Valentino Cassanelli

Italy at the table.

Restaurant Lux Lucis will reopen its doors on March 15, after the annual break. At Forte dei Marmi, on Tuscany, Italy, chef Valentino Cassanelli keeps down a path that adds creativity and freedom to the concept of Italian cuisine. On an interview to ROOF Magazine, the chef tells us about the way he faces his career, his origins and Lux Lucis.

When did you realize that being a chef was your dream job?

I have always wanted to be a chef. Ever since I was a young boy, I loved food and the gastronomic world. From helping my grandmother and mother make tortellini and lasagne, I began to appreciate the happiness you get from cooking for others, which is the main reason I decided to become a chef.

You have worked in several places (including abroad). How did they contributed to the way you work nowadays?

Each experience has given me something invaluable to my own thinking and style: Locatelli gave me knowledge and taught me how to respect ingredients; Nobu showed me how to research tradition and translate it in a contemporary way, and Cracco taught me how to be creative without limit. 

What/Who are your main gastronomic references?

The Lux Lucis team, the region surrounding me and my experience are my main references. 

What did it mean to you, to be awarded a Michelin star?

It was a great honour to be awarded a Michelin star. It shows we are heading in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go for us. We were pleased to be recognised by Michelin, knowing that they have trust in Lux Lucis and myself. 

Your cuisine is, above all, Italian. What’s best about the Italian cuisine?

The ingredients, taste and emotion make Italian food so special. There is an incredible biodiversity in Italy and the culture of food is embedded into society, so there is great opportunity for Italian cuisine. 

What’s your favourite ingredient and why?

Although I don’t have a favourite ingredient, I would say tomatoes because they are a symbol of Italy. I love how they can be sweet, sour, delicate or intense. Despite being a common ingredient, tomatoes can be really difficult to use well. 

Do you have a specific creative process?

It’s not the same for each plate, but as a rule, the seasons tend to influence my creative process. I think about the specific location I want to represent and the emotion I want to transmit to the palate. I combine this with the ingredients available and techniques from my experience to compose a menu with a concept that tells a story. 

What’s best about working at Lux Lucis?

One of the best things about working at Lux Lucis is the team – we’re like a big family. We all work on the menu and around the guests to make their visit special. The front of house, chefs and bartenders are all here to make a difference.  

The location of Lux Lucis is another reason why I love working here. The Tyrrhenian Sea is only 200 meters away, and the Apuan Alps are on 15 kilometers away. It’s a small town with local and international tourism, so low season comes naturally. Low season allows us to dedicate time to research new menus and travel, so there are many reasons why!

Does Modena still have an important role in your life and your cuisine?

Modena is in my roots so it will always be present in plates, ideas and flavours. It’s part of the structure on the tasting menu at Lux Lucis. The “On the road” menu brings guests from Forte dei Marmi to Modena through the “Via Vandelli” route. 

And how is Tuscany revealed in your dishes?

We are ambassadors of the country we are in and Tuscany is a great region to represent, with its rich history and culture. Lux Lucis is Tuscany, and the region is incorporated in my dishes in every way, from the inspiration to the ingredients. 

Photos: Courtesy of Lux Lucis

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