Davide Scabin relishes his reputation as a shit disturber, but there is method to the madness of this Italian provocateur. A truck-driver’s son, he smokes like a barbecue, has a silver, movie-star head of hair and a voice so deep it would give Barry White pause. He even inspired an Italian film: Tutte Le Donne Della Mia Vita (All the Women in My Life), a comedy about a famous and totally irresponsible chef.
Growing up, he planned to become a computer hacker or else a thief, but his mother steered him towards a career as a chef. Since 2002 he has run Combal.Zero, the long, skinny restaurant at the contemporary Castello di Rivoli museum outside Turin, where he has two Michelin stars.
Obsessed with design and technology, he often brainstorms with researchers at the University of Turin, and even teaches a class there on food design. His take on cuisine is avant-garde and always changing—if there is one constant, it is in breaking the rules. Scabin prepares rabbit to taste like tuna, boils macaroni for 50 minutes to make an ethereal soufflé, crafts sushi from veal and foie gras. At evening’s end, the dining room fills with helium balloons, as diners burst plastic bags in their mouths and a mix of Campari and soda shoots out. And there is the fundamental appeal of his approach: food as una festa.