> Chefs

Antonia Klugmann

After working at Venissa for three years, Antonia and Romano decided to open their own restaurant for the second time. In December 2014, L’Argine a Vencó opened for service north of Venice in Dolegna del Collio, near the Slovenian border. Surrounded by vineyards, the small farmhouse restaurant has already won a Michelin star and makes the most of the fresh produce and herbs Antonia fell in love with when tending to her vegetable garden. Being based on the Italian-Slovenian border means her cuisine celebrates diversity, and plays with unusual flavour combinations to create dishes like no other. ‘I come from a place where there is a mix of cultures and influences,’ she says. ‘I am part-Serbian, part-Austrian and my grandfather spoke four different languages. Being based on the border means I can cook traditional food in a non-traditional way.’

Much of Antonia’s food and the way she pairs flavours together is down to her admiration for chefs such as Ferran Adrià, Massimiliano Alajmo and Pier Giorgio Parini. ‘I think they’re geniuses,’ she says. ‘They showed us a new way or working. I think Pier Giorgio is the best chef of our generation – every time I cook with him I feel I am always one step behind.’

When it comes to ingredients, some of Antonia’s favourites are blue fish and anchovies – produce which is rarely seen as a special or luxurious food. ‘What really excites me is working with something that people don’t think of as a precious ingredient. I love to see the beauty where others cannot.

‘I don’t like to talk about revising traditional cuisine,’ she adds. ‘I like to invent. Invention, however, is always the result of a past knowledge, experience or tradition. This is what people find when they taste my dishes.’

Three things you should know

When she isn’t cooking, Antonia is a keen sailor, and is a fully qualified instructor at the Caprera Sailing Centre.

Since 2010, Antonia has collaborated with the ALMA Academy, a school created by Gualtiero Marchesi to teach both Italian and American chefs.

In the future, Antonia wants to produce more and more of the ingredients she uses herself.