Kitchen Confidential

Widely regarded as one of the top chefs in Italy, Valeria Piccini’s restaurant, Da Caino, in southern Tuscany, has held two Michelin stars since 1999. Three years ago, Piccini was invited to team up with The St. Regis Florence’s executive chef, Michele Griglio, to create Restaurant Winter Garden by Caino, the hotel’s fine dining experience, housed in an exquisite former courtyard with lofty ceilings and sumptuous décor. From day one, the collaboration between these two culinary masters has been a resounding success: in 2014 the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star for its unique take on classic Tuscan cooking.


What do you eat when you’re home alone?


V.C. Spaghetti and eggs with tomato sauce.
M.G. Something very simple like a beef fillet.



What would you order from the menu at Restaurant Winter Garden by Caino?


V.C. Right now I would order the homemade ravioli stuffed with grey mullet on a cream of fresh peas and grey mullet roe.
M.G. For the ultimate experience you really have to try the tasting menu.



What’s your favorite dish to cook?


V.C. Definitely pasta and desserts.
M.G. Spaghetti with tomato sauce.



Are you inspired by local ingredients or traditions?


V.C. Always. We try to use local products as much as possible. For example the grey mullet and the grey mullet roe both come from Monte Argentario [a peninsula off the southern Tuscan coast].
M.G. I’m constantly inspired by Tuscany’s incredible culinary tradition and all the outstanding products the region has to offer.



What’s been your proudest or most memorable moment during your career?


V.C. When I was awarded a second Michelin Star at Da Caino. And when we received our first Michelin star at Restaurant Winter Garden by Caino.
M.G. In 2005, when I did my first service alone [as head chef], in charge of an entire kitchen staff.



Which dish you’ve created are you most proud of?


V.C. It’s impossible to choose just one. My favorites are tortelli pasta with Cinta Senese [a type of pork], tortelli with cacio cheese and pears, and I always love cooking anything with pigeon, because for me it’s the best meat.
M.G. I’m very proud of my risotto with peas and squid.



What’s the best thing to eat in Florence?


V.C. Lampredotto, which is a traditional Florentine dish made using part of a cow’s stomach, boiled in a broth with tomato, onion, parsley and celery.
M.G. You can’t beat a Florentine steak.



If you could revisit any meal in your life, what would it be and why?


V.C. It has to be lasagne – I love it.
M.G. I’m a big fan of jerk chicken, a typical Jamaican dish. One day I would love to recreate it with a touch of Italian style.



What’s the secret to running a restaurant?


V.C. Never losing the passion you had at the beginning, constant research, and humility, which I’ve noticed seems to be decreasing.
M.G. I’m still trying to find out, but passion and constant dedication are without doubt the starting points for a successful restaurant.



When you were a child, what was your favorite type of food and do you still eat it now?


V.C. For me it was always pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese, but to be honest I don’t eat it very often these days.
M.G. I always loved dark chocolate. It’s one food I’ll never give up.



Which dish or meal most reminds you of home?


V.C. I’ve always had a nostalgia for foods that are derived from the cheese-making process. My parents were dairy farmers, so I always loved eating “cuculo”, which is the spun curd before it becomes cheese, and “scottino”, a combination of hot ricotta cheese, buttermilk and bread.
M.G. Sunday roast beef always makes me think of home.


Your address: The St. Regis Florence


Michele Griglio and Valeria Piccini have joined forces to create a menu of Tuscan dishes with a contemporary twist



Mare di champagne (sea of champagne)



Sella di lepre (saddle of hare)


Kitchen Confidential

Having first started cooking at the age of 15, Egyptian-born chef Michael Mina made a name for himself at Aqua in San Francisco, from where he established – with tennis star Andre Agassi – an empire of 18 restaurants across America. Since being named the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year in 1997, he has won several awards, fronted a TV program and written an eponymous cookbook.



What’s your favorite dish to cook?


Anything cooked outdoors. At home, in northern California, I am blessed to have an outdoor kitchen in the garden with a wood-burning oven. Often, I’ll give guests a basket to pick vegetables from the garden, which we then cook over wood. I love things like fresh vegetables on pizza, or côte de boeuf cooked on the flames. I adore shellfish, too, particularly abalone from the Bay area, which I grill with lemon, egg-batter with brown butter or sauté, niçoise-style, with olives, capers and lemon.



What do you eat when you’re home alone?


Spaghetti with thinly sliced garlic, cooked nice and slow in olive oil with a hint of red chili and lemon.



Anything local you’ve been inspired by?


Greens that we don’t get anywhere else, exceptional seafood and wonderful tomatoes. My wife makes the most amazing Bloody Mary using them.



What’s the dish you’re most proud of?


A dish I made for my wife on our honeymoon in Hawaii. She wanted caviar, so I found some and served it to her in bed with warm potato cake, smoked salmon and eggs. It’s a dish I now serve in all our restaurants.



What’s been the most memorable moment of your career?


Winning the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef in the United States. I was so proud, as it was my first award, and because there are so many young talented chefs. Another great moment was my son being accepted into the Culinary Institute of America.



Are there any foods that are overrated?


Anything that’s out of season. And beef that’s called “Kobi” or wagyu beef but isn’t. Real wagyu is one of the most amazing products there is, but the term can be used rather loosely.



Are there any particularly fine ingredients in California?


So many. Particularly good are sanddabs, which are like little sole. We fry them in a pan with a little oil and butter and serve them with lemon.



