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Portrait Chef Marco Calenzo – an Italian Chef in Beijing

 

Marco

Interview:

1.Tesi: Some chefs discover their love for food and their gift to prepare ingredients in an outstanding way quite late, while for others it is already clear in their childhood years that they will become a chef. At which point in time did you discover your gift to prepare food far beyond normal standards?

Marco: It was by accident. My best friend went to catering school, and I decided to join him. I still remember that during my second year, I fared badly for the kitchen practical and nutrition subject; so badly that I was told to retake those subjects in my third year. Upon completion, I took up a lifeguard job because I was still clueless about my future.

When I was working as a lifeguard, my friend came by the swimming pool and told me that he was working for a very good restaurant in Florence called “Becco-Fino.” At the end of summer, I decided to go there for an interview. When I went to the interview, I discovered that the culinary world is huge – enormous – and everything I saw was done from scratch. They made their own bread, their own pasta, and even their own dessert. So, after I saw this, I decided to embark on this experience and promised myself to work for only the best restaurant in Italy.

It has never occurred to me that I have a gift to prepare food beyond normal standards because I feel that I still have a long way to go and every day is a learning journey, a new challenge.

Thinking on it though, I have some family influences. My mum and my grandmothers are great cooks, but unfortunately, I didn’t pick up many skills from them as I was too focused on playing soccer all day long. That’s how I spent most of my childhood! Fortunately, I still vividly remember the taste, the scent, and the flavors of cooking at home.

2.Italian cuisine is... Product, freshness, and heart.

3. Tesi: What is your favorite dish, and why do you love that dish?

Marco: My favorite dishes in big categories are pastries, pastas, and baked goods. I don’t have a favorite dish yet. I’m working on it – there are many ingredients that I would still love to discover.

4.Tesi: How would you describe the culinary landscape in China? What are the unknown dishes in the Chinese cuisine that need to be discovered by the Western world?

Marco: In China, there are very good restaurants and a lot of places to discover; the food and beverage scenes in China are fast developing. I can see that there are more and more good restaurants coming up, and of course, competition is intense. But, my philosophy is to establish a good restaurant that favors the Chinese landscape while offering a unique product that honors traditions with a modern twist. I would like to change the mindset of my customers, as Italian cuisine itself has evolved in the past years along with globalization.

For me, the Chinese dumpling is the undiscovered dish. “Dumpling” sounds very common, but strangely, I have not encountered Chinese dumplings in Italy. I still believe that the Chinese kitchen is very close to the Italian kitchen, as they both eat a lot of rice, noodles, and dumplings with staples such as risotto, spaghetti, and ravioli.

5. Tesi: Where do you get your inspiration when you create a menu? Do you follow a method or a routine when you create a menu, or does it differ every time?

Marco: Inspiration comes from travelling, eating outside, and ingredients that I find in the market. In the last few years, I have been fascinated by Japanese food and culture. I see Japanese cuisine as an example of a fine food movement, as the Japanese are very much focused on their ingredients. This is reflected in the menu of most Japanese restaurants that I have been to in Japan, with only a few options available on the menu. To some people it may mean restriction, but I see it as being focused and dedicated to ingredients.

When I create a new menu, I am fortunate to have a very good partner, Luca Piscazzi. Luca has been with me in London and Beijing, and we share lots of ideas and inspirations. The most important thing for us is the seasonality of the ingredients; second is our customers and the location where we are working; and third is the capability to deliver consistency from our chefs in the kitchen. This is to ensure that the new menu is a reflection of consistency and quality. So far the routine works, but on a personal level, as the years pass and the more experience I have, the easier it is to create a new menu.

6. Tesi: What does good food mean to you?

Marco: Good food means everything. Food for me means lifestyle, health, and pleasure. Good food to me is a product of continuous experimentation. Since I started, food has evolved very quickly, and the secret to making good food is to adapt to time and change and to be on the front lines of modernity while respecting traditions. At the end of the day, my customers are my main drivers. Their satisfaction is the best way to ascertain good food.

Biography:

Oct 2012 – Present:
Chef De Cuisine
Mio @ Four Seasons Hotel, Beijing

June 2009 – June 2012:
Executive Sous Chef
Apsleys (1 Michelin Star) @ The Lanesborough Hotel, London

Sept 2008 – Apr 2009:
Sous Chef
Il Ristorante restaurant (1 Michelin Star) @ Castello Banfi, Montalcino

Feb 2008 – Aug 2008:
Pastry Chef
Arnolfo restaurant (2 Michelin Stars) @ Relais Chateaux Arnolfo, Colle Val d’Elsa

Jul 2007 – Dec 2007:
Sous Chef
Becco-Fino restaurant, Florence

Apr 2006 – Jul 2007:
Starter Chef de Partie promoted to Pastry Chef
Onice restaurant (1 Michelin Star) @ Relais Chateaux Villa la Vedetta, Florence

Jan 2005 – Feb 2006:
Demi Chef de Partie Pasta promoted to Starter Chef de Partie
Perbellini restaurant (2 Michelin Stars), Isola Rizza Verona

Feb 2002 – Aug 2004:
Demi Chef de Partie promoted to Chef de Partie
Becco-Fino restaurant, Florence

May 2009 – June 2009:
La Pergola (3 Michelin Stars) @ Rome Cavalieri Hilton -Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Rome

Jan 2008 – Feb 2008: 
Tutto Bene pastry shop (top 30 Italian pastry by Gambero Rosso guide), Campi Bisenzio

Mar 2006 – Apr 2009:
L’Altro Dolce pastry shop (Giovanni Pace Member of The Italian Pastry Accademy), Palermo

Sept 2004 – Dec 2004:
San Domenico restaurant (2 Michelin Stars), Imola

Awards:

  • 2014 Mio           Beijinger – Outstanding Italian Restaurant
  • 2013 Mio           Time out - Chef of the Year merit award
  • 2013 Mio           That’s Beijing – Best Italian Reader’s Choice
  • 2013 Mio           Target Gold List - best Italian cuisine in China
  • 2013 Mio         City Week End - Best New Restaurant of the Year
  • 2012 Mio           Voyage - Best Italian Restaurant in China
  • 2010 Apsleys     Michelin Guide – 1st Michelin Stars (4 moths from opening)

Web: 

Felix Hirsh: http://www.qliweb.com/food/Mio_Beijing

Travel Channel TV: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNDg5MjEyNTg4.html

Sienna Miller: http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/articles/blogs-beijing/the-dish-bj/michelin-men-beijing/

Claudio Sacco: http://www.altissimoceto.it/2011/12/30/apsleys-a-heinz-beck-restaurant-dellhotel-the-lanesborough-london-uk-chef-massimiliano-blasone/

http://www.letv.com/ptv/vplay/2126263.html

http://v.baidu.com/kan/tvshow/?id=62&n=20130922&site=iqiyi.com&url=http%3A//www.iqiyi.com/v_19rrhb24fk.html%3Fsrc%3Dfrbdaldjunest

http://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2013/04/26/2013-reader-restaurant-awards-experts-panel-emily-young

http://www.timeoutbeijing.com/features/Food__Drink/20490/Best-Chef.html

http://www.comprehensivenews.us/news-3449966-Photo:-Four-Seasons-Hotel-in-Beijing-cuisine-Quest.html

http://www.dailyvitamin.cn/food/mio#x

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