Stefano Polato, “the Space Chef”
During the part of the IV edition of Digital Meet that was held at Berto's, we had the privilege of attending a speech given by an exceptional guest: Stefano Polato.
Stefano Polato (the "Space Chef", as defined by the international press), manager of the food engineering company Space Food Lab, which in collaboration with the Italian aerospace engineering company Argotec, organises the preparation of food for astronauts while on missions in space, together with NASA, the Russian Agency NKA and the European, Canadian and Japanese Space Agencies.
The speech was truly enthralling, and while listening to him we felt a little like Alice in a technological wonderland of the third millennium: Stefano explained that the astronauts based on the International Space Station physically age 10 years in just six months; that the microgravity environment found on spacecraft has unimaginable effects on the body, metabolism and DNA; that daily life in space really is like something out of a fictional book by Jules Verne, even when it comes to preparing a simple snack. The challenge for those who have had to prepare food for astronauts in recent years has been truly difficult: for example, until recently, know-how in the field of sterilisation stopped at the discoveries of Louis Pasteur in 1862, and previous experiments on the effects of microgravity on conservation and nutritional parameters were few and incomplete. Research was then continued by Argotec, in close collaboration with international space agencies and astronauts; in fact, for several years now Stefano has been working with Samantha Cristoforetti, the Italian engineer who in 2015 broke the all-time female space duration record during the ISS Futura mission: Stefano and Samantha prepared for this mission together. While in orbit, Samantha carried out many scientific experiments focused mainly on mechanics, biology and physiology, and for these scientific merits she has been named a UNICEF ambassador; the international community also dedicated an asteroid discovered between Mars and Jupiter to her, which is now called 15006 Samcristoforetti.
Today, Stefano Polato prepares Italian food to be eaten among the stars in his Berto's S900 industrial kitchen, in the Turin headquarters of Argotec. At the end of Digital Meet, we had the pleasure of tasting his spelt risotto with salmon, dill and asparagus, created for the Ulysses of the cosmos (packaged using futuristic techniques such as high pressure processing, high pressure carbon dioxide pasteurisation, ionizing radiation), and we have to admit that it was rather tasty.