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Hong Kong: a capital of italian cuisine abroad

Foto-21-Lucariello-and-Staf



Hong Kong, the Chinese gateway to the west, has always had a special love affair with the Italian cuisine. It has been from this unique city that the long wave of quality Italian Cuisine spread throughout all Asia. The pioneers of what has been a real revolution were young chefs, from Italy, where they were born, studied and started on their careers.

It was the definitive end to a century long stereotype for which unqualified migrants went abroad and opened thousand of restaurants with mammà or nonna at the stove. Those migrants were in any case extremely precious to the development of Italian Cuisine in the world, but with the new chefs this history changed. Gabriele Colombo at the Grissini, Mario Caramella at Mistral, Umberto Bombana at Rex were among the first to talk about quality, authenticity, ability, in the context of five star hotels. There were others of course and I ask them to forgive me if I don’t mention them all.
The stories of Paolo Monti and Vittorio Lucariello, two among the most active itchefs-Gvci members are strongly related to Hong Kong.

Foto-22-Vittorio-Lucariello


LUCARIELLO: I LEFT THERE A GREAT TEAM

“I have a lot of great memories of Hong Kong. One that stands out is the very professional working environment that is full of respect and dedicated people. I could always rely on my team, which never let me down.

One negative thing about Hong Kong is the very hot and humid weather. This took a long time to get used to since it was usually paired with high air pollution”. Vittorio Lucariello, has been for many years at the helm of Grissini (Hyatt Hong Kong) were he collected many accolades. He just returned to Italy to open his own restaurant this month. Born In a town close to Naples, Vittorio has an American wife and his new venture will start in Maranello (Modena). The restaurant’s name is Abbracci (via Nazionale Giardini, 80 – 0039 0536 944480). Vittorio says: “My decision to come back to Italy was first based on family. I have spent many years outside Italy and wanted to enjoy some time close to my own family. Secondly, I have always aspired to open a restaurant of my own in a place where the natural quality of the food is strong”.

How Vittorio sees his future? “I see that the opportunities for people of creative talent are unfortunately limited in Italy, which is why many leave to find success in other parts of the world. However, this country offers something that many do not, which is an amazing history, beautiful landscapes and some of the best food in the world. Love and peace”.

Foto-23-Paolo-Monti


PAOLO MONTI: NOODLES FROM THE NORTH, SPICES FROM THE SOUTH

This particular chef is a native of Rome and a purist about food; he has worked at some of its most prestigious restaurants such as the Michelin-starred Eden Hotel and Alberto Ciarla. His travels have taken him to Los Angeles where he worked for seven years in leading Italian restaurants, before coming to Hong Kong as Executive Chef for Gaia. However, Rome and the classical training he received there continue to be a source of influence in Paolo’s work.

“I would be lying if I said I hadn’t been influenced by the sheer beauty of the city as well as its tremendous history and tradition. I think this was probably what led me to work at Checco ar 13 ‘mo - one of the oldest trattorias in Rome... I have been in Hong Kong with Gaia since 2001 when it opened. I arrived with the intention of staying here for just six months but it was love at first sight. I am still very excited by Hong Kong and Asia and although I still love Italy, I don’t see myself leaving here for quite some time.”

FOTO-24

 

Paolo’s cooking combines health-conscious Californian attitude with authentic Italian cuisine, resulting in a lighter form of Italian food that embraces seasonal specialities. Chef Monti’s seasonal signature dishes at Gaia include a fresh and tender ‘Seared Blue Fin Tuna served rare with Roasted Veal Sauce’ and beautifully presented ‘Beef Carpaccio with Buffalo Ricotta cheese’. At the picturesque Gaia surrounds Chef Monti presents an inspired dish for the challenge: a slightly spicy Singaporean influenced ‘Spaghetti Il Milione’.

 

Italian cuisine chefs abroad: The no-no list

tomatoes

 

Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, there is a lot of confusion concerning dishes of Italian Cuisine in the world. Therefore, chefs and restaurateurs working outside Italy who really want to offer authentic Italian Cuisine must offer dishes as they are made in good restaurants in Italy. Too often outside Italy impostors of quality Italian restaurateurs take advantage of their clients' ignorance and serve dishes that have nothing to do with the diverse and vast repertoire of classic Italian cuisine. Here are some pieces of advice from Mario Caramella, executive chef in Indonesia and GVCI's President. They are based on his long-time experience as an Italian chef abroad and on that of many other itchefs-gvci members.

