When we arrived at the Menton train station, three people were there to greet us. Mauro, Julia and their little boy, Valentin. We managed to make some room between two little mismatched shoes in the trunk of the car, and off we went with Valentin on our laps, their accent that sings, and an overall joyous mood. The joy of reuniting with one another, of welcoming us into their home, in the village that this couple chose and that has become their own, far from their homelands of Argentina or Brazil respectively, but not that far. Close to the light, to the luxurious vegetation, in this slightly humid end of summer atmosphere.
Mauro Colagreco is constantly travelling. He had just come back from Asia and Sweden, and yet, he is present, always present, making sure that everything runs smoothly at Mirazur, and that his guests immediately feel at home. And that’s the case, from the first exchange with the sommelier, from the first bite of tender bread to be decadently dipped in its lemon olive oil. At sunset, the marbled pink view through the windows is simply sublime. Further down, we caught sight of the leafy vegetable garden where Mauro watches the seeds of his ideas grow.
He is a child of Passard, but more importantly a nomad who did everything he could to not be labeled as a “successful foreign chef”. At the beginning, in 2006, his Latin American roots were barely visible on the plate, but today, they irresistibly shoot out of the dishes, and create an all-encompassing comforting cuisine, filled with textures and temperatures marked with vegetables and dried fruits, roasted and charred flavors, ragouts, creams, and the smooth, the sweet, the sweet and sour. We remember that striking combination of oyster and pear, full of peps, and that cauliflower, eel emulsion, imperial caviar, hazelnut and green apple, served in a miniscule bowl. We were moved by the raw gamberoni (prawns) accompanied by raspberries and pistachios, and that egg yolk and cream of corn to be devoured with a spoon and buttered bread. We saw in it Colagreco’s innocence. We weren’t surprised to find Valentin wandering around the restaurant. And we wouldn’t be surprised to see him ten years from now in the kitchen, alongside to his father. By listening to his closest collaborators, we learned that Mauro is indeed very family oriented; he is the one people call when they are far from home, when something is wrong. He is also the first to want to bring to light the people that he works with. Like Chiho Kansaki or Ricardo Chaneton, who both call him “my chef”. A sense of caring and benevolence, on both ends.
During the ten-handed Argentinean dinner the following day, we were almost surprised by the complicity, the respect and the humanity between the guest chefs Narda Lepes, German Martitegui, Dario Gualtieri, Fernando Trocca (and the best bartender in Latin America Tato Giovannoni). We loved the coherence in the plate, their personalities, their respect for the animal’s integrity, and the cheeky and indulgent dimension, without compromise, of cuisine. Yes, there were offals all the way to the brain, but everything was easy to apprehend, because it was concocted with their roots, their heart, their tradition, as well as the present. The meal ended with Mauro Colagreco’s surprise, his “Punchero”, a pot au feu served with marrow, shallots and croutons, and a special dedication: “In memory of my mother, Rosa Americana Ciancio de Colagreco, and all the childhood memories that I keep in my heart, deep down inside me.