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"The Raver's Breakfast" Corrado Calza for AnOther Magazine S/S16

Corrado Calza: An Appetite for Fashion

The Italian chef's artful canapés – nimbly crafted for the likes of Prada, Céline and Marni – are as visually satisfying as they are delicious. Here, he dishes up a bespoke menu for AnOther

TextNatalie RiggPhotographic EditorHolly HayPhotographyMatthieu Lavanchy
Lead Image"The Raver's Breakfast" Corrado Calza for AnOther Magazine S/S16

Inside a compact, well-organised professional kitchen in the heart of Milan, Corrado Calza is probing a large silver tray of red pepper-infused jelly with what appears to be a giant pair of tweezers. “I have a feeling this is not quite the right texture yet,” he says firmly, slicing a small circle of the jelly and placing it over a classic vol-au-vent, then tutting as it droops to one side. “I told you. The consistency has to be just thick enough to allow it to stand, like a little Sixties sculpture,” he adds. “We’ll make more, until it’s absolutely perfect, no?”

Calza nods in response to his own question. His business partner, Matteo Marciocchi, also nods. The tray is promptly discarded in a stainless steel sink that looks large enough to bathe in. “It has to be perfezione,” insists Marciocchi.

Indeed, the “P” word serves as a fitting culinary mantra for the 45-year-old Italian chef, whose ingenious, offbeat canapés have become the edible counterpart to runway shows and events for luxury fashion houses such as Marni, Céline, Yves Saint Laurent and, perhaps most notably, Prada, for whom he now consults. “I feel most proud of my work for Mrs Prada,” he reveals. “The brief is always super conceptual. Nothing has to be as it seems, which I love because I like to surprise people with my food.”

Such surprising foodstuffs from Calza’s repertoire include triple-stacked finger sandwiches, dyed in saccharine shades of pistachio and strawberry; ricotta pyramids; Prada logo-stamped popsicles; and sweet potato and beetroot hors d’oeuvres that resemble small, post-modern objets d’art. “The food itself is often my greatest inspiration,” he muses. “Take a beautiful, red shiny currant, for example. I consider the smell, the texture, the silhouette, and suddenly I have this urge to create a whole world around it.”

Like many great artists, Calza’s passion stems from childhood. “I remember being fascinated by bakeries as a kid,” he says. “The way they mixed eggs, flour and sugar together and then somehow fashioned a pastry that resembled a shoe? That was like magic to me.” After enrolling in a Milanese culinary school aged 15, Calza took a brief hiatus from cooking to study geology, before the pull of food became impossible to ignore. He subsequently embarked on an internship at Italy’s esteemed pasticceria, L’Antica Arte del Dolce di Ernst Knam.

However, it wasn’t until he started working as a food stylist for IO Donna (the glossy Saturday supplement of Italy’s Corriere della Sera) that big name luxury brands such as Armani took note and tapped Calza to conjure conceptual dishes for their seasonal soirées. “Everything grew rather organically from that point, and in 2002 I set up my own company [Corrado Calza Food & Co] in this very kitchen with my two partners,” Calza says. “I come up with the concepts, but we share the same sensibility for texture, taste and colour.”

Calza smiles warmly, before a loud clang of steel pans draws his attention to the central stove, where the world’s tiniest hot dog is being sprayed with edible silver paint. “I suppose you could call it art, but it’s far more enjoyable as you get to eat it, and people love eating,” he says, humbly squashing the suggestion that his flair for applying an obscure fashion narrative to food is unparalleled. “Call me bland, but I’m most excited about serving the people I love the food they love,” he insists. “Although, if I had a fantasy dinner party, my dream guest would be Barbra Streisand – I’m crazy about her!”

Needless to say, even Babs herself would likely be enthralled by the curious celebratory menu that Calza has prepared exclusively for the special 15th-anniversary edition of AnOther Magazine. From the opulent fashion story that sees Kate Moss play out a lascivious fantasy in spectacular couture gowns, to the futuristic masquerade staged by music icon Björk and photographer Nick Knight, Calza offers an exquisite interpretation of the issue’s prevailing fashion themes via a small, but perfectly formed series of canapés, as displayed throughout this article. “This is my ultimate party fantasia,” he declares. Bon appétit.

With special thanks to Corrado Calza. 

A version of this article appears in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of AnOther Magazine.