What do you like most about Dana Point?


The community, which is made up of arty surfers. They’re very social and love interacting with our staff, which makes the restaurant relaxed and fun.



If you could revisit any meal in your life, what would it be and why?


A dinner at Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo, which was the most perfect meal I’ve ever had. The chef cooks for only four people at a time and everything he did was unbelievable. We had 28 courses, including several kinds of tuna, each of which had a different fat content, and spiny crabs that were cooked, taken out and mixed with their roe, then put back into the crab shell.



What’s the secret to running a restaurant?


Having balance; precise but engaging service; and connecting, making friends and building long-term relationships with each other and our clients. Having the right chef and the general manager is essential, too, as they are the mother and father of your new restaurant family.



What was your favorite food as a child?


Hamburgers, which I still love. But they have to be perfect. The bun (ideally potato) has to be toasted right. The meat has to be ground quite coarsely, then flattened just before it’s cooked, so it’s still full of juicy air pockets. Extras should be simple: I like a piece of cheese, ketchup, onion and pickle.



What meal most reminds you of home?


Kusheries, which my mother has made all my life. It’s a typical Middle Eastern dish, made with rice, lentils and chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce with caramelized onions. It’s not something you can just whip up: the lentils and chickpeas need soaking overnight and the tomato sauce has to cook for a couple of hours. But it’s worth the effort because it’s so delicious.


Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina




Whole fried jidori chicken for two, one of Stonehill Tavern’s signature dishes



The restaurant’s imaginative tasting menu uses the freshest local ingredients



Taste hunters

The luxury minibus pulls up outside a scruffy door in a back alley somewhere in the vast metropolis that is Shanghai. Ten expensively dressed, if somewhat confused, figures step out and survey their insalubrious surroundings. 


In terms of age and ethnicity, they are an eclectic bunch that includes American business executives, newly wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs and cultured young Europeans. But they have one thing in common: each has paid a small fortune, and many have traveled here especially for this one evening, to embark on a multi-sensory gastronomic journey. Welcome to the new frontier of food tourism.


These experience-hungry global travelers have bagged a coveted seat at Ultraviolet, a restaurant in a mystery Shanghai location that has achieved cult international status over the course of its three-year existence. A black door slides open to reveal a large pod-like capsule which serves as the dining space. Each guest’s name is projected onto their spot-lit place at the single communal table before the 20-plus course tasting menu is presented. 


Crucially, every plate is coupled with music or sound effects (such as rain lashing on a roof); films and graphics are projected onto all four surrounding walls; bespoke lighting is directed onto the dishes themselves; presentation and service are frequently dramatic in the extreme. 


The whole thing is witty and theatrical and, most of all, great fun. Ultraviolet’s diners find it difficult not to smile and laugh throughout much of the globe-trotting four-hour extravaganza, created by French chef Paul Pairet. A dish called “Foie Gras Can’t Quit”, for example, is a crisp fruit-skin “cigarette” filled with an airy and delicious foie gras mousse sitting in an ashtray dotted with black cabbage “ash”. 


We’ve long been led around the world by our stomachs, of course. The idea that food and wine might play a role in determining our next travel destination is far from new; indeed, France’s tourism industry has been built on it. It’s the new extremes that we will go to, and the real sense of discovery that so many seek, that makes this such a notable phenomenon.


A new generation of foodies is harnessing the power of social media – after all, Instagram’d pictures can induce travel and food envy simultaneously – and racing to notch up far-flung culinary experiences before anyone they know gets there first. It’s an extension of the metropolitan social cachet of eating in a new restaurant within days of its launch, taken to the global level. “Our customers usually secure their reservations here before booking flights and accommodation,” confirms Monica Luo of Ultraviolet. “We recently had five gentlemen come from France as a surprise birthday gift for one of them. They were in Shanghai for only 48 hours, but they certainly had a blast.”


Others of a similarly inquisitive nature will seek out the world’s very finest sushi, served at Tokyo’s ultimate specialist restaurants such as Sukiyabashi Jiro or Sushi Saito. Each will seat only 8 to 12 diners at a simple wooden counter, with the venerated sushi master hand-preparing each piece of fish in front of them. Securing a seat (for non-Japanese at least) will involve working your charms on the concierge. Diners are often in and out in just an hour or so, but they are still prepared to go to such lengths for the ultimate nigiri. 


Litti Kewacha is a Thai entrepreneur who regularly criss-crosses the globe in search of outstanding meals. “People travel for sightseeing, some for art, concerts, sporting events. I travel for food. My trips around the world are driven by a desire to explore the world of gastronomy, and to appreciate and enjoy not just the best food but the greatest minds in gastronomy,” he says. “For me, a meal at Noma [in Copenhagen, Denmark] or El Celler de Can Roca [in Girona, Spain] is like going to an exhibition of masterpieces by one of the world’s leading artists.”


This is not a trend, however, that is restricted to a super-wealthy high-culture elite. Young creative professionals are replacing the adventurous backpacking of their youth with intrepid and immersive food experiences in destinations as diverse as Bangkok and Bogotá, Mexico City and Osaka. Increasingly, travel companies are getting savvy to this – often supported by national tourism boards – and arranging itineraries revolving around food. Already over one-third of western travelers’ spend is devoted to eating and drinking, a figure that’s growing steadily – and any nation’s overall appeal is massively enhanced if it’s seen to be an epicurean hotspot.


