The picturesque backdrop of Ascona frames the scene. As Lake Maggiore laps gently against the shore beside the Hotel Eden Roc, gourmet restaurant La Brezza awaits its first guests of the day. Since the arrival of master chef Marco Campanella in 2018, this culinary gem has gone from strength to strength. With the restaurant’s innovative and regionally inspired cuisine, Campanella is redefining the world of gastronomy. Since 2020/2021, he and his team have also been enchanting guests at the Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa during winter.
Campanella spends his summers in Ascona serving up dishes to enchant the senses. 18 GaultMillau points and two Michelin stars attest to the success of his creations to date. When the leaves fall from the trees and winter draws near, Campanella heads to the Eden Roc’s sister establishment, the Tschuggen Grand Hotel in Arosa, to conjure up some La Brezza magic there.
Hailing from a family of chefs and restaurateurs, Campanella’s journey includes time spent in some of Switzerland’s most renowned kitchens. He trained with Andreas Caminada at Schloss Schauenstein (3 Michelin stars; 19 GaultMillau points) before further honing his skills under the guidance of renowned Michelin-starred chef Rolf Fliegauf. Before returning to Ticino, he perfected his craft as sous chef at Caminada’s Igniv in St. Moritz.
A German-born chef with Italian heritage, Campanella has a special relationship with Ticino and the Hotel Eden Roc. He first worked at the five-star Hotel Eden Roc in 2012 alongside his brother Tommaso, who now runs two Ascona venues of his own. For Campanella, closeness to his family is a source of sustenance that powers his work.
Campanella’s first foray into plant-based cooking in 2020 was a challenge mastered with flying colours. A stint with Andreas Krolik (Restaurant Lafleur) in Frankfurt acquainted him with the intricacies of this demanding cuisine. Today, his plant-based creations are a triumph of flavours that delight even the most fervent of gourmet aficionados.
It was 2019 when Campanella’s star began to rise in earnest, when he was named ‘Discovery of the Year in Ticino’ by revered French restaurant guide GaultMillau. This commendation was the start of a whirlwind success story. His first Michelin star followed quickly afterwards, as did the award of ‘Hotel Chef of the Year 2020’ by business magazine Bilanz’s coveted hotel rankings. 2021 brought a further milestone in the form of 17 GaultMillau points for La Brezza at the Hotel Eden Roc; another GaultMillau point and a second Michelin star were added in 2022. In 2023, GaultMillau honoured Campanello as one of its four highly prestigious ‘Newcomers of the Year’.
Marco, what inspires you most when creating your dishes? Are there experiences or places that particularly spark your creativity?
My inspiration comes from the surrounding nature, especially from Ticino’s many natural gifts. I also find inspiration in my travels. My wife and I travelled frequently before our daughter was born; we went around Asia and spent four months in South America. When we travel, I’m always picking up tips and tricks. Our current menu, for example, shows inspiration from our recent trip to Japan.
What’s your go-to dish when cooking for guests at home, and why?
When I have guests, I like to keep things simple and delicious. My signature dish is ‘Cavatelli della Mamma’: a family recipe that my parents used to cook and that my mum still makes when I visit. I don’t think you can beat fresh pasta. When friends visit, we also serve a simple but flavourful selection of cold cuts, cheese and salami, accompanied by a good bottle of wine.
Every kitchen has its own set of essential ingredients – those that form the foundation of any number of wonderful dishes. Which three ingredients are a permanent fixture in your own kitchen, and what makes them so essential for you?
Number one has to be white wine vinegar, for its ability to create a pleasant lightness on the palate. Next is lime juice, which brings a freshness and acidity that enhances other flavours. A crunchy element such as quinoa, wild rice or potato crisps can be added to just about any dish to create an interesting texture. For some years now, I’ve also been a fan of adding a spicy component, like horseradish or chilli peppers, to give dishes that final zing. These are all must-haves in my kitchen.
What advice you would give to amateur chefs to help them take their dishes to the next level? Is there a kitchen secret you can share?
My most important piece of advice is to be patient and calm, especially if something doesn’t turn out right straight away. In addition, cooking should always be done with passion. In terms of practical advice, I’d mention searing: ingredients such as mushrooms should always be sautéed slowly and gently to avoid producing bitter flavours. That’s something I always say to my team. In general, with the exception of meat and fish, ingredients should be seared gently to bring out the best flavours.
Marco Campanella is the new Ambassador for Mercedes-Benz Switzerland as of 2024. This partnership combines Campanella's passion and craftsmanship in the kitchen with the quality standards and innovation of Mercedes-Benz.
Images: © Salz und Pfeffer
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