Cooking with respect for the environment
Marco Ortolani’s cuisine celebrates authentic flavors in a sustainable and ethical spirit.
The Executive Chef at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich takes us to meet one of his producers in Poschiavo, a wild, romantic village in Graubünden.
In tune with Nature
Italian chef Marco Ortolani loves simple, authentic cuisine. He favors regional products and cooks with respect for the environment. “Nature has its own rhythm”, he says, “it’s up to us to adapt to it and be flexible with what it has to offer.”
Years of international wanderings, from Hong Kong to Argentina, have not deterred Ortolani from his principles: authentic taste and local, seasonal produce. And that’s a good thing because it preserves a region’s gastronomic know-how.
Marco Ortolani at Eden Kitchen & Bar: local, seasonal cuisine
Our visit coincides with hunting season, yet game is absent from the menu at Eden Kitchen & Bar, where Ortolani was awarded a Michelin star in 2022. The chef prefers to advise his guests in person about these dishes, which are limited for the sake of sustainability and are not always available.
“I prefer not to put anything on the menu and in return have the freedom of offering guests fresh produce from my supplier”, he explains.
For Ortolani, acting in a sustainable manner is less a question of adopting a fashionable ecological stance than of respecting the balance of Nature’s rhythms.
Working closely with his supplier, Gian Luca Zanetti, the fourth generation of his family to run Macelleria Zanetti in Poschiavo, his cooking only uses what hunters are authorized to shoot in the wild, so as not to upset the balance of game popu-lations.
Macelleria Zanetti – traditional artisans since 1869
This family-run business has been slaughtering animals raised on local farms for over 150 years and with its dozen employees, it is anything but an industrial butchery.
“We are artisans and the making of our produce, including the award-winning Mortadella di Poschiavo, is based on the experience of several generations”, says Gian Luca Zanetti. A very contemporary approach to production – and one entirely in line with Marco Ortolani’s philosophy.
The butchery and delicatessen products are entirely natural, eco-logical and traditional. On the top floor of the building, the sausages – which contain no flavor enhancers or preservatives – are air-dried at a temperature of around 12°C and a humidity level of 72%.
Macelleria Zanetti works exclusively with regional raw materials. This production process, which is the opposite of mass production, is certified “100% Valposchiavo”, a label guaranteeing that the products bearing it originate from and have been produced in the valley.
Marco Ortolani wants to give pride of place to regional produce, so he decided to source his game from the Zanetti butchery.
Wild game, respected by hunters
“Deer, roe deer, chamois and ibex live in these incredibly beautiful landscapes. Their diet is totally free of GMOs and antibiotics. They feed on what they find locally”, explains the Michelin-starred chef.
“Until they are slaughtered by local hunters, they lead a quiet life, in tune with their needs. This affects the quality of the meat: it’s more tender, as well as tastier and healthier.” Many people believe that hunters don’t like game animals. This is in fact a myth, but one that has endured since the release of the Bambi animated drama film.
On the contrary: according to tradition, the hunter places a branch in the mouth of the dead animal, symbolizing the last mouthful, thus paying it a final tribute. Gian Luca Zanetti has been working with the same ten hunters from Poschiavo for years.
The three-week intensive hunting period begins at the beginning of September, during which most of the deer, roe deer and chamois are taken. Depending on the results, this may be followed by a special stag and roe deer hunt in November and December.
“This special hunt helps to reduce game populations and restore balance”, explains Zanetti.
From tail to cheek: nothing goes to waste in Marco Ortolani’s kitchen
It’s in the nature of things that Macelleria Zanetti doesn’t always sell every type of game and every cut.
As a result, Marco Ortolani counts on Gian Luca Zanetti to provide him with the cuts he needs to create the ” Pappardelle with venison ragout ” or the ” Poschiavo chamois, pumpkin and chervil, sauce Roberto” that will be served at the Eden Kitchen & Bar’s Business Lunch.
For Ortolani, respecting animals also means using more than just the noble parts. “When an animal is slaughtered, I work on it in its entirety – from tail to cheek. It’s my job to use everything, for reasons of ethics and sustainability.”
Macelleria Zanetti’s cured meats are in great demand
Gian Luca Zanetti and Marco Ortolani: masters of their craft
Macelleria Zanetti has been producing butchery and charcuterie specialties, handcrafted according to age-old traditions, for four generations
For generations, the hunters of the Val Poschiavo have respected Nature and its cycles
Poschiavo is a romantic village at the junction between Engadina and Valtellina
Text by Sara Allerstorfer