The sixth-annual competition got underway at Milan’s Palazzo del Ghiaccio and wrapped up in Parma at Academia Barilla — the international centre created by Barilla to spread awareness of Italy’s gastronomic culture worldwide. When all was said and done, Accursio Lotà, chef at Solara restaurant in San Diego, Calif., was crowned winner of the Barilla Pasta World Championship and presented with the Golden Tarella (die used to extrude pasta). Lotà, a native of Italy, won the two-day competition by beating out competitors from 15 countries (including Canada, which was represented by Joey Restaurants’ chef Connor Gabbott) and four continents with his “Seafood Carbonara,” an homage to the most celebrated and discussed pasta recipe.
Lotà’s winning dish was a unique take on the traditional Italian recipe, featuring an explosion of baroque flavours and tastes of Sicily. The 32-year old chef took the Carbonara concept and substituted the chicken eggs typically used in the recipe with seafood eggs. He then used green mandarins and red Mazara shrimps — classic ingredients from Sicily — to give the dish a Mediterranean flavour. As part of the dish, Lotà cooked seafood, scallops, red shrimps from Mazara del Vallo, cuttlefish and amberjack filet at a low temperature in guanciale fat to mimic the rich meatiness of pasta Carbonara, without eggs and dairy.
Lotà, whose win was announced to thunderous applause from the audience said, “This success means a lot for me. It was so exciting to be chosen amongst the three finalists and winning has been amazing.” His dish is reflective of Lotà’s vision of the future of pasta. “I work abroad, but due to my Italian roots, pasta is already perfect in its simplicity. This is why the future of pasta, in my opinion, will be realized not only by reinventing pasta according to oneself, but by regenerating and reworking the classic accompaniments and sauces in new ways. This doesn’t mean destroying our traditions, but rethinking and reimagining both ingredients and techniques.”
Lotà’s culinary journey began after graduation, when he was given the opportunity to work at the Four Seasons in Milan with Sergio Mei. At the age of 22, he moved to California where he had the opportunity to prepare a meal for President Obama. Today, he helms the kitchen at the Solare restaurant in San Diego, where he’s been selected Best Chef for the past three consecutive years.
For Barilla, the 140-year-old pasta company founded and headquartered in Parma, the Pasta World Championship is an opportunity to promote the popularity of pasta, the star product in its portfolio. According to Paolo Barilla, vice-chairman of the Barilla Group, “The Barilla Pasta World Championship has once again proven how important it is for promoting Italy’s gastronomic culture, the linchpin of which, is pasta. The championship rewards those that take our real cuisine abroad and was created to celebrate pasta and showcase its versatility, its ability to adapt to cultures and societies that differ greatly from one another, without losing its identity. In fact, pasta brings people together: it binds them and encompasses tradition and innovation alike.”