Ascona-Locarno’s top-quality products attract top chefs. It’s no coincidence that there are four Michelin stars in the Lake Maggiore region and 439 Gault & Millau points: an average of 14 points across 31 restaurants, led by Ristorante Ecco at the Hotel Giardino (2 stars), Ristorante La Brezza at the Hotel Eden Roc (1 star) and Locanda Barbarossa at the Hotel Castello del Sole (1 star). The region has also given us great chefs who take the flavours of our region with them to other countries. We take a sneak peek into the kitchen of a Michelin-starred chef who hails from Locarno.
Pietro Leemann is Executive Chef and co-founder of Joia, the first vegetarian restaurant in Europe to receive a Michelin star, all the way back in 1996. Born in Locarno in 1961, he splits his time between Milan and the Vallemaggia. He’s been the chef at the restaurant on Monte Verità for a year and loves to collaborate with the food scene in Ascona-Locarno, as demonstrated by his recent partnership with chef Davide Asietti – Executive Chef at Blu Restaurant and Lounge in Locarno - with whom he has developed a delicious vegetarian menu of dishes that highlights the region’s products.
“People of substance are important when you're young. I decided to become a chef thanks to my close relationship with the charismatic great chef from Ticino Angelo Conti Rossini, who was a good family friend. I was 15. Thanks also to Angelo, I was lucky enough to work in some of the most important restaurants in Europe to learn the trade, under the guidance of great masters such as Gualtiero Marchesi and Frédy Girardet”. In the 1980s, Pietro decided to explore his growing interest in vegetarian cuisine, a choice that, thanks to his sensitivity and respect for all living creatures and the environment, took him to the Orient, where he lived for several years between China, Japan and India, discovering the values of healthy vegetarian cuisine. “Vegetarian cuisine is increasingly important in society, because more and more people are starting to follow it. While between the post-war period and the early 1990s, people ate meat several times a day, nowadays the trend is to consume less meat and to eat more plant-based foods as a consequence”. A plant-based world that, the chef tells us, is not always easy to interpret and shouldn’t try to imitate meat, but instead to bring out the value of the ingredients used and the strengths they offer. Ascona-Locarno products know how to stand out in this respect: grown under the Ticino sunshine – which Pietro Leemann compares to Sicily – they have a unique taste that’s easy to celebrate.