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Tom Aikens
Tom Aikens
2 Michelin Starred Chef

Honoured member

Interview "The Story of Tom Aikens":

1. Tesi: Tom, you are owner and chef of the restaurant Tom's Kitchen in London. Can you tell me what inspired your love of cooking?

Tom: For as long as I can remember – probably the age of 8 or so – my twin brother and I would help my mother out in the kitchen. She would involve us in making cakes and home baking, or just weighing things out - we were always on hand to help to lick out the occasional sticky raw cake mix that was left in the bottom of the bowl! I have a very real memory of her making milk bread. Sometimes I think it was just a dream as the smell was so incredible.
Living in Norfolk we had a large back garden where we grew a lot of our own fruit and vegetables; so from an early age I understood a little about seasonality and that great produce does not grow all year around, but is very much predicted by the weather and season. We grew lots of soft fruits (strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries) for making jam although most often we wanted to see how much my twin and I could stuff into our faces without my mother seeing.
There was a lot of toing and froing from the garden to the kitchen and back. I loved digging in the garden for fresh vegetables and seeing things grow and come to life, it was a very blissful time. What could be nicer than eating a new crop of baby potatoes with a little fresh mint? Understanding these simple tastes was the start of my journey into the kitchen.
My father and grandfather were both in the wine business; in the late 70s and early 80s my grandfather ran the wine business for Coleman's of Norwich (wine merchants, not only famous for mustard). Around 82/83 that closed down so my father started his own wine shop and an importing and exporting wine company, not only with French wines but with new world wines too. It was an exciting time. He was very successful and I would say a true pioneer of his time, dabbling in new world wine ahead of the game which gave him an edge over many other suppliers. I was incredibly lucky that from the age of 12 I spent my summer holidays in France; an exciting food and travel adventure! It was great fun to join my father on his trips to France at wineries playing in the vineyards, picking the grapes, and helping turn the bottles in the cellars.
I remember once that we went to a very nice hotel with a one Michelin starred restaurant that had been recommended to my father. It was a bit of an accident because my father would not have picked such a hotel himself - it was definitely out of his price range. However, I remember all of it and particularly the food. That was my first real gastronomic dinner and I was fascinated by the simplicity and purity of the food and the enormously high quality of the food preparation and presentation. I still remember exactly what we had to this day. I was still a little fussy back then and I was really only interested in simply cooked food. Nouvelle cuisine was still the height of fashion then: to start we had a beautiful tomato salad of heritage tomatoes, that were beautifully sliced and arranged on the plate dressed with a simple olive oil, finely chopped shallots, chopped chives and a sprinkling of sea salt. For the main course we had a filet of beef that had been larded with beef fat and then slowly cooked. It was sublime - I remember it melting in my mouth - it was served with an accompanying stacked tower of perfectly cooked and beautiful hand cut potatoes that had been cooked in proper beef dripping. Crisp, golden glistening chips that were perfection.
The waiters lifted endless cloche after cloche for my parents serving up frogs legs and snails. At the time I remember thinking it was really weird to be eating garden animals and wondered when the worms would arrive.
For dessert we had a poached peach with a fresh vanilla ice cream. It was the first time I tasted hand-made ice cream and it was an experience that I will never forget. The memory of the food has stayed with me all of my life. I would never dream of going back to this place as it could ruin my perfect moment trapped in time.
Years later, I left high school with quite horrifying results. Although my father's job took him to many different countries and he met some amazing wine producers, I never wanted to sit behind a desk and do the kind of job he did. Looking back, this was probably when I first started to think about becoming a chef.
When I was 16, I told my parents that I wanted to start a career as a chef - it did come as a surprise to them but after a while they were very supportive. With my twin brother, I applied to the Norwich City College Hotel School. I will never forget being taken aside and told by the instructor that I was only accepted because I was a twin and that was the reason I was kept on the course. From that day I promised myself that I would come back to that teacher ten years later when I had established my career and show him how wrong he'd been. I set ten years in my head as it seemed at 16 so far away and ten years to work in other restaurants seemed a long enough time for me, plus I wanted to show that I could make my own name and that the teacher would hear of what I had done.
After college I went straight to London. I sent my (small) CV to about 30 different hotels and restaurants and everyone came back with the same answer – sorry not enough experience, try again in three years' time! Back then you had the likes of Koffman, The Roux Brothers, Nico, the start of Marco Pierre White. And that was really it. These places had something like a 2-3 year waiting list for chefs to get in to... so it was not surprising that I did not get a job.
In those days, you really appreciated your place in top restaurants because you realised you were amongst the select few that had been chosen to go and work there, so you felt incredibly lucky that you had been given this chance to prove your worth. Regardless of the hours, regardless of the pay, and to an extent, regardless of how you were treated you respected your employer and were glad of your job.
Undeterred, I scraped all my money together and sent another 30 letters, this time offering to work for six months without pay. Some restaurants replied, and while they were very surprised at the offer, none of those replies came with a job opportunity.
Finally, I found my first position after approaching David Cavalier at Cavalier's restaurant in Battersea, and offering to work for free for six months. The kitchen was cramped and small. The dry store was downstairs in the basement which meant there was a lot of running up and down all the time. And the produce was some of the best that I had ever seen.
After six months David gave me a paid job and I quickly realised that I had been treated with kid gloves compared to a full time employee. It was long hours working from 6.30am to around midnight on the veg section. I knew the work was hard but not this hard and after three months into my paid position, I left. I had an extremely bad day, let the kitchen down and was very frustrated with myself. I decided that it was time to leave, which was most certainly the wrong decision. However, I left a note in the fridge and left anyway.
Luckily, I received a letter (in the days before email) that David wanted to talk to me. We had a long "father to son" type conversation, and David advised me that the career as a chef can be difficult. It was an inspirational pep talk – he told me he saw a real talent in me; that I was dedicated, passionate and hard-working and could really go somewhere in the industry. But the underlying message stuck: it will be incredibly hard work but it will pay off. So I went back to work in his kitchen for the next year, keeping my head down, working the hours, and happily it did pay off.

