Eugenio Boer


Eugenio Boer

Eugenio Boer mixes tradition with innovation at his Michelin-starred Milan restaurant Essenza. His curiosity and creativity know no bounds but seasonality remains at the heart of his food.

The son of a Dutch father and an Italian mother, Eugenio Boer was born in Rapallo 1978 but spent his early years in Holland. He always wanted to cook, inspiration having struck early in the form of his Ligurian maternal grandmother Rosa who lived with the family. Eugenio began helping her prepare fresh pasta from the age of three, recalling: ‘She was a resolute woman, a partisan and fought in the Resistance during World War II. She did not use to show her feelings very often but I could feel her love while cooking.’

This nascent interest soon became a passion that, even from a young age, Eugenio was determined to turn into a career. The Boers moved to Italy when he was seven and at twelve he took a job in a friend's restaurant. His father was determined that Eugenio finish school, however, so work had to be combined with study.

After working for some of Italy’s greatest chefs including Gaetano Trovato, Alberto Rizzi, Norbert Niederkofler and Filippo Saporito, Eugenio moved to Kolja Kleeberg’s Berlin restaurant Vau. ‘I have been very lucky to work with such fantastic chefs,’ he says. ‘I always listened to them, I let myself be improved by all of them, acquiring my own vision and sensibility and, most of all, my own story.

In 2011 he returned to Italy, to Milan, opening Enocratia (a wine bar and restaurant) followed by the more casual Fishbar De Milan and Elita, a fashionable cocktail and tapas joint. In 2015 came Essenza, a restaurant based on a deeply personal vision whose name translates as ‘essence’ but also as ‘honesty’. It received a Michelin star in 2017.

Eugenio’s food is rooted in seasonality and local produce but is also inspired by trips abroad, memories from the past and personal encounters that occurred along the way. Ideas come from all over and he loves contrast; of sweet and savoury, simplicity and complexity, tradition and innovation. Sicily is a particular inspiration for the way different influences, such as French and Arabian, express themselves through its food and he admires Tuscany for its determined simplicity. Asian flavours also often find their way into his dishes and those early Dutch influences express themselves in the occasional use of butter over olive oil and a fondness for smoked pork. ‘Mine is a cuisine of memories,’ he explains. ‘Past and recent, in which you can recognise echoes of Holland, the flavours of Liguria, of Sicily, of a multicultural metropolis like Berlin, of my Tuscan period spent in the Arnolfo kitchens and those of Norbert Niederkofler in Alta Badia.’

Cooking is his way of communicating and Milan is the perfect place to do it. ‘I have no roots here and can meet people coming from all around the world. I listen to them and I keep being inspired. When I want to tell a story, I cook something. I could not express myself differently.’