What are they gonna say about him
We pretended to have it forgotten for all the day. We were in USA, August 29th some years ago and nobody said to him ‘happy birthday’! Iginio was impassible, he probably did not suspect anything, even when we took him around the hotel for an hour. We did not forget his birthday, obviously, we even let prepared a cake by the hotel’s chef, but this cake was late… “we already passed through here guys – he said – we are turning around since half an hour!”. How hard to keep him waiting and how many lies. We were so tired and he wanted to go to bed, but when the cake arrived… How touching was to see such emotion in his eyes! This is the moment I like to remember, before the celebration which follows.
In summer 1997, Gino was invited to Montecarlo for an event called ‘Mediterranean Eccentricity’. The Academy was just born, but it was time for great Pastry Chefs to be brought to other cities and I was that kind who believed to the importance to address to public. He asked me to go with him. There were also Sal De Riso, Paco Torreblanca and Luca Mannori, just awarded as World Champion. Beneficent event, gala dinner… rooms shared with colleagues and a the wish to work together and let ourselves known. When I arrived I found him angry. All his monoportions had been put in the fridge together with fish! From that time I was striked by his reaction: once overcome the angry, the dessert was fully thought again. Naturally he decided all: caramel, Moscato egg flip, chocolate. He took 5 minutes to elaborate a dessert never presented before. He never stopped to amaze. Never. “I take it over. Let’s do like that”. Keep calm, immediate organization, serve more than 250 guests: cold-blooded and extreme discipline… at the end we also managed to help Santi Santamaria: the Spanish chef lost a collaborator because of an accident in the kitchen… Heart is also necessary and Gino’s heart is big!
I started doing pastry chef by my own. I heard something about a certain Massari… as the best, the greatest. One day I left Minori, my town, towards Brescia, his town. I wanted to go there, to see, to understand. I found myself watching his shop windows… without deciding… day by day. Then, once around 13 p.m. while they were going to close, I was invited to enter by a woman, I later knew she was Iginio’s wife, Marì. I was stuttering from emotion. In few seconds, I was thrown in a world (I was around 20 years old) similar to Toyland. I visited the shop, the laboratory, I tasted. Iginio started to tell me everything, but he was also interested on me, my life, my approach to pastry world. Finally he said: “you live in a handsome place, increase the value of the products you have, make them your flag”. That time I was already preparing lemon profiterol and I understood I was on the right page. From that time, I understood Iginio is more than a friend. More than a teacher. He never tells you what you should do, he does not solve the problems. But if you listen to him… if you learn to read between the lines, understand with your head but also with heart and stomach, he always manages to teach you something. And I will be ever grateful to him for that day.
One event, more than many others which link me to Gino, I would like to tell here. It was 1996. We shared a non-stop travel Brescia-Luxembourg to Olimpic Pastry Championship, leaving in the middle of the night. One of that tour de force only Pastry Chefs can do, after production, once prepared the event, organized the team and involved the family. I was driving, but to drive for a long time, I need fresh air. Gino, next to me, was suffering in silence. He didn’t talk, he was freezing! We stopped for a coffee and he came down from the car, pretending to be an ice lolly! Fully rigid and motionless, he pretended to fall frozen at the ground…! If I remember that image, I start laughing today again! It was an unforgettable trip. At Switzerland border, they didn’t want to let us pass: the hand painted cake was confused for an artistic masterpiece and at the border they wanted to call the Cultural Artistic Superintendence…
I didn’t start so young moving into this world. But when I started, for my first competition, at Perugia Iginio was there. Everything was different some time ago, nevertheless today as yesterday everybody took part, shared feelings and ran towards teachings and confirmations. I knew an extremely available man, able to push the guys even when he was chiding them. I won and he did something I didn’t expect: he called me in front of 100 people and said:” I introduce you to Luca Mannori, remember this name because you will hear it again”. I was speechless. He believed in me more than myself! I took a great motivation from that. From that time I learned how bigger and important is his teaching. And this is what I try to do with all guys who address to me: to transmit them that great impulse I got from Gino
Many years ago in Bruxelles, I had the honour to be the second hand for Iginio Massari. Never before I realized how great is his knowledge and ability, as experteer, as well as a man. About his job, it was enough for me to see him baking nut sponge cake (for his famous Nicola Cake) without tools: oven did not show the temperature and he proceeded simply testing the heat with hands. About his greatness as a man…. Once I forgot my watch at home: a bad mistake in a pastry competition where time is a key factor. Iginio was kidding and reproaching me all the time. When we were coming back, at the airport, he managed – don’t know how – to distract me enough to buy a new watch for me. One of the most precious gift I have ever got and which I keep in my heart like a memory of that travel, that competition, that cake, that sweet smell of nut!