AGE QUOD AGIS (DO WELL WHATEVER YOU DO). Latin Proverb

  1. Do not put Caesar Salad on your menu. It is a Tex-mex hybrid not an Italian delicacy, as often Americans believe.
  2. Do not precook either pasta or rice. If for service reason you're in a hurry, use fresh pasta that cooks in 4 minutes. If you are still so obstinate that you have to precook pasta, then use shapes that are not seriously affected by parboiling: orecchiette, gnocchetti sardi or garganelli. In no case rinse this precooked pasta with tap water but rather pour some olive oil on it and let it rest at room temperature. Never, never precook spaghetti: let your clients wait for them.
  3. Be moderate in portioning pasta: a normal Italian portion is between 50 and 70 grams. Do not put on the menu “small, medium or large” for pasta portions. Pasta is not a style of underwear.
  4. Do not serve garlic bread. Instead, you can make a civilised bruschetta but without butter and minced garlic. Use extra virgin olive oil and rub some fresh garlic on the toasted surface. Avoid aromatised salts.
  5. Write the menu in correct Italian. Avoid ridiculous names such as Sophia Loren's Fillet or Tagliatelle alla Pavarotti.
  6. Use only quality extra virgin olive oil and good vinegar. Avoid false aceto balsamico and chemically treated olive oils, in particular so-called “truffled oil” (“olio tartufato”). Avoid as much as you can using the microwave and the deep fryer. Never cook a Costoletta alla Milanese in either one.
  7. Use cream only in pastry making.
  8. Do not put on the menu “Spaghetti alla Bolognese” but “Tagliatelle al Ragù” and make the ragù as specified by the authentic recipe.
  9. Do not serve warmed bread nor olive oil and aceto balsamico, whether genuine or false, with it and never serve roasted garlic with it either.
  10. Do not put on the menu “Tagliatelle all'Alfredo”. There is enormous confusion concerning this dish, which is not a bad at all if correctly made, with pasta, butter and Parmigiano.
  11. Do not put garlic in every dish and avoid serving Parmigiano indiscriminately, with risotto with crustaceous, shellfish and other seafood pasta.
  12. Do not copy French cuisine thinking that you will thus improve Italian cuisine.
  13. Avoid red and white chequered tablecloths and paper serviettes artistically folded or put in the glasses.
  14. Avoid garlic or the empty Chianti flask hung on the restaurant's wall.
  15. Do not use pasta that cooks in the oven to make lasagne.
  16. Do not serve pizza with pineapple.
  17. Avoid serving cappuccino and latte macchiato with dessert as much as you can.

TO OBTAIN AN AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CUISINE HAVE AT THE HAND:

  • Fresh tomatoes and herbs
  • Bread with its crust
  • Seasonal produce and
  • Fresh tomato sauces

SERVE:

  • Salads with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Home-made desserts and gelato
  • A costoletta alla milanese that is thick, with the bone and pink inside
  • Sicilian pastry
  • DOP cheeses and smallgoods (salami, prosciutti etc)
  • Bollito misto
  • Homemade pasta and ravioli
  • Fresh fish and
  • Espresso coffee of good quality,

AND HAVE

  • An Italian chef and restaurant manager and
  • A wine list with only Italian wines, including Italian spirits and liqueurs.
 

Piazza creates the Padella d'Argento to reward the gvci chef of the year

PIAZZA PADELLA d'ARGENTO

A special shining silver pan, Padella d'Argento, has been created by Piazza, the Italian manufacturer of saucepans, kitchenware and tableware, to award GVCI's Chefs of the year. This symbolic award was created two years ago by Mario Caramella, GVCI's President, to honour annually distinguished chefs belonging to the Group. While it is not a culinary award, it is certainly recognition of the professionalism of the chef nominated but, above all, it is an award for his/her humanity. It is a way to recognise Italian chefs, members of the GVCI, who offer their talents and skills to better the life of others, displaying tolerance, understanding, compassion and bravery. It's not by chance that Mario Caramella and the GVCI Board dedicated the prize to the memory of Antonio Amato, a Neapolitan chef belonging to GVCI, who was killed by terrorists in Al Khobar (Saudi Arabia) in 2004. The 2007 Cuoco GVCI dell'Anno (GVCI chef of the year) was Vincenzo Perez, who as Executive Chef of the Hotel Phoenicia Intercontinental in Beirut, decided to work and stay in Lebanon in 2006, despite the civil war. Vincenzo at that stage thought that it was the correct way to compensate for what that country and its people had given to him. He left Lebanon when the situation improved and is now Corporate Executive Chef of The Pearl, in Doha (Qatar).

Vincenzo Perez Padella d'Argento Alessandro Colombis Padella d'argento

 

The 2008 Cuoco GVCI dell'Anno is Alessandro Colombis, who up to a few months ago was the Italian Chef at Va Bene Restaurant in Shanghai (China). He left his job to go to work as a volunteer in Cambodia at the Hotel Hospitality School Don Bosco in Sihanukville. The school, founded by Roberto Panetto, Father Carlo Velardo and their Salesian bothers, is open to poor boy and girls of the city. Alessandro, who is a GVCI Vice President too, answered an appeal launched by Father Velardo, a GVCI member himself, through the Forum and will stay in Cambodia for eight months.
Both Vincenzo and Alessandro received the Piazza's Padella d'Argento. The manufacturer is preparing a big one as well to exhibit in Fairs and Public Events, on which all the GVCI Chefs of the year will be listed. Enrico Piazza is himself a GVCI member.

 

 
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