Nestled between the ocean and the lush Mediterranean landscape, the hotel-restaurant has quickly evolved into a luxury getaway for the jet set crowd. Document's Fall/Winter 2013 issue features a window into their world.
A rugged but glamorous seaside escape, Il Pellicano is a true love child of the 1960s. A five-star Relais & Châteaux hotel that lies quietly on the Argentario coast of Tuscany, Il Pellicano was founded in 1965 by American socialites Patricia and Michael Graham.
Nestled between the ocean and the lush Mediterranean landscape, the hotel quickly evolved into a luxury getaway for the jet set crowd. Iconic photographers Slim Aarons, John Swope and Juergen Teller found refuge in this little Italian enclave, along with European fashion royalty, including the Pucci, Missoni and Fendi families.
Purchased by Italian businessman Roberto Sció in 1979, the secluded property remains a respite for the biggest names in art and fashion across Europe and the United States. The hotel recently collaborated with legendary fashion and art photographer Juergen Teller on a one-of-a-kind cookbook featuring the dishes of its young but talented chef, Antonio Guida. Hotel vice-president and daughter of the owners Marie-Louise Sció talks with editor and producer of the cookbook Robert Violette.
Marie-Louise Sció: At the Pellicano for some time we had been thinking about making a cookbook with our two-Michelin-star chef, Antonio Guida, but we wanted to do something special, something with a twist, with a “Pellicano” vision, something out of the box. After the fantastic experince of working with Robert and Juergen on our first book Hotel Il Pellicano, it became very clear what we wanted to do. JT was the perfect photographer for that twist and different point of view on food and Robert the perfect publisher to create something different, beautiful and special. They both said yes immediately and the fun of working together started all over again. I love working with them; they are incredible professionals and great friends. The idea was to push the boundaries of the typical cookbook a little, a book that could be in travel sections, or art sections, in multiple departments. We wanted to really blur the lines and take away the boundaries between disciplines.
Robert Violette: At the same time, it seemed a perfect combination; Juergen’s approach to photography is so direct that the extravagance and ingenuity of the food seemed a great contrast and partner for Juergen’s direct observation. In the same way Juergen photographs Charlotte Rampling or Lily Cole, here he aimed his lens at amazing creations by Antonio, which maybe even rival the beauty of Rampling and Cole, if I can dare to say that! At the same time, the picture ends up being so direct and plain yet lush and extravagant, in an unmistakably Juergen Teller manner, that it makes a perfect marriage in the book. I think the book too, in a very simple way, tries to present the pictures for what they are, unadorned, except for the perfectly judged typography and design from Studio Frith.
Marie-Louise: Exactly! I think Juergen’s way of photographing things in such a non-filtered way that is just so honest and clean and so raw really brings out the qualities of the food, because the food also wasn’t styled and there was no artificial lighting, it was just as is. So his way of photographing really brought out the qualities of the food because the pictures then become something else. Usually cookbooks are very stylized and you can’t really relate to them, but his way of photographing Antonio’s food, the dishes really become landscapes of other things, the dishes are works of art, which JT’s photography really brings to life. Also, you never look at food from that point of view, so close-up, and with his close-up, detailed approach, the viewer is immersed in the world of that salad or that fish, or whatever it is he’s photographing, it becomes other objects or other things. The two of them, Juergen and Antonio, were the perfect combination.
Robert: That’s an excellent point, because in the naturalism of Juergen’s approach to his photography and Antonio’s philosophy of cooking, there is real common ground. Despite the complexity of Antonio’s food, what drives his cooking is his respect for ingredients, for the natural content of the dishes he is creating, based on what is locally available at the time. When you look at Juergen’s photography, there is also a naturalism, or even naturism. The women and the men in his portraits, his family members, his son, the people that he photographs, it’s all incredibly naturalistic. Like Marie-Louise said, there is no staging. There’s the flash, and in a moment, the picture is taken. And Antonio’s dishes as made for eating.
Marie-Louise: It was very stressful for Antonio. This was his first book. He was in his kitchen with his team of 24 preparing these dishes, and Juergen, Georg Ruffles, Juergen’s assistant, and I just sat there all day, waiting for these creations to arrive. Every dish needed to be photographed instantly, too. They weren’t “fixed” or faked in any way for the images. The dish was made to Antonio’s satisfaction, brought out and Juergen photographed it, maybe only two or three shots, a wide shot, a detail shot. That was it. We would then obviously taste them because, like Robert said, he really used the authentic ingredients, as he would for anyone dining in the Pellicano’s restaurant. Everything was edible. So we had a constant feast!
Robert: I’m quite jealous of that. I really would have liked to have been on clean-up for that job.
Marie-Louise: We sat in chairs all day long from 9 o’clock in the morning, because Antonio could only complete about 8 dishes a day. Juergen had to come back to the hotel three times, because Antonio wanted dishes legitimately photographed with fresh ingredients across different parts of our March to October season. It was so much fun and at the same time, incredibly time consuming. Incredibly stressful. But what a magnificent result. They are geniuses, both of them.
Eating at Hotel Il Pellicano” is published by Violette Editions, distributed by Distributed Art Publishers, and available at Amazon.com.