Even as a child, I was fascinated by all that went on in the kitchen. I watched and learned from my mother and then, as I grew up, progressed to helping her when she made the pasta. I loved plunging my hands into the flour and egg mix. Little by little it became obvious cooking would become my career and so I went to the hotel school to study to become a chef. The rest is history.
My cooking is based on local Italian products, the Mediterranean and southern Italy – I am from the south, an islander from Sardinia and proud of my origins. I favour garlic, basil, fresh tomatoes, typically sunny southern scents and flavours but I also love to combine them with a touch of something from the Far East. I have been influenced by oriental culture and its sauces and sweet-sour flavours which I got to know in periods spent abroad, particularly when I was in Miami and Hawaii where I learnt a great deal about tuna and sashimi which I still love to this day.
I am devoted to seasonality so I am passionate about using Mediterranean products during their season. I buy fresh products from local small farmers and cultivators who favour organic methods and biodiversity, thus sustaining our local and national Italian economies. I love fish products and so seek out our local Veneto salmon trout and, of course, being Sardinian, I also go for the best Mediterranean fish and crustaceans, but I particularly like to use and add value to so-called “poor fish”, using their own particular character to create dishes which are surprisingly flavoursome and elegant.
My signature is seasonality and the Mediterranean character of my food. Which is at once simple but can also be elaborate thanks to modern techniques. Take, for instance, a traditional, typically Italian dish such as Vitello Tonnato, I like to use raw veal and raw tuna with an ultra-light but tasty sauce, a Mediterranean dish with almost universal appeal although my modern version is also much healthier.
I have the whole hotel and its professions around me and, of course, the brigade. I try to pass my experience and passion on to them and also to other hotel departments to fire their enthusiasm. I believe in respect and collaboration between people. So, if I brief the brigade on the composition of my dishes and they do a good job with our guests in the dining room, then we have personally involved them in the work we do both in the kitchen and the dining room, creating an important three-way relationship which can be nurtured and made to last over the course of time.
Italy is full of amazing culinary traditions but once again I return to my origins and happy memories of our Sunday tradition in Sardinia. Suckling pig roasted whole for 3 or 4 hours at a temperature of about 170°C with rosemary, garlic and “mirto” (myrtle) is a fragrant miracle of taste and flavour. “Mirto” grows everywhere in Sardinia but juniper berries or sage can also replace it in other areas. Buon appetito!