“I like to define my cooking as Mediterranean cuisine, based on balance, harmony and lightness,” explained Chef Heinz Beck of La Pergola at the Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri. Under the guidance of Chef Beck, La Pergola has become a temple of international gastronomy, historically the first and, still today, the only three-star Michelin restaurant in Rome.
Tell me a little bit about the origins and history of La Pergola.
It was 1994. I was working at Residenz Aschau, a 5-star hotel in Germany, under Heinz Winkler. He was asked by the General Manager of Cavalieri Hilton (its former name) to suggest a chef for relaunching La Pergola. Winkler proposed me to visit the restaurant. My idea was to stay only 2 or 3 years to gain experience. This year, I’m going to celebrate my 23rd anniversary.
How would you describe your own philosophy or approach to cooking and cuisine?
I like to define my cooking as Mediterranean cuisine, based on balance, harmony and lightness. Because the message I want to send is that the love of food doesn’t have to come at the risk of our health.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
There is not a fixed rule: inspiration can come from an emotion, a picture, a smile. The further the source of inspiration, the more particular will be the result. If I just use the raw material, all the dishes would be very similar. I try to go beyond, studying and transforming my ideas into dishes with the help of innovative techniques.
How do you maintain the level discipline and rigor necessary to achieve and sustain La Pergola's status as Rome's only three-star Michelin restaurant?
Compared to the past, eno-gastronomic trends have changed. Customers of restaurants today study the establishment in advance. They check reviews and comments online so that when they arrive they have a clear idea of what to expect. The expectations of our guests are very high indeed: we continuously train, we focus on cooking and service to be able to give our best, to anticipate their requests and meet their desires.
Walk me through the process of how a new dish is created, from your mind to the plate.
When I opened my restaurants in Tokyo, I spent one night in a ryokan in Kyoto. I woke up in the morning and I was in front of a water garden. It gave me a feeling of peace and tranquillity, well-being. When I came back to Rome, I created this dish I called “Water garden”, which consisted of zucchini purée and carpaccio of shrimps covered with tapioca pearls, cooked in an infusion of herbs. When you look at it, the dish has a greenish color with all the reflections given by tapioca pearls, like the breeze that passes over the water and makes it move slightly. Above it is then decorated with flowers, herbs and caviar, which are rocks that come out of the water garden. It's a very nice dish