Love for...sweets

Interview with Italy's best pastry chef, Santi Palazzolo

There's no sweeter sweet than love and there's no sweeter love than what we feel for sweets. Nobody knows this better than Santi Palazzolo, Italy's best pastry chef for 2018, dedicated to the sweetness of unique flavors. Today we interviewed him for you, because as he says – and it's especially true this week – "with sweetness you can achieve anything."

Who is Santi Palazzolo?

Santi is a pastry chef. He loves his job. He's very curious, because pastry is rediscovered every day with new products, new sweets, when possible using ingredients from our land in Sicilia.

New sweets but also pastry, the Sicilian kind, made at home. What do you remember about Santi, a budding pastry chef?

Afternoons spent with my grandfather. In the production space of the old Cinisi shop. I was 5 or 6 years old, while the other kids were modeling clay I was doing the same with almond dough. And my grandfather would always say, "You've got a ways to go." And that's still true today. I spent all my days in the production area, breathing in the sweetest air that has become familiar to me, something that becomes a part of you and that you carry with you your whole life.

All the colors of pastry: what's the color of Sicilian sweets?

Yellow like light, yellow like the sun, and all the colors of the sunset. But to be honest, nothing symbolizes the perfection of Sicilian pastry better than a rainbow.

How has the profession changed over the years? Would you recommend it to young people?

Being a pastry chef 100 years ago meant being a hero. It was all manual, there were no machines, just a little equipment. Heroism with a good dose of love. Today's pastry chef has to do deal with a different taste, a more healthy conception of food, and the need to be a good entrepreneur. Desserts don't change, they are transformed.

I suggest that young people study and take off their watch when entering the production area. To totally immerse themselves in what they're doing, because you can make a dessert hundreds of times without it ever getting boring.

What's the technique you love most in your trade?

The one that best represents Italian pastry in the world: pastry bag decoration, of which Italians are masters. Even today when I decorate a cassata I get excited because I'm decorating a piece of Sicilian pastry history, and therefore also of Sicilia.

Italy is...what sweet? And your favorite?

Italy is tiramisu, a dessert that I particularly like but that is also joined by many regional specialties. But my favorite is the cannolo. It might seem trivial but it isn't, because it's made from two components, a crispy part and a creamy part, and it only has a few ingredients. Eating a cannolo and enjoying both its creaminess and crunchiness at the same time is a unique sensory experience. In its simplicity it's one of the most difficult desserts to make. A perfect balance.