American-born Mason Florence has lived in Bangkok since 2002, and has documented the changing food scene. While the city “oozes food, and the culture of Thai people is deeply rooted in the art of cooking, with locals frequenting late-night street food meccas like Yaowarat and Banglamphu”, these days more adventurous food-hunters are finding their way to lesser-known hot spots: “places like Wang Lang Market and Talat Phlu, both a short ride across the river from central Bangkok”.


In recent years the Thai capital has added higher-quality restaurants to its roster. “Bangkok has developed an international reputation for its restaurants, in large part due to their success in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list,” says Florence. “More than ever we’re seeing hardcore foodies flying into town with one sole purpose: to eat. Many of them journey from other parts of Asia, while others come from as far afield as Europe, Australia and the Americas.”


As well as restaurants such as Nahm, where Australian-born David Thompson uses his deep knowledge and extensive research of historic Thai recipes to produce super-authentic dishes, the city has produced a new raft of cool, informal bar-restaurants such as Namsaah Bottling Trust, Quince and Opposite Mess Hall, as well as Eat Me, run by New York chef Tim Butler, where the city’s glammed-up crowd sample edgy cocktails alongside razor clams with spicy nduja pork.


On the other side of the world, Mexico is rapidly becoming another promised land for fashionable-food devotees. Each of the country’s regions has its own distinct identity and signature dishes, from the Baja peninsula on the west coast to Oaxaca in the south. Mexico City itself boasts enough great restaurants, bars and markets to sate the hungriest and most demanding traveler’s appetite – literal and metaphorical.


The menu here is certainly about much more than tacos and tortillas – think fried insects at Rosetta or the 400-day aged “mole madre” at Pujol, two of the Mexican capital’s most acclaimed eateries. At the same time, it’s also about an extraordinary array of tacos and tortillas, tamales and tequila in bars and cafes, street stalls and markets across this food-loving land.


For those without the opportunity or time to explore such exotic culinary landscapes, finding the niche foodster hotspots within New York, London, Paris and San Francisco satisfies a similar urge. At hip Brooklyn food market Smorgasburg, for example, the weekend throng is replete with numerous nationalities and languages (not to mention artful facial hair). It also happens to boast almost 100 seriously good local food purveyors.


Tellingly, uber-foodies like Kewacha are now switching from blogging to Instagram as their preferred medium through which to share their culinary escapades. In fact, notching up particularly hard-to-access restaurants is prime social currency among proud gastronauts, as witnessed by the meteoric success of Fäviken in Sweden. Magnus Nilsson’s restaurant set in an old lodge on a 24,000-acre hunting estate is famously situated in the country’s frozen north, just 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. First, you have to make your way to Stockholm, then fly an hour up to Östersund, followed by further hours (depending on the season and weather) up to Järpen. The 12 seats are booked many months in advance, so it’s not really the place to simply show up hoping for a “walk-in” – and don’t be late for dinner or you may be refused entry.


Once in for the night (accommodation is also on-site) and lighter by some $700, diners are treated to rare delights such as trout roe in dried pig’s blood and potatoes cooked in decomposed leaves. In short, the more remote the location, the more outlandish and outré the food is likely to be. Next stop, penguin brains in Antarctica?


Your address: The St. Regis Bangkok; The St. Regis Mexico City; The St. Regis Osaka; The St. Regis San Francisco; The St. Regis New York 



Chef Paul Pairet’s wittily-named Foie Gras Can’t Quit “cigarette”
at Ultraviolet restaurant in Shanghai.



Diners make pilgrimages from all over the globe to experience Ultraviolet’s theatrical gastronomy 


For the culinary jet-set, a meal at Noma in Copenhagen, “is like going to 

an exhibition of masterpieces by one of the world’s leading artists” 

Kitchen Confidential

Austrian-born chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck came to the US in 1973 and has since built an international culinary empire. The Michelin-starred chef, who caters for the Oscars and is the star of TV food shows, is also active in philanthropic endeavors through his charitable foundation.


How did your cookery career begin?


My mother was a professional chef, so from the age of about 13, I used to go with her to work; it was either that or learn to be a bricklayer or a mason with my father, and I hated that! I loved the pastry section at the restaurant my mother worked in. They made incredible Baked Alaska, and it’s where I tasted canned fruit for the first time. I had some pineapple and thought it was just amazing.


What sort of food did you eat as a family back home?


I grew up on a farm, so when my mother made soup, or a salad, she’d just go into the garden and pick what she needed. As soon as the first tomatoes were ripe we used to make delicious sandwiches on dark rye bread with butter, parsley and a little onion. It sounds so simple but when the ingredients are straight from the ground, it’s an amazing thing.


Your first job was working for the legendary chef Raymond Thuilier at his restaurant L’Oustau de Baumanière. What was that like?


Raymond was about 72, and he had this passion and love for ingredients that I’d never seen before. When I met Raymond I just thought, “Wow, I want to be like this guy. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Famous people were coming in all the time, even the Queen of England and Picasso. When Peter O’Toole was making a movie in the area, he always used to eat lamb, well-done, with a Cartagena Pinot Noir, and we’d stay up chatting late into the night. Then I’d take him back to his room on my little motorbike; he used to drink quite a lot of whisky after dinner.


What’s the best meal you’ve ever had cooked for you?


One of the most interesting was recently at the Carolina restaurant at The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort in Mexico. The young local chef there, Jose Mesa Arroyave, cooked my wife and me the most amazing Mexican food ever. It was so beautifully presented and not what you’d expect: charred octopus on a crispy tortilla with a black bean purée, a deconstructed tortilla soup served in a spoon as an amuse-bouche, a quail taco and ceviche… I don’t often get surprised, but this was a revelation to me.


