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The restaurant

A day with chef Marina in the kitchen at Mirella

A day in the kitchen at Mirella begins… the night before. Behind any great cuisine lies an accurate preparation, and in order to create great dishes, having an extremely skilled chef isn't enough – it also takes the careful selection of ingredients and an almost maniacal attention to detail.
So, after removing her traditional chef's hat but before her day is over, Marina Lorati organizes the next day's affairs. She has been head chef at Al Mirella for the past 18 years and has become a true institution who has kept up with the times ("I have read, studied, absorbed a lot, at home I keep a large collection of recipes and books about cooking" she tells us). Together with Andrea Bulferetti or one of his sons, who make up the hotel's management, she chooses the menu for the following day, "but on a pre-planned schedule, laid out for the week". The reason for this schedule is simple: here, we work only with the freshest ingredients, and so suppliers must be informed in advance about the items to be delivered on any given day. The only last minute decisions are those regarding orders, based on the number of people "in-house" or on the choice of a specific dish.

With well-rounded menus for lunch (three first-courses and three main dishes) and dinner (the same, but with an additional buffet) in mind, and already familiar with her staff, chef Marina takes back control of "her" kitchen when breakfast is being served in the restaurant, as the scent of fresh croissants - the inevitable and delicious work of the master Pastry Chef - is still wafting through the rooms (and elsewhere!). But in the meantime, starting at 6 AM, vendors begin delivering their products so that the kitchen staff has the freshest ingredients at their disposal.

And what is the first thing to be done? "As a rule of thumb, the beef stock. – Marina answers – It must be incredibly bland, as it is used in many dishes: not only for recipes with a stock base, but also to thin others." Afterwards, with the day's menu in hand, she creates the most complicated dishes, from crepes to vegetable minestrone (which might seem simple to prepare, but is quite the contrary, given the use of only fresh ingredients), whether they are for lunch or dinner.

When the kitchen is operating at full capacity, chef Marina is assisted by two other cooks who work under her direct supervision: one handles first courses – pastas and risottos – and the other prepares main dishes. "They are young, very driven and with a passion for learning".

There are intensely busy moments when preparing lunch and dinner. At 11:30, the entire kitchen staff breaks to eat - everyone except Marina, that is, who, out of habit, stays on her feet, eating a piece of fruit or light fare while she ensures that everything is ready for when the doors of the restaurant open at 12:30pm.
For at least two hours, the space is a whirlwind of waiters coming and going while, one after the other, the so-called "commands" – or rather, the orders arrive. It is a delicate operation, their work: they must ensure that, for each table, even when the orders are very different, dishes come out simultaneously and that each course if perfectly timed.

As always, the Al Mirella restaurant allows guests to modify the menu of the day for dietary needs: if someone does not like the dishes offered, simple yet captivating alternatives are available. These extra dishes, together with "ŕ la carte" options for those only dining at the restaurant, are not a burden for the chef: "if we are skilled at having everything else ready, it is easy to make plates not included in the menu. After all, it gives us the satisfaction of pleasing the customer".

The kitchen is quiet for a few hours during the afternoon, a small break for the chef, cooks and servers. When they return to work, careful attention is paid to the buffet, the long line of inviting dishes that the restaurant at Mirella offers in addition to the evening menu. It is one of the preparations that Marina Lorati describes as "more challenging during the high season", especially because of the variety of options available (there are elaborate cold dishes, but also pizzas and fried dishes cooked on the spot). "We finish the buffet between 7 and 7:30pm, after the staff has eaten dinner and just before we reopen for the evening".

And at dinner, there is an even more hectic period of traffic between the kitchen and the dining room, because of the higher number of guests. Following the same schedule, around 10:30-11pm service ends.
But chef Marina, reviewing the menu for the following day with her staff, still has time to answer a few questions. Do you create an equal number of portions for each menu item? "Our experience helps, as well as knowing the type of customers – calmer in the summer, livelier in the winter: if there is a soup or a main dish that "draws", as we say, then we know in advance that it will make up 40, sometimes 45 percent of the anticipated dishes. Is every day the same for a chef? "No, not exactly. But on slower days, for example, I focus on making fresh pasta. I once used 30 kilograms of flour making homemade ravioli. We provide fresh pasta to Pietra Rossa and Nazionale too".

The day is over. Or rather, the next one has already begun.

colazione all'hotel Mirella

Hotel Mirella - Ponte di Legno (BS) - Via Roma, 21 - Telefono 0364 900500 - - P.Iva: 00564250983