Q: What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?
A: Always ensure that you’re organized. It’s a cliché, but it really does make a huge difference — in the kitchen or any space that you’re working in. Be prepared, and familiarize yourself with the products and ingredients before you start cooking any dish.
What single ingredient do you think improves any dish?
I mean, I don’t think there’s one specific ingredient that can improve every single dish. I would say, though, that although it’s an acquired taste, I really believe that truffle can improve so many dishes — enhancing them with a rich, earthy flavor.
What was the biggest challenge for you when you first started out as a professional chef?
Seasoning and balancing the flavors of dishes. I mean, I think that’s a challenge for any new chef, honestly. And you only get better with experience.
What’s your favorite cuisine when you go out to eat?
At the moment, I’m really enjoying what’s on offer in the Middle East: Koftas, various Arabic breads, and the amazing variety of dips and preserves.
What’s your go-to dish if you need to cook something up quickly?
Spaghetti aglio olio (a traditional Neopolitan dish). It’s quick, simple, tasty, and very Italian.
What’s your favorite dish to cook?
Plin carne (small pasta pockets — a dish from Nava’s native region of Piedmont in Northern Italy). We actually have it on our menu at Prato. It’s a very traditional dish, and it reminds me of my grandma. It takes a lot of work, but the end result is super-satisfying.
And what dish do you find most challenging?
Risotto. So many people get it wrong — it really does take skill and experience. Finding the right balance in the dish is quite complicated, but I love the challenge.
What customer behavior most annoys you?
Nothing really annoys me. It can be frustrating when people want to change a perfect dish with certain requests, but at the end of the day preferences vary from person to person and we need to understand that.
Do you find yourself critiquing the food when you go out to other restaurants? And what’s the most common issue you find in other restaurants?
Most, if not all, restaurants have high points and low points. I’m not really someone who critiques food when I eat out; I always go into restaurants with an open mind and I love to learn from each place.
Q: What are you like in the kitchen? Are you a shouter? Or are you quite chilled-out?
I’m very laid-back. The thing is, we employ the right people for our teams. That’s essential. Our success lies in balancing our teams and picking out the best personas to work together. That makes it possible for me to focus more on encouragement and progression.
Chef Stefano’s spaghetti puttanesca
250gm spaghetti; 130gm tomato passata sauce; 40gm tuna fresh or canned; 15gm anchovy fillets; 10gm capers in brine; 10gm chopped parsley; 50ml olive oil; 2 chopped garlic cloves; salt to taste.
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Place spaghetti in the pot and cook for 11 minutes. Once al dente, place to one side.
2. Add oil to a skillet and sauté the chopped garlic on medium heat. Cook for one minute until fragrant.
3. After sautéing the garlic, add the remaining ingredients apart from the parsley and anchovy. Simmer until the mixture thickens.
4. Add the pasta to the sauce. Let all the ingredients combine for at least two minutes, or until all ingredients are cooked through and mixed.
5. Plate the dish while hot, garnish with fresh parsley and serve with anchovy pieces.