Alessandro Gavagna

Alessandro Gavagna

With a love for the region of Friuli and its ingredients, Alessandro Gavagna's unique food is a perfect marriage of Italian and Slovenian cuisine. As well as using all sorts of modern, contemporary techniques, he's constantly on the look out for forgotten or unheard of ingredients to include in the dishes at his beautiful restaurant, La Subida.

Alessandro Gavagna can't imagine a world in which he didn't grow up to be a chef. At a push, he could have ended up as a mechanic ('I enjoyed taking mopeds apart as a kid'), but his heart wouldn't be in it; food has dominated his life ever since he was young thanks to his upbringing in beautiful Friuli, next to the Slovenian border in northern Italy.

Born in 1972, he can remember having his arms elbow-deep in pasta dough as he helped his mother make pasta in the kitchen. It was this – plus all the amazing ingredients on his doorstep – which led him to enroll at a catering college at fourteen. After a few brief placements at small local restaurants, he moved on to La Subida in Cormons when he was eighteen. He's worked there ever since, rising through the ranks to become head chef. He's devoted his life to the restaurant, and even married the owner's daughter during his time there.

La Subida celebrates the flavours of the region. 'The food I cook is the cuisine of where I'm based,’ says Alessandro. ‘There's a mix of Mediterranean, central European, Friulian and Slovenian dishes, which I try and evolve and bring attention to.' The food of Fruilia is particularly unique as the region is made up of coastlines, fields, forests and mountains. This means there's plenty to choose from, and traditional recipes typically contain wild herbs, spices and flowers, game, fresh fish and forest fruits, all of which appear on Alessandro's menu. What makes his food stand out from the other restaurants in the area is his ability to incorporate other cuisines – particularly Slovenian – into dishes and giving them contemporary twists, which he believes is the best way to bring attention to the region's food culture. Typical dishes on the menu include Courgette flowers, apple and horseradish, Rabbit and tarragon and Venison and azerole berries.

While keeping current and modern is something very important to Alessandro's heart, that doesn't mean he's forgotten the past. Far from it – he believes having roots firmly in traditional food the key to his success. In fact, it's one of the ways he's made La Subida such a gourmet destination. 'I'm always reading recipes to discover forgotten or unknown ingredients. Using things like vermicelli made out of carob flour and scraps of leftover pasta dough really bring my dishes alive.'

His loyalty to tradition is reflected in his seasonal approach to food, too. In spring he'll fill the menu with wild herbs, hops and spices, whereas summer is full of wild garlic, courgette and pumpkin flowers. Autumn is when rich game such as hare makes an appearance, while the winter months bring dried fruit and nuts. This, combined with his unrivaled technical skills in the kitchen, was what helped the restaurant gain a Michelin star. 'I'll never forget the wonderful amount of emotion I experienced when I won the star,' says Alessandro, 'But the greatest recognition comes from the appreciation of our restaurant guests.'