Desserts and wine: let's make a toast with Massimo Carnio

Ingredients evolve also in pastry business. My challenge is creating old-time flavours with today’s ingredients

Desserts and wine: let's make a toast with Massimo Carnio from Pasticceria at Villa dei CedriIngredients evolve also in pastry business. My challenge is creating old-time flavours with today’s ingredients

It's rare to bump into a world champion at a bar. But it does happen in Valdobbiadene, at the family-owned pastry shop "Alla Villa dei Cedri", where Massimo Carnio, Chocolate World Champion in 2020, makes his delicious desserts. 

Born in 1972, Massimo is one of the most successful example of family tradition, tracing back two generations: "I am a son of art, a grandson od art, infact. My grandpa owned a cake shop down at the town square which - later on - would be take over by my dad, who is still here. I only regret we never had a historic location: throughout the years we've changed two or three places, although they are all close to each other". 

Your passion was born years ago, when you were still a child who loved to literally ‘put your hands in the dough”. You didn’t only focus on Valdobbiadene, but looked for alternative paths.

At some point I felt the need to challenge myself and discovered my passion for competitions. They require a long process, starting from a regional selection, moving to national and finally to the Italian Team.

When did you realize your career had come to a turning point?

It happened in Rimini in 2015, when I became Italy’s Chocolate Champion.

And that was the time when new scenarios opened up.

Sure, these competitions open many doors, even consultancy jobs. However, Valdobbiadene is not a place where many people come and go, like Verona, Treviso or even Milan. I cannot expect people to come to Valdobbiadene to eat a cake. Therefore, I am the one travelling to Milan, Rome and abroad (US, Russia, Europe) when working as a sales representative for kitchenware.

Is R&D also a key factor in the pastry business?

Like in any other fields. Ingredients always evolve. Think of how much butter has changed compared to fifty years ago. My challenge is creating old-time flavours with today’s ingredients.

So, the work starts from the ingredients.

It’s crucial. Our mission is to stand out from the crowd of the industrial products. I am not saying they are to blame; we learn from them everyday, they are pioneers of the industry, but they do a different job. They use some parts of the flour to keep the prices low; we use only stone-ground flour. Our ‘panettone’ (fruit cake) costs 30€/kg, because we select only top-quality ingredients from eggs, to flour and candied fruits. Without top-quality ingredients you cannot make top-quality products.

In 2015 you were also the only Italian finalist at the Cacao Barry World Chocolate Masters in Paris.

Once again, here the primary products are critical. I love it. They are the core element of every competition. I get the chocolate from Cacao Barry, in Paris. They have 60, 70 different types of cocoa beans from all over the world, with different degrees of acidity and bitterness. This way, I can make my own blends for the cake. I use different types of chocolates according to the recipe.

If chocolate is the undisputed king, who’s the queen?

It’s puff pastry. I love it. It is a very important element in every competition and can be both salty or sweet. What’s my favourite sweet? the millefoglie (‘mille-feuille’ cake). A simple dessert with an history.

Your pastry has an artistic value too. Which creation are you most fond of?

When I first saw the “Life creates itself” sculpture I had made for the World Championship I got emotional. It’s two meters tall and that was the first time I was able to complete it, because it had been conceived one piece at the time. Moreover, I was able to make it despite my shoulder injury.

What is more satisfying? Making a wedding cake or an extremely refined chocolate praline?

My goal is creating a praline where you can taste each and every flavour. It’s like a glass of good wine, you can guess its grapes variety from the smell. For instance, in the case of ‘cannoncino’ (cream-filled pastry) I want people to distinguish the puff from the cream, while keeping the balance of the flavours.

You are a World Champion: is your creativity influenced by the surrounding territory?

Everything started out here. Raw material like wheat, butter and cream are local products. But I also need to go global; if I don’t, I’ll have to do without cocoa beans and only use red berries during Summer season. We leverage on the territory to get our products, but we can only grow if we travel the world.

Dessert and sparkling wine is the perfect combo, especially here. What personal success do you want to toast to?

To my achievement in Rimini where five of my cakes ranked first; it’s the highest award a pastry chef can get. Best cake, best snack, best single-portion, best almond sculpture, best ice-cream from Eugenio Morrone’s ice-cream shop “Il cannolo siciliano”. The flavours were: eggnog, chocolate, raspberry cream and roast chestnuts crumble with that smoky flavour. That is where the territory steps in: the chestnuts were from Combai and Valdobbiadene. It took me one year of hard work but I am very happy to have outpaced France who ranked fourth, after Japan and Argentina.

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