I know Iginio Massari for over 40 years. We have been sharing experiences, joys and efforts of a job which deeply links each other. I simply consider him my best friend, a man who changed my life. Many things happened since he asked me to contribute to let the Academy born, a great brotherhood in the hallmark of quality. From that time, thousand occasions of meetings, events, sharings and exhibitions. Around Italy, in the world. Together. One night in Perugia, I had a quarrel with him (because of, I am afraid the excess of food) and I offended him in front of the public, aloud. From that moment, our relationship broke. Our families tried to reunite us but I was not enough bold. Too much pride, too much fear. Later on, during Rimini exhibition, Gino came to me: “How are you Mr. Zoia?” Not necessary to add more to describe the greatness of his soul and my emotion each time I remember that moment.
Iginio Massari is unique and uncomparable. I met him at the École Nationale Superieure de la Pâtisserie Yssingeaux, during a seminar he holded to convey us the secrets of Italian traditional pastry, whose he is a real Master. It has been a real revelation to me. I was so impressed from his raw materials knowledge, the technique and the technology of our job, mixed to a great sensibility and a deep culture. I never met a person so learned and I immediately realized at the first meeting. I have been learned so much, closed to him, during these years. During each seminars at Relais Dessert we ask Iginio for all questions related to products, technology and history. Iginio is the worldwide referent of our profession
It was the years of Albereta, with Gualtiero Marchesi. I heard people talking about Iginio Massari as one of the biggest pastry chefs in the country and one day, in 1993 I believe, I visited the chef in the laboratory. My memory of him is a professional who never stopped showing us things, telling us about products and sharing his experiences. A volcano in continual activity. And when, at the end, he asked us what he could do for us, I never imagined that he would have surprised us that way. The day after at the restaurant I received a monumental cake, the most beautiful cake I had ever seen. Truly an incredible job, that left the bride speechless and we looked really good!
When we see the cakes Iginio has made, all the senses come into play, starting with touch, because even without touching them we know their consistency, their quality and because we experience that we feel the need to touch them with our fingers. And then sight, thanks to the design, assembly and presentation, order and composition, form and harmony. I remember with great enthusiasm our first conversation in Brussels. We did not know each other and we sat together at lunch during a pastry competition, the theme of which was to create a cake that represented Europe. While we were talking, you made a rose with breadcrumbs and gave it to a lady at our table. At that point I had no idea that we would go to the Relais Dessert association. A great friendship started, we saw each other at many events, demonstrations and lessons at the pasty academy. I cannot help but remember our discussions during the seminars, our exchange of ideas and opinions that have enriched me professionally, that have enabled me to add Italian products to my creations.
Once I used to consider Igino Massari simply a man… challenging, so much exigent with himself to become an important test, able to scare everybody. Today I like thinking of him as a great experteer of products, techniques, mixing, with a wide competence also in salty food. That time, many years ago, when I let him taste a dessert, he said: “good, but the lavender cream has nothing to do with”. I finally smiled, sure to catch him in error: “there is no lavender, Master, I ensure you”. And I was actually sure. Until I came back to the kitchen and realize that in the fridge there were some fresh lavender flowers to decorate another dessert, for the same event”. From that time, I am certain: Iginio is like a computer. With all files archived, an endless memory and the capacity to analize, catch, understand and find the solution!
As everyone at Relais Dessert knows, there is no-one else like him! Not sure of a cooking time? Is there a problem with texture? Need help tracking down an elusive flavour? Iginio is the man with the answer: and all in French with a sing-song accent that betrays his Italian roots. He is both an alchemist and an artisan, a researcher and a creator. I still have a very vivid memory of the time he invited the entire association to his native city Brescia to celebrate our international Relais Dessert Day. Iginio and his team put on a buffet full of amazing, artistic pieces that stood out for their quality elegance and creativity. You Italians are lucky. As are all of us because we share his craft and he knowledge. He truly is a master pastry chef.
When I was a little boy, I faced Iginio Massari and what I saw was a big man, with a sever face expression an a loud voice, apparently harsh, who told he was a boxer… I was incredibly impressed and cowed, but also glamoured. Soon after I entered his world, his pastry laboratory, I discoverd the other side of the moon. A refined experteer, with a sophisticated taste, able to decorate a cake with the daintiness of an artist. I discovered him as poet and writer too. Passionate about literature as well as chemistry. Since that time on, I have been many times enchanted in listening to him explaining chemical formules as they were recipes, to show the magic of dough for “Africans” which drenches like a sponge, squeezes in the hands until becomes a crumb, to come back, then, to its initial volume. I heard him reading poetries which tell the deepest man’s secrets. This is what Iginio Massari is to me: a great Master and a man with a very fine culture.