How would you describe your new Spago restaurant in Istanbul?


It’s in one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever been to. Every room has an amazing piece of art in it, and the restaurant itself is on the eighth floor with an incredible view. We have a big, beautiful terrace that takes up almost half the space. It’s not too formal, just cool and relaxed, and in the evenings it’s like one big party. We have a DJ at the bar and everyone goes from table to table. It’s great if you’ve just arrived in the city, because you can still sit by the bar and relax, soaking up the atmosphere.


How have you gone about planning the menu?


The very first thing I always do in a new place is to go to the farmers’ market and the fish market and see what ingredients are best in the area. I love to support the local suppliers and they have amazing fish in Istanbul – turbot, wild sea bass, shrimp – and the lamb is the best that you’ll find anywhere. We do an amazing Chinese-style dish with it where the lamb’s marinated in soy sauce, chilli flakes, mirin and spring onion, and then just grilled over a charcoal fire. Of course, if you still want our signature smoked salmon pizza, you’ll be able to order one here, too.


Any ingredients that you’re particularly fussy about?


I love proper chocolate, and I get that from Jean-Paul Hévin in Paris. I always have some in the freezer. I won’t touch cheap chocolate; it has to be 70 per cent cocoa and it has to have some flavor. And if I’m ever hungover, I have to have proper coffee. I’ve been into the kitchen of one of the fanciest hotels in Paris to show them how to make a cappuccino right. For $800 a room you deserve good coffee.


Who would you love to cook for?


Picasso, because I’d love to talk to him. Mozart, because maybe he could play the piano. And Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, because I love them. They’d have to enjoy food, though; there’s nothing more boring than cooking for somebody who doesn’t really enjoy great food and wine.


Your address: The St. Regis Istanbul


Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen


 Yuzu blueberry Baked Alaska

The terrace at Spago at The St. Regis Istanbul, which
serves Puck’s cutting-edge, farm-to-table cuisine

A Culinary Genius In Doha

The Scottish-born chef Gordon Ramsay originally set out to become a professional soccer player, switching to catering college at age 19 following a knee injury. He went on to train under chef Marco Pierre White before deciding to specialize in French cuisine, working alongside Albert Roux at Le Gavroche in London and Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon in Paris. His first Michelin star came in 1997, when he was chef at Aubergine. When he was 33, his own venture, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, was awarded three Michelin stars. Today, his ever-growing chain of restaurants stretches from Los Angeles and New York to Paris and Hong Kong, and he continues to appear on television series such as Kitchen Nightmares and MasterChef. The chef launched two restaurants in 2012 at The St. Regis Doha: Opal by Gordon Ramsay, which serves classic western dishes in a bistro-style environment, and a fine-dining space, Gordon Ramsay Restaurant.
Which dish do you most enjoy cooking?
I love cooking all sorts; what I make depends on what mood I’m in and how long I want to spend in the kitchen. In my recent TV cooking series Ultimate Home Cooking, it was all about making tasty food at home: nothing too fancy, but great fish dishes, pies, desserts.


Is there anything you’d rather buy than make?
No. Cooking your own food is always a better and healthier option. I’m a big believer in cooking at home with the family. My kids do a lot of the cooking in the house and it’s much more enjoyable.


What do you eat when you’re home alone?
Something quick and simple, such as a good-quality steak with salad and a homemade dressing. I always like to see what’s in the cupboard: you’d be surprised what you can make with just a few staple ingredients.


What would you order from the menu at The St. Regis Doha?
From Gordon Ramsay Restaurant, I would choose the carpaccio of Scottish scallops. At Opal, the lamb burger with mint is one of my favorites, although I try different dishes every time I am there. I always ask the chef to create mini versions of dishes on the menu so I can sample all of them.


How do the dishes there differ from your other restaurants?
Opal is very similar to Bread Street Kitchen in London, and obviously Gordon Ramsay Restaurant is inspired by my three-Michelin-starred flagship restaurant. However, we do make changes to reference the local culture, the flavors that are popular in the region, and the fresh ingredients that we can get.


When you were a child, what was your favorite food?
Eggs Benedict. I’ve always loved having it in the morning; it’s all about the hollandaise sauce.


Which meal most reminds you of home?
Beef Wellington, which has become one of my signature dishes. It’s very versatile: you can change what meat you use (I recently used lamb) as well as the spices and secondary ingredients.


Which is the dish you’re most proud of?
King crab tortellini with lemongrass and tomato vinaigrette. It is simple and fresh and always impresses.


What’s been the most memorable moment of your career?
Getting the first Michelin star for Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (and of course getting three a few years later). But every time I’ve opened a restaurant it has been a really proud moment. I now have 25 globally and 13 in London, and there’s more to come. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have my restaurant business, TV career and wonderful family.


Are there any foods that you think are overrated?
No, although anything that is processed or poor quality is never good in my book. I grew up in a household with very little money so we ate some horrible food – spam. That definitely isn’t something I’d eat now.


What do you enjoy most about Doha?
The people. They have always been very friendly and extremely professional.


If you could revisit a meal that you’ve had in the past, what would it be?
I’m very lucky in that I eat out a lot and get to experience lots of different styles, concepts and cultures. The most recent amazing meal I’ve had was at Quique Dacosta in Spain. I was in the area filming for television and found myself in a terrible restaurant. We wanted to show them what amazing service was, so I took them to Quique Dacosta; it was fantastic.


