Sprouts get the Italian treatment from Campagnolo Roma's Jesse McMillan,
Jesse McMillan, 24 year-old chef de cuisine at Campagnolo Roma, sees no contradiction in infusing the rustic Roman cuisine he's passionate about with fresh sprouts.
McMillan values sprouts because they're fresh and locally-produced. They fit “into the Italian mentality of cooking, rather than in the tradition,” he said, “because we are not going to be bringing all the ingredients from Italy.”
Jesse McMillan’s fondness for fresh ingredients has a straight connection with his Winnipeg homeland. “I’ve got a lot of grandparents,” he said, while laughing and explaining that, as a kid, he used to join them in the kitchen. He also learned where food comes from by helping at the farm of one his grandmothers.
Alfalfa sprout and grilled pear salad. Photo by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud.
Very early in life, he developed a taste for veggies. First, the ‘traditional’ ones: carrots, tomatoes, etc., which he now grows in small urban gardens that surround Campagnolo.
But as he grew up and got into professional cooking, he started experimenting with other greens such as sprouts.
“They are so fresh, crispy and watery. They are also incredibly healthy and that comes from the sprouting process that unlocks a lot of the potential that’s in there,” he explained.
McMillan who trained in French haute cuisine at renowned restaurants such as Hart House in Burnaby, Au Pied De Cochon in Montreal, and Daniel in New York city, enjoys the challenge of mixing an ingredient commonly associated with Asian Cuisine into Italian Cooking.
Says McMillan, “The simplicity of everything, the freshness of ingredients and the importance of getting the best product has always been something that spoke to me.”
He is a fan of alfalfa sprouts, which he finds is a perfect companion to heavy dishes that need something fresh and slightly bitter. Still, he thinks that sprouts can be more than a side dish and can even be the star of a fulfilling lunch. That’s why he created the Sprout Salad, a mix of quinoa and alfalfa sprouts with an Italian twist.
The salad is a treat for those who love crunchiness. The two types of sprouts each bring a different crispness, which is enhanced by out-of-the-pan bacon.
Grilled peaches add the freshness and earthiness the chef wants people to experience when eating the dish. The dressing, which combines Gaeta olives, garlic and vinegar, also adds to that primary goal while, at the same time, highlighting McMillan’s Italian inspiration. Buon appetito.
Recipe for Jesse McMillan's Sprout Salad