|Interviewing Armandino Batali at the Kendall-Jackson Tomato Festival|
Mario Batali was in town to co-host the Chef Tables in the Vineyard fundraiser with Guy Fieri. Guy hosted a dinner the night before at Tex Wasabi, and I was lucky to be one of the handful of guests. Seated to my left was the impossibly handsome Dino from the Italian food emporium Eataly. To my right was the impossibly charming Armandino, "Pops" to Mario. Armandino is quite famous in his own world - not just for being the father of one of the world's best chefs - for being a master salumist. After retiring as an engineer at Boeing he went to Italy and dedicated himself to learning the craft of curing meats. His Seattle restaurant, Salumi, is worthy of a pilgrimage for any pal of pork.
I peppered Armandino with questions, but there was one that really got his attention:
How much of salami making is art and how much is science?
The answer surprised me. 60% science and 40% art. It surprised Mario, too, because his guess was 80% art and 20% science.
Armandino explained that all sorts of bad bacteria and microbial mishaps can occur in the process, including botulism, which can be fatal. (Thus my suggestion that purposely poisoned paninis could settle a beef or two.)
At the end of the evening Armandino invited me to come to Seattle and "put on a white coat." Salumi-speak for an opportunity to learn the art and science of curing meats with him. Mario looked at me with wide eyes and commented that his dad doesn't make that offer often.
Honored, I accepted, and we sealed the deal with a pinky promise. A first for Armandino, but he agreed to this unusual contract, and I'll be making (safe) sopresatta soon.