Italian named world's top pasta chef for recession-inspired dish

PARMA, Italy, June 15 Sat Jun 15, 2013 5:09pm EDT

PARMA, Italy, June 15 (Reuters) - Giorgio Nava, an Italian chef based in South Africa, won the World Pasta Championship in the Italian city of Parma on Saturday with a low-cost recipe that he said suited Italy's deep economic crisis.

Nava, who has won awards for his work at the Cape Town restaurants '95 Keerom' and 'Carne SA', wooed the public and the jury with a simple plate of cavatelli - small pasta shells - broccoli and oregano flowers.

"Simplicity was the key. I presented a recipe that is very cheap but very tasty," Nava told Reuters after his victory.

"Others competed with expensive fish-based recipes but right now, given the economic situation in Italy, it did not seem right to come forward with extravagant dishes."

The pasta championship, which was held for the first time last year, took place at the Barilla Food Academy in Parma, considered Italy's food capital and best-known for Parmesan cheese and cured Parma ham.

Twenty-four carefully selected cooks, including Hong-Kong born John Leung, competed in the two-day championship.

Participants were given 40 minutes to complete their dish in the first round of the championship on Friday and only 30 minutes during the final on Saturday.

"My dish is something easy to make, anyone can cook it a home," said Nava. "After all, simple things are often the best."

Last year's award went to Japanese chef Yoshi Yamada. (Additional reporting and writing by Lisa Jucca; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)