What’s the secret to running a restaurant really well?
You have to have a great team. I definitely do, and when I’m asked who does the cooking when I’m not there, I say it’s the same people as when I am there. To run a restaurant, and certainly to be a chef, you have to have passion for what you do, work hard and persevere.
Your address: The St. Regis Doha





Ramsay’s repertoire
Bleu lobster salad, croquant of celeriac and apple
with homardine sauce

Terrine of duck foie gras, dried apricots and almonds,
strawberry vinaigrette

Buttered truffle and guinea fowl with sweet potato purée,
chestnuts and mushroom mix


Issue 2 - The Spice of Life - Atul Kochhar - Image 1

The Spice of Life

The first Indian chef ever to receive a Michelin star, in 2001, Atul Kochhar is famed for bringing his country’s cuisine to the forefront of fine dining. His simple, elegant take on traditional dishes has made Benares, his original restaurant in London’s Mayfair, known across the world, and he’s had a series of equally successful ventures since. Growing up in Jamshedpur in East India, all of Kochhar’s menus focus on fresh, local ingredients, of the kind that his father used to take him to source when he was younger. His new restaurant, Simply India, at The St. Regis Mauritius Resort, serves tandoori specialities and Goan delicacies in a colonial-inspired setting.


What’s your earliest food memory?
Going to the local market with my father in India. He was a caterer, and sourcing fresh local produce was important to him. The colors and smells were so vibrant and exciting. I would always look forward to our trips together.


What is the dish your mother used to make that you still love?
Rogan josh. It’s a dish I’ve had on my menus many times, although my mother makes it best. It’s a classic Indian dish with lamb and lots of spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, plus ginger, tomato paste, crushed almonds and yoghurt. It’s something my whole family used to enjoy together around the dinner table, so it has a sense of nostalgia for me as well.


Do you have a trademark dish?
I have a couple. But one of my favorites is my chicken tikka pie with wild berry chutney. It’s made with a great light pastry shell and filled with chicken tikka. We then use seasonal wild berries to make a sweet and savory compôte.


How would you describe your cooking?
Modern Indian. It’s a combination of the recipes and cooking techniques from my upbringing, with twists I’ve picked up along the way. I also adapt traditional Indian recipes to incorporate seasonal ingredients of other countries.


Who taught you to cook?
Both my parents. I have so many memories of my mother in the kitchen, cooking and showing me how to prepare dishes. However, my father taught me everything I know about the quality of fresh local ingredients.


Which chef has had the most influence on you?
Albert Roux [the French-born co-founder of London restaurant Le Gavroche, whose first job was as cook for Nancy Astor]. His passion and skill is so admirable, and he has been a mentor to me over the years.


What are the most important three ingredients to have in your store cupboard?
Spices! My favourites are coriander, cinnamon and cloves.


What’s your favourite late-night snack?
I hate to say it, but just simple cheese on toast. After a full day of tasting, I like to give my palate a break.


Why do you think Indian food is so popular worldwide?
It’s a very diverse cuisine, and I think the complexity of the ingredients and the fresh spices make it really well liked. Indian food has gained an incredible amount of popularity in the past ten years. When I first arrived in London in 1994, things were very different.


What do you think are the global trends in restaurant cuisine?
I believe Korean food will become very popular this year because it is bursting with bold flavors, and is pretty nutritious to boot. As always though, locality and seasonality needs to remain constant over trends, which change so quickly.


How does the food at your new Simply India restaurant at The St. Regis Mauritius Resort differ from what you serve at Benares in London?
There’s more seafood on the menu because I try to source everything locally. We do a delicious starter of lasooni scallops, with garlic, cauliflower purée and piccalilli. And there’s a wonderful main course of samundri do pyaaza – squid, scallops, prawns and fish, all cooked with tangy onions.


What’s your signature dish at Simply India?
Konju moille. It’s a beautiful dish made with Madagascan lobster, cooked with coconut and curry leaf. It’s very succulent.


What local ingredients do you use at Simply India?
The Madagascan lobster is great, and we use a lot of local coconut oil and coconut milk. The variety of seafood on offer in Mauritius is incredible.


Where is your favourite restaurant in the world?
D.O.M. in São Paolo, Brazil. It serves up all manner of exciting ingredients from the Amazon rainforest, such as cambuca fruit, manioc root and tucupi juice, which are so exotic. But I love the markets in Jamshedpur in India where I grew up, because that’s where my culinary journey first started.


Do you ever dream about cooking?
Yes, I think it would be hard not to when it’s on your mind all the time.


What would you have for your last supper?
A simple vegetarian curry with fresh naan, eaten with all of my family.


Which person, living or dead, would you love to cook for?
My father.


