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Kemal Scarpello

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The way Kemal Scarpello handles a piece of dough? It's basically indecent.
Think of the way a cat toys with a mouse – dominating, deferring: dominating, deferring, always in control, always extracting the maximum juice from the jape – and that's Mr Scarpello working with his doughs, as he tosses and turns and teases the nascent breads, in the capacious kitchen of the Slow Food Co, at the rere of Portlough House, between Killea and Newtowncunningham, way up there in County Donegal.
When we think of bread making, we think of burly kneading, of getting stuck in. Mr Scarpello doesn't do that. He doesn't knead his dough: he conjures with it. It's a skill, a dazzling touch, a masterly control, learnt in many of the best kitchens, from Leith's cookery school, then in Kensington Place, then to The Bruce where he worked with the great Bruce Poole, then to Shanks in Northern Ireland with the late, great Robbie Millar, and then to Rathmullan House, working with the great Ian Orr.
“Food was always in the background”, he says of growing up in Wales, but his career as baker and pizza maker – in the Tap Room, in Rathmullan House – has seen that background influence move prominently centre-stage. “We can do our own ethos, our own aesthetic”, he says of the collaborative venture in The Tap Room, but his ethos and aesthetic is found in every loaf he bakes, every loaf you have the good fortune to encounter at one of the markets he works. His signature is a restraint, a lightness of touch, like a cat's paw teasing and testing, the textures and tastes of the breads and pizzas floating like a butterfly, and then the flavour stinging like a bee. Gotcha!

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