It was my first Symposium. The emotion was high. I, so young, surrounded by Italian greatest Pastry Chefs. A dream becoming truth. And then, he was there, Iginio Massari, the Teacher among all Teachers. That year’s theme was Wedding Cake. I did one decorated with sugar roses. I perfectly remember he came to me and observed each details in silence. I was so worried… His judgement is the the thing we are mostly afraid with, even we yearn it so much. He turned and said those were the most beautiful roses he had ever seen. I can feel that emotion right now. That compliment was probably one of the best for me. It has the same value of an important award.
I was around 20 years old, working at dad’s pastry shop, and Iginio Massari was a myth for me. My father brought me to one of his practical demonstration organized by Vicenza Pastry Association. He showed to an enthusiastic public his cornetto decorating. It was like a legend… he managed to decorate with both hands simultaneously. I started to try from my position. He reached us and said to my dad: “This guy will lead the way”. Nothing else was necessary to me to decide this was my future. When, after years, I started to dedicate myself exclusively to consultancy, he was my support, my leader. His words are teaching and motivation to me. Ever. The relationship between us is one of the most beautiful thing I have ever happened.
When I was a kid, my friends used to follow rock singers and I was following the great Teachers, Iginio Massari above all. So, at 26 years old, I found him as Jury President during a pastry competition I was involved. My emotion was so strong. I remember we had to enter one by one in a little room to let our cake be tasted. It was my turn, he let me present my cake and asked me to taste it. After having listened to the comments of all other jurymen, he came to me and asked me an opinion on my job. I shyly answered: “I hope I did well”. He looked at me and told me I had to have to awareness to be not a half pastry chef, but a complete pastry chef, growing up fast. Such words, said by Iginio Massari touched me deeply. I perfectly remember them right now and love to think about them when I have to face a challenge. Those words were “key words” that time and today.
I had the chance to work closed to him since the born of Juniores Worldwide Pastry Competition. He taught me what it means to train guys, to convey them passion and technique. He helped me to grow. The unicity of Iginio is his high level of experteer which is equal to his value as a man. It is impossible to divide both aspects. He was one of the first I told I was going to get married. I went to Brescia, to his laboratory to tell him this thing, as he was a father to me. He talked to me fairly, saying it was time for me to change my life, not to stop looking for things and goals, but starting doing that in a different way. A way which can be followed up just when you have real love. You can do that only with a family behind you. I was really touched, closed to tears. Iginio uses pastry to teach life. This is unique to him.
I was just a little bit older than a boy, with matted hair and earrings. While I was training for World Chocolate Master, Iginio Massari came to see me to give me some advices. I was so excited, that I didn’t sleep the night before. I remember he watched my job and just a look at my earlobes pushed me to the definitive decision to close my earrings in a drawer. I met him some years later, during the same trainings, this time for Worldwide Championship. During the tasting trial, he tried my pralines and with calm voice he said: “Congratulations guy, you did a real filth!”. Iginio is like that, no half measures. He is deeply sincere. It’s his way to teach to anybody wants to learn. But, if a product’s stricture, or a comment about an attitude, his indications are always goaled to an improvement. I learned to understand him, to read his language and I am going on to learn from him, as a pastry chef and as a man. Each day of my life.
Watch everything three times: twice to see what is “right” and once to see what is “handsome”. “This Iginio’s sentence changed my vision in creating and thinking the artistic pieces. I bring it in my heart, it’s my lighthouse. During the training to prepare the Artistic Sugar Worldwide Championship, we used to work very hard. The pieces improved day by day, but He was never satisfied. He said the expression was not the right one; I had to create the most beautiful woman in the world… Female figure is the real challenge inside artistic sugar art. I didn’t manage to achieve the goal. Then, I settled up the correct technique. When Iginio saw it, he told me that yes, she was the most beautiful! I managed to transform one of his artistic wish into reality. When I climbed the highest step of the podium, I crossed His glance. I made him happy and he brought me until there… nothing else mattered.
During Nashville’s Worldwide Pastry Championship, we went there to win. I was the team’s captain, and had the responsibility of sugar paste sculpture. Iginio was there as our trainer and juryman for Italy. He pushed us strongly and it was so magic for me to be trained by Massari! We had to win! For us and for him. The sculpture was 2 mt high, totally new in comparison with all the others around 40 cm high. Once finished, he came closed to me saying that jury was astonished! He was happy. Just soon after talking, we heard the sharp sound of the cracking sculpture… We had lost the title. Nothing more to add. With Iginio it is mostly of the time not necessary. Just a look and a hug are enough. Some events can happen just with him, as man and as Teacher. Without him, we “guys” where should we go?
Made by: Accademia Maestri Pasticceri Italiani 1993-2013 – Vent’anni e non sentirli (Italian Gourmet / DBInformation – www.italiangourmet.it)