Your address: The St. Regis Mauritius Resort

Gary Rhodes: British Classic - Portrait

British Classic

Gary Rhodes, OBE, made a name for himself in the early Nineties, bringing traditional British classics such as braised oxtail, fish cakes and bread and butter pudding into the realm of fine dining. He earned his first Michelin star as head chef at the Greenhouse restaurant in London’s Mayfair in 1996, and opened his own restaurants, City Rhodes and Rhodes in the Square, a year later. He has since launched an array of restaurants around the world, and traveled far and wide to present such TV shows as Masterchef USA and Rhodes Across China. His newest venture is Rhodes 44 at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi.
What’s your earliest food memory?
I’ll always remember the first dessert I made when I was about 13. It was a steamed lemon sponge with lemon sauce, and I’ll never forget turning it out in front of everyone at Sunday lunch. I just sat there admiring the faces around the table as this lovely thick lemon sauce dribbled down the sponge. I thought to myself then, “I want to be a cook.”
Who taught you to cook?
My mother was really accomplished in the kitchen, and I was one of those children who wanted to help out a lot. Even today I still don’t believe I can match her lasagne. Peter Barratt, one of my tutors at catering college, was a genius, though – anyone who was taught by that man would say he was an amazing chef.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten?
Guy Savoy in Paris makes an incredibly creamy globe artichoke soup, with shavings of black truffle and Parmesan cheese, served with truffle brioche buns that are lightly toasted and spread with melted truffle butter. It makes me go weak at the knees. I’ve been to his restaurant six times to eat it.
What do you like to cook at home?
When I’m working in a restaurant I taste all the time, so by the time I get home I’m sick of the sight of the stove. People come over to our house expecting a big Michelin-star meal, but I’m not that kind of guy. I’ll just do a bit of fish, a bit of risotto and a big platter of cheese. Fish is the only thing I insist on cooking at home because I am fussy. Otherwise my wife, who I met at catering college, does most of the cooking. Try as I might I cannot match her roast. She manages to do the meat and all the trimmings such as cauliflower cheese, runner beans, carrots, gravy and lovely Yorkshire puddings all by herself – I’d need four other cooks with me.

What do you find most rewarding about being a chef?
You never stop learning. If people give me advice on our Arabic dishes, for example, for which there will be any number of recipes from all over the Middle East, and I think that those comments will improve things, I will definitely make that change. I never, ever want to stop cooking – it’s a continuing education and it keeps your mind alive.
What’s your favourite food?
I’ve always loved cheese, especially gorgonzola or a really runny brie de Meaux with truffles running through it. Years ago my wife Jennie wouldn’t touch cheese, and now we’ll both sit there together, munching into cheeses and tucking into a good bottle of wine. I find that quite romantic sometimes, just sitting, eating and chatting, without any pressure.
What style of food are you serving at Rhodes 44?
I wanted to do great British classics – my braised oxtail with mashed potato has been unbelievably well received – but at the same time venture into some local Arabic dishes, too. For afternoon tea we’re doing little pecan pies, Victoria sponges, scones with clotted cream and jam, and tiny quail’s-egg sandwiches. I’ve also done my own interpretation of a mezze platter, which has been very popular. We’ve made our own baba ghanoush, our own falafel with a tiny bit of melting feta cheese in the middle… Just as my scallops with a devilled sauce were on the menu in London for ten years, I’d like to think that our mezze platter would last a lifetime with us here.
Is there anything you would never put on the menu?
Tripe. I cannot abide it.
How do you find inspiration for your new dishes?
Sometimes I just wake up in the middle of the night and there’s a new creation in my mind. I’ll tell my wife, and she usually says, “Give it a go.” But she’ll also tell me if it sounds awful.
Who would be at your last supper?
Marilyn Monroe – she was stunning. Bill Clinton is a man I’ve always wanted to meet, too, and Martin Luther King would have to be there. Also Stevie Wonder. Oh, and I’m a massive Manchester United fan, so Sir Alex Ferguson [the legendary former manager] should definitely be invited.
Your address: The St. Regis Abu Dhabi

A corner of England in the Middle East 
The tea lounge at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi,
where guests can indulge in anything from quail’s-egg
sandwiches to Rhodes’s interpretation of a mezze platter


Super Tuscans

In Italy, luxury has long been associated with food. When Catherine de Medici, great-granddaughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent, moved to France in 1633 to marry Henry II, a bevy of cooks followed in her wake, heralding the first export of Florentine cuisine that would go on to spread across the globe. Some 400 years later, many of the world’s most prized gastronomic products are still produced in Tuscany, from single-estate olive oils to sought-after wines, cheeses and treasured truffles.
Remarkably, many of these highly regarded foodstuffs are still produced by the same families who once fed Europe’s aristocracy during the Renaissance. Here, we profile three of them: two noble families, the vintners Marchesi Antinori and the olive-oil producers Marchesi Mazzei, who have been growing grapes and olives for more than 600 years; and the Brezzis, the Tuscan kings of truffles.
The Brezzi Family
Eugenio Brezzi was six years old when he found his first white truffle. Standing by his father in a pine forest collecting cones, he suddenly saw a strange dog digging something up. It was a truffle. Thrilled by the idea of a creature helping man to find such a treat, he took his father’s dog Lola into the forest the next day and found two more. And so began the world-renowned Eugenio Brezzi truffle business.
Today, the 93-year-old is as passionate about the fungi as he was as a child, explaining how the seasons bring different qualities to the truffle. “The white Alba truffle, the most valuable, ripens in autumn,” he explains. “The best ones will have been nibbled at by animals, which only go for the truffles with the strongest scent,” adds his son Valdimiro, who now runs the family business at Grosseto, near the Tuscan coast.
Like many family businesses, the company headquarters abuts the family home, and it is filled with memorabilia from the family’s other passion, travel. The walls are a patchwork of photographs recording epic trips around the world in cars, on motorbikes, horseback and on foot, and there is an enormous map criss-crossed in thick black pen showing itineraries.
It is beyond this office that the truffle rooms lie: spotless areas in which the fungi are inspected, scrubbed, stored, packaged and exported to prestigious stores throughout Italy and across the world as far as Australia and the United States. Here, three members of staff work diligently with their organic gold, some packing up whole truffles, others making white truffle purée to a recipe created by Eugenio Brezzi many years ago.
The Brezzis use no chemical aromas; all of their products are 100 percent natural. “To do things well is the best lesson in economics,” explains Valdimiro, taking a handful of perfect white truffles from a fridge: all perfectly shaped, unmarked and absolutely fresh. This little pile, he estimates, will be worth about $11,000.
Although the Brezzis are master truffle merchants and renowned throughout the world, theirs is a business for which they cannot plan. The truffle grows entirely wild, they explain, and no one can anticipate where it will grow or can plant it. Which is why the family explores forests all year round. Between December and March they will go out hunting for black truffles, also known as a Périgord truffle. Then comes the season for white spring truffles, followed by black summer truffles and finally the white Alba truffles.
A good harvest depends purely on nature’s goodwill. “The deeper in the ground the truffle is found, the better it is,” explains Valdimiro. And it is only the best specimens that will be sold. “If they’re less than perfect, we eat them ourselves.” Which is why Eugenio, Valdimiro and his son Ludovico have just enjoyed truffles with their lunch. As perks of the job go, it’s one that many of their customers would surely envy.


