments and his operating phylosophy, without hiding anything. His easeness in describing a "path" is easy to see in the pages of this volume.
However, since at the beginning of this article we promised you an interview, it's time to let the author of "Come Musica - Elementi di Pasticceria" do the talking, leaving out the typical questions about his history - which you will discover by yourselves while reading the book - and starting out from the end, that is today.

Luca, tell us about the birth of this book. When did the writer's spark started?
For years people have been asking me when I would write my own book, so now I finally have the right answer. Joking apart, it's a desire that has grown through the years, but I kept telling myself: there are things to write about, but would I be able to tell them properly through writing? There was too much modesty. The real idea came at the Accademia di Bari's Symposium, in November 2002. Since then things have developed quickly, with the crucial push by Chiriotti Editori and by the photographer, Giancarlo Bononi.

Where do the 120+ recipes, published in "Come Musica - Elementi di Pasticceria", originate from?
I love researching matching and experimenting with new recipes, even during my courses, held throughout the year. The recipes in my book are borne out of long analysis, have been tested, and the confectionery products are already on sale in my shop.

Why did you choose to draw inspiration, and to base your pastry research on the four primordial elements: earth, water, wind and fire?
I like to feel emotions while studying the theory of the recipe. But I need to classify such sentiments, so what's better than the four basic elements of life? Therefore, the four chapters dedicated to the recipes are: Earth, Water, Wind and Fire. It's a choice that I find stimulating on a visual level as well, as it permits to create some suggestive settings, also thanks to the photographer's creative support. But above all, using the elements was useful to define and improve the structure of the sweets, their internal balance, which is what interests me most.

What have the biggest obstacles been for this editorial project?
That written part took a big effort, because I didn't think I had to dig so deepen. But I realized that it was necessary, because the recipes weren't enough to let the reader into my world. Besides that I was a bit stressed out during the first few days of the photography session, as I was hoping that the sweets would look fine, clean and precise.

So it isn't just a recipes book?
As I've said before, starting from the written draft, I felt the need to communicate in a more direct and complete way with my future readers, therefore the four chapters with the recipes are preceded by many explicative chapters, starting with my necessary "looking back", to draw conclusions from my past, until the sharing of the way I work and interpret pastry each day.

What does this book mean to you?
It's a new challenge, going back in the fight with a new point of view, a bet on the written word. This is the essential me, the same person everyone knows, the friend, the colleague, the teacher. In fact, in the chapters where I talk about myself and my work, I chose a “chatting” approach, as I do in my courses. My desire is to involve the reader, by offering him/her a piece of me. But without presumptions, because I'm the first one to admit that I'm not inventing anything, but I rather aim at finding the right balance, the rationalization of the elements.
In fact you focus a lot on the concept of rationalizing the work, in order to simplify the actions in the laboratory, and to offer the customer a product of a constantly high standard in quality. The most obvious example is the “trancio”. Can you talk about that?
I have been concentrating my research on the “trancio” and its thickness for over three years. All the details can be found in the book, but it's a technique perfected through time, starting from the circle and ending up with the rectangle. My objective is to be able to make use of a tool for several tasks. This is, in my opinion, the definition of openness of mind.

In "Come Musica - Elementi di Pasticceria", do you just talk about cakes?
Tarts, TRANCI and creamy tarts are always present at the beginning of each element. I've also given room to travel's sweets and cakes. Chocolate is very well covered in my book, as it's the noble ingredient for several tarts, spreads, and obviously chocolates, appearing in every chapter.

What other issues are covered?
Fruit and chocolate extra confitures which, in my opinion, can give good commercial satisfactions, and then glasses, mini-liquors and jellies. I've also enjoyed myself with some plated desserts, but I won't tell all now!

Luca, you are always on the move, always searching for new discoveries. Can you talk about one of your latest product inventions?
Passatempo (time-killer) comes to my mind: it's a preparation for hot chocolate, both the gianduja and the fondant kind, in 300 g packages. It's a product that draws inspiration from the passatello, the typical Tuscan dough, prepared in the same way, with a taste that reminds of the Maya's chocolate, as you can feel on your palate the crystalization of the sugar. I find it tasty to have it as a snack in front of the telly, maybe instead of pop corn! You won't find its description in the book though, as it's a few weeks old novelty and I intend to patent it.

Besides the novelties, you enjoy researching products that are on sale already, so what can you tell us of the evolution of the great Setteveli (sevel veils)?
The Setteveli is the sweet that made me famous, after winning the World Cup in Lyon, in 1997. Since then I stopped counting the imitations, even if the product is a registered trademark and, therefore, people shouldn't call imitations with that name. The result of this success the “Setteveli Voyage” is also with a registered trademark. It's a hazelnut-flavoured travel's sweet without sponge cake, with a special packaging. The product will obviously only be for sale at Beduschi's, Biasetto's, and my own pastry shop, since the three of us are the members of the team that won the Cup.

What did it mean to you winning the Coupe du Monde?
It was an important success for Italian pastry, since it needed a new impulse: we have transmitted the will to participate in contests. Personally it has given me a greater openness of mind, making me increase my effort not only in the laboratory, but also on the formation level.

In the book you highlight the importance of team work, made possible thanks to your wife Marina, your colleagues, and your daughter Daniela, newcomer at the shop. Next to you, especially in the shop, the women in your family are fundamental, including your mother Marianna and your auntie Adriana. What do they take care of?
My mother and my auntie keep giving a precious hand in the shop, as they've always done, while Marina is the one managing sales, taking care of each smallest detail, including window dressing and packaging. Daniela, who's twenty years old, prefers working in the cafeteria area. One of her inventions is the Happy Cocktail: on saturdays and sundays, for a couple of hours, we set up a rich buffet with aperitifs at special prices. I admit I was a bit perplexed, but the success has been remarkable. My other daughter, 18 year-old Silvia, studies at the moment, but has much different professional aspirations.

What about your colleagues in the laboratory?
Stefano Donati is my right arm, the first pastry chef: he grew with us and now he can substitute for me very well, taking care especially of chocolate. He has twin sons, 8 year-olds Andrea and Lorenzo. Maria Luisa Chechile has a spontaneous manual dexterity and a strong aesthetic sense, and in fact she is specialized in decorations and in the tarts sector: she has recently become the mother of Alessia. And then there are Alessio, who has already made a good professional path, followed by Vilma, Maria, Simona and Alfredo.

The title "Come Musica - Elementi di Pasticceria" is not just a statement about pastry, but it also refers to some of your past, consisting of the Conservatory, and your present, also consisting of music. What kind of music do you prefer?
In truth, after several years in music, today I play the drums with a group of friends: "La stanza della musica" (the music room); we mostly play 70's and 80's rock. If I think about my growing up, I must mention the Beatles, Genesis, and Pink Floyd. Among Italians I generally like those singers spreading music around the world. In the same way, my aim is to make our Italian pastry be better known around the world, as I'm proud of it. In my opinion the good, artisan pastry is a melody for the taste buds and for the eyes, just like music.