Excellent Cuisine da Il Venerdì del 23.08.19, autore Guido Andruetto, (traduzione a cura di G.C. Agazzi)
Sherpa chefs, who are used to the high Nepalese peaks, adapt perfectely to working in the Mont Blanc huts, where vegetable stuffed ravioli with polenta and sausage are on their menus. Chefs nearer home might be forced to quit for a variety of reasons discovering they suffer from acute mountain sickness or that they simply cannot bear spending so much time at such high altitudes,. Others find the work tiring or can't cope with being so cut off from the rest of the world. Those cooks and workers that unexpedely abandon alpine huts, can cause enormous problems for the hut keepers and sometimes even ruin a whole season. That is where Nepalese Sherpas, whose numbers are ever increasing, come to the rescue. Many of them now choose to leave the Himalays in the Monsoon season in order to work in Alpine tourism, where it is easy to find work. They are well acclimatized to high extreme altitudes, have excellent cooking skills and are greatly appreciated because of their happy personalities and humility. Consequentely for many of them Mont Blanc, with its 4810 meters height, has become a second home. Sherpa Chongha, 46 years old, left Kathmandu for this very reason and with his wife Khangis, 44 years old, together with their two teen sons greet us with a lovely smile and a nice manner inside the Torino Hut kitchens at 3375 meters. They are putting away plates they have just washed, after having finished serving lunch to a hundred people, among whom mountaineers and tourists who reached it with Skyway cable car. Through the windows one can see Dente del Gigante and the Graneds Jorasses, a "smaller" Alp version of Lhotse and Everest. " My first job was at the Monzino hut, also on the Mont Blanc massif, says Chongha. The Chanoine family, who also manage theTorino Hut, took me on and the Chanoines can be considered part of our family. Armando Chanoine and his family have a close relationship with our homeland. Armando who is a mountain guide of Courmayeur knows our mountains and the spirit of our population. We were welcomed warmly by all the staff and we have learned to cook the typical local dishes just like a true Valdostano chef should prepare them". Chongba Sherpa's spezzatino with polenta well deserves a visit. And so do the Valpellineunze soup with bread, and his wife's Khangicabbage, and fontina cheeses.Although they miss Nepal, they can always see the highest Alpine peaks."We are from the Solukhumbu district and we grew up on Everest and for this reason Mont Blanc is a friend. Altitude is not a problem and if working here is demanding, we are well trained. We share tasks with the other staff: there are three breakfast shifts for the mountaineers at 2, 4 and at 6 o'clock in the morning, then lunch and dinner have to be prepared". The Torino hut, in comparison with other similar structures is different because it is open all year, except for a period in late autumn." Chongba and his wife usually arrive from Nepal for the summer season" explains Armando Chanoine,"but this year they arrived at the end of last December and they will stay eleven months. They are both admirable people. . They are good natured, a characteristic of nearly all Nepalese people, and very respectful. They are true mountain people, like we were once here".
Most of the Nepalese culture is based on farming traditions that are similar to those instilled in people who live in alpine valleys. Morover, Nepalese people are influenced by the spirituality and secredness of mountains. "I stopped on Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak of the planet, a few meters below the summit in order not to offend Sherpa feelings in front of "the holiness of this peak"" recalls Reinhold Messner, the great mountaineer who last August went to the Punta Helbronner station, just a few meters above the Torino hut, for a private meeting with Alpine guides, alpine rescue represenatives and mountain business people to discuss the future of Mont Blanc. "meditation and activity are equally possible there. The Himalayas are holy in the true sense of the word".
It's not strange to see many huts at the foot of Mont Blanc with balconies decorated with geranians and colourful prayer flags swayng as sign of peace. Sukabir Tamang and Lakpa Tamang work at Bertone hut, on Mont de la Saxe, opposite Aiguille Noire and the long Peuterey ridge. Both help out in the kitchen. One comes from Gorokani, in the Solokhumbu district, and the other from Dharapani, in the North of Nepal. Renzino Cosson, the manager and famous alpine guide of Courmayeur, is fond of both of them and treats them as though they were his sons. During the years immediately after the 2015 horrific earthquake in Nepal he, with his wife and daughters helped in every possible way the two cooks' families, who were in their homeland. Help was also provided through supporting the Sanonani non profit organization, created by the Valdostano mountaineer Marco Camandona who opened a Home for children and youngsters in the suburbs of Kathmandu. On another peak that is considered the symbol of the Alps,but in Pedimont, Sherpa Lakpa Temba works during the season at the Quintino Sella Hut, which like theTorino hut, belongs to the Italian Alpine Club. Potatoes, wheat and vegetables naturally come from the Po valley and from Varaita valley, but occasionally the chef prepares Nepalese dishes."I like it when i can serve Everest food at Monviso" says the Sherpa cook. I may even prepare Momos, meat and vegetable ravioli, with sauce. Clients will find them on the men! together with polenta and sausage!