Like father, like son 
Valdimiro Brezzi, his 93-year-old father Eugenio
and son Ludovico and some of the truffle products
exported by the Brezzi truffle company


The Antinori Family
Who needs sons when you have three daughters – particularly ones as capable as the progeny of legendary winemaker Piero Antinori? Today, alongside their father, Albiera, Allegra and Alessia Antinori run Marchesi Antinori, one of Italy’s best-known wine labels.


Since their ancestor Rinuccio di Antinori started growing grapes at Castello di Combiate near Calenzano in 1180, the family business has expanded all over the world. Today, having passed through 26 generations, it employs almost 400 people worldwide and has vineyards comprising 1900 hectares in different regions of Italy and 540 hectares of vineyards abroad, from California’s Napa Valley to Chile, Romania and Malta.
While Albiera, the eldest of the daughters, spearheads worldwide marketing, Allegra oversees Antinori restaurants and Alessia, the youngest, runs a family farm near Rome, producing organic wines and cheeses sold in the family restaurant, La Cantinetta Antinori. The first restaurant opened in 1957 in Florence, and it now has offshoots in Zurich, Vienna and Moscow, with another due to open imminently in Baku, the oil-rich capital of Azerbaijan. “The idea is to export our gastronomic lifestyle around the world, centered around our wines,” explains Allegra.
Keeping the Antinoris’ rich heritage alive is constantly on the sisters’ minds – hence their decision to move from their historic headquarters in a 16th-century palace in the heart of Florence to Il Bargino, a splendid avant-garde cellar in Chianti’s rolling hills. More like the sprawling control center of a Bond villain than a wine vault, the 540,000 sq. ft. building is seamlessly integrated within the landscape and almost totally camouflaged. The only part completely visible to the naked eye is a panoramic terrace from which visitors can admire the vineyards, planted mainly with sangiovese grapes.
As Albiera shows us round their new cellars, her handsome features every bit as classic as those of a Renaissance Madonna, she explains how the company reached a turning point in the 1970s with the creation of its flagship wine, Tignanello. A blend of sangiovese with non-traditional grapes cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, which was then aged in small French barriques, it was hailed as a Super Tuscan in America, and was a harbinger of the success to come. “It was then we realised that the quality of the grapes was paramount,” continues Albiera. “We knew we had to work during every phase in the vineyards, as well as in the cellar, with the aim of producing the best possible wines without compromising the purity of typical Chianti terrains.”
Although the family’s vineyards are among the oldest in Tuscany, it is essential, Albiera says, for the Antinoris to continue to move forward. “We are always experimenting, because there could always be something new we could improve on. That might be in the vineyards and the cellars, seeing new clones of local and international grapes, experimenting with cultivation techniques, altitudes, fermentation and barrels. And that’s what is exciting: as a family, our work is never done.”

The power of three 
Tignanello, the first of the Super Tuscan wines,
which changed the fortunes of the Antinori sisters, 
from left, Allegra, Alessia and Albiera

The Mazzei Family
Among the ten oldest family businesses in Italy is that of the Florentine Marchesi Mazzei. They have been making wine and olive oil for nearly 600 years at Castello di Fonterutoli, where they live for part of the year. Known since Roman times as Fons Rutolae, a stopover for travelers commuting between Florence and Siena, the estate came into the family in 1435. It was here that Filippo Mazzei lived during the mid-18th century before traveling to America, at the behest of Thomas Jefferson, to plant vineyards at his estate at Monticello in Virginia: the first in that part of the New World.
Today, Fonterutoli is principally run by two of the middle Mazzei brothers, Filippo and Francesco: both CEOs. Their father Lapo Mazzei is the president, while their elder brother Jacopo and niece Livia are also on the board of directors. Their mother Carla is also active, cultivating lavender on the land, producing small batches of oils and soaps that go on sale at the shop that greets visitors at the very top of the hamlet. Like the Antinori family, they have a magnificent state-of-the-art cellar designed by the CEO’s sister, Agnese Mazzei, an architect and also a member of the board.
“We employ 54 people, but this is a seasonal business so the number of our employees increases during harvest time,” says Francesco Mazzei, as he shows us around the mill where the olive oil is produced. A keen sportsman, he sometimes cycles the 20 miles to and from Florence.
The large building is surrounded by 3,500 olive trees of different varieties – frantoio, leccino, moraiolo and pendolino – from which the celebrated Castello di Fonterutoli extra virgin olive oil Chianti Classico DOP is derived. The dark oil, rich with hints of artichoke and thistle, is sealed in a squat, dark-glass bottle that bears the family’s golden crest.
There are no great secrets, the family maintains, to producing olive oil: it is a process established in ancient times that has changed little over the centuries. But there is an art to producing the very best oils. All of the Mazzei olives, for instance, are picked by hand – mostly in November – before they’ve reached maturity to retain the fruity taste typical of Fonterutoli. They are also pressed within the space of two hours in an atmosphere with a partial, or total, absence of oxygen, depending on the variety of the olives.


The family’s investment in high-tech equipment has meant that they have been able to develop the processes even further. Oil can now, for instance, be extracted even from the smallest lots of olives, so that “cru” bottles can be produced for those with more discerning palates.
The aim, Francesco explains, is to make the same products created by their ancestors, but to make them as refined as possible. “We want to keep alive historical and family values, but with new tools, to make them the very best we possibly can.”


Photographs: Magnum Photos 


Your address: The St. Regis Florence

Oil magnates 
Brothers Filippo and Francesco Mazzei
and some of the documents acquired by the family
over the course of 600 years of producing wine and olive oil

Made in Manhattan

A born-and-bred New Yorker, John DeLucie was a late starter in the culinary world, discovering his calling at the age of 29. Since then, he has become a major figure on New York’s restaurant scene, making his name as the executive chef and partner of the Waverly Inn, the Greenwich Village restaurant that became the ultimate hangout for the city’s glitterati. DeLucie is now proprietor and executive chef of the Lion, Bill’s Food & Drink and Crown, three of Manhattan’s most celebrated restaurants. His latest project has been to reimagine the culinary offering at the refurbished King Cole Bar & Salon at The St. Regis New York.
What’s your earliest food memory?
When I was a child we lived with my grandparents, who were Italian immigrants, and one of my earliest memories is of being in the kitchen with my grandmother. My grandfather sold fruit and vegetables, and he would bring home any produce that didn’t sell that day. It was grandma’s job to make dinner with it. So it could be things like dandelion greens or broccoli rabe – food that was pretty unusual in America at that time. I remember having dinner at a friend’s house in my teens and eating iceberg lettuce. I didn’t even know what that was.
What was the first thing you ever cooked?
Ditalini with tomato and celery leaves and chickpeas – basically pasta fagioli. I’d seen my mother make it a thousand times and one day when I was about 13 I thought, “I want to do that.” I remember painstakingly taking the delicate light-colored leaves from inside the celery, not the big overgrown darker leaves – just like I’d seen my mother do.
Who taught you to cook?
My mother, my aunts and grandmothers were all instrumental. My dad had 11 siblings and my mom had four brothers and sisters, so every Sunday we would gather somewhere with a lot of people. There was always tomato sauce and pasta or ravioli and some kind of meat. It was a very food-oriented family.
What’s your favourite Italian-American dish?
Veal milanese. I just love a pounded veal cutlet drenched in egg and breadcrumbs and pan-fried. It’s the most delicious thing in the world.
What made you become a chef?
I had a lot of different jobs after college. I was a musician. I sold advertising, I represented fashion photographers, I worked as a headhunter in the insurance-brokerage industry. Around the time I was 29 I realized I wanted to cook for a living, so I enrolled on a masterchef class at the New School, and it turned out I had some aptitude. When the course finished I got a job making salads in a very busy restaurant on Third Avenue.
Did you ever have any cooking disasters?
One of my first jobs was at Dean & DeLuca. They asked me to make a potato salad and I got so excited that I forgot one vital ingredient – the potatoes.
How would you describe the menu you’ve created at the King Cole Bar & Salon at The St. Regis New York?
Over the years there have been some amazing chefs at The St. Regis New York, like Gray Kunz, Christian Delouvrier and Alain Ducasse. So when it came to creating the menu, we felt it had to be a real departure from the past. We took a simple approach: super-accessible dishes such as trout wrapped in prosciutto and grilled merguez. We were thinking about the modern traveler who would relish the splendor of the place but not want to get bogged down by food that was too traditional or too complex.
Where’s the best city in the world for food at the moment?
There are so many hotspots – Spain, Italy, the Nordic countries – but Brooklyn is really interesting right now. It’s a very exciting time. Trend-wise, vegetables are pretty hot – dishes such as carrots wellington and parsnip steaks. I think it’s great that we’re paying more attention to stuff that’s growing.
What’s your ultimate comfort food?
A great pizza with a delicious chewy crust – there’s nothing better. I like it best with just tomatoes and chilli and oregano.
What’s the most memorable thing you’ve ever eaten?
I stumbled upon a bakery in Naples with an old pizza oven that had been there for centuries. They were making flatbread, so we bought some, along with some buffalo mozzarella and a bottle of wine, and we sat in the park. It was just glorious – an incredible sensory experience.
If you could fly off right now and eat at any restaurant in the world,
where would it be?

Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant in Tokyo. Simple, fresh, honest – that’s the kind of
food I like.
Your address: The St. Regis New York


"Fish is my favorite dish."
Grand Royal Seafood Platter
at the King Cole Bar & Salon