After that I worked for Pierre Koffman. I asked David if he could speak with Pierre to see if he could get me a job with him at La Tante Claire. I remember nervously going for the interview – meeting him in person was extremely nerve-racking! It was a very short interview. I was given a starting date and that was that. Pierre Koffmann is an exceptional man. I really enjoyed working for him – it was so exhilarating and exciting, there was always a buzz of excitement in his kitchen. He was very much a no nonsense kind of man; you were told what to do and got on with it...quietly. I didn't share a single word with anyone in the kitchen for the first three months – even Lauren on the larder section who I worked with hardly spoke to me, he would do his job and I would do mine.
The majority of the kitchen was French and they made it pretty clear that they disliked the English chefs working on their turf, we were made to feel that the English chefs could not cook and we were called les Rosbif most of the time. However it was a great team. I worked with Eric Chavot the sous chef and Paul Rhodes to name a few.
After three months, I was moved from the larder to the fish section, it was great to move onto a section where I knew that I would be working on my own so I really had to prove myself. To begin with it was a little nerve-racking. I was now twenty-one years old and hadn't touched a piece of fish since I was at college – hadn't prepped, gutted, filleted, nothing at all.
I had a little chat with Pierre, saying "chef, I'm a little concerned because I haven't done any fish prep for at least 4 years". He reassured me saying that it would be all fine. He was right. I learnt very quickly.
Eventually my speed built up and I could completely prep a wild salmon from start to finish in 7 minutes. The next day there could be 3-4 boxes of cuttlefish waiting to be prepped - removing the ink sack from the cuttlefish is a very messy job. The ink sack was used for the black ink sauce for one of Pierre's signatures dishes - roast scallops with black ink sauce, red pepper and garlic cream. You would turn the cuttlefish into staff food, which was curried most of the time and didn't taste great.
Another tough and long job was receiving several boxes of baby red mullet to fillet and pin bone. Anyhow it was all great fun and Pierre made it enjoyable by preparing the fish with me and making it into a race to see who would finish first. This quickly built up confidence and speed.
His meaner mood and temperament was classic - one minute he would be laughing and joking, the next he would give you a huge amount of grief. You had to read him well. The other chefs were not always impressed that Pierre had a soft spot for the English chefs and he would purposefully play them against us and see the antagonising between the two camps.
One day I had overslept and was running very late. On my way cycling in, Pierre passed me in the van that he used to go in the market with; he smiled and waved. When I got into work he had a croissant and a coffee waiting for me, I had to sit down and eat this whilst all the French chefs where unloading the van. Whilst, of course, he thought it very funny, the other chefs did not.
Working with Pierre I learnt speed of service, prep and classic French cooking. When winter came around, the restaurant gained its third star, and I was determined to move on again. I was sad to leave Tante Claire because it was such a great experience - twenty years on I still have my recipe folder from those days and look back on them with great fondness and nostalgia – however, after 16 months it was time to learn more.
I went to work with Richard Neat at Pied a Terre, who was 28 or so years old at the time. I remember that first thing in the morning, as we waited outside to get in, we heard "bang bang bang" as he chopped the chicken wings for the chicken jus. This was made every day first thing without failure. Inside the kitchen was old and battered, it had a really hard atmosphere about the place. The amount of times I would be expected to repair things in the kitchen like the fridges or stoves, was never ending. There were only four of us, sometimes five, in the kitchen to cook for a small amount of covers. Richard was extremely imaginative and creative in his cooking, but at the same time you would feel the wrath and madness of Richard and his mind games.
Even with all the hardness of the place, I learnt an awful lot from Richard and I have to thank him as he got me a place at restaurant Joel Robuchon.
Joel Robuchon was a phenomenal place to work – the chef was and is a genius and without question one of the best chefs to work for at that time. The kitchen was dream-like, really exceptional, even beautiful. It was total madness to run this restaurant and kitchen: 30 chefs in the kitchen and 30 front of house for a 65 cover restaurant. At the age of 24, I joined what was arguably the best restaurant in the world as a chef de partie on the meat section. It felt like a dream.
Compared to some of the French chefs that worked at La Tante Claire those in Joel's kitchen were so friendly and welcoming, I got on very well with all of them. My nick name was "Anglais" – yes, very drab but it was fine with me.
The way that Robuchon ran the service was just mind boggling. Each section had between 2 and 6 chefs and no-one was allowed to talk. It was a completely silent kitchen. When the check came in, Robuchon read out the check and you had one chance and one chance only to concentrate, get it right, and get it done. We would have to write on a piece of tin foil stuck to the wall. As the orders came in, you would write down on the tin foil how the meat was cooked, what the table number was and then at the same time cook and plate. In the service you could not ask, look or speak to Robuchon, so you had to concentrate immensely hard.
There was not a second chance for anyone here - any mistakes made by any chefs were dealt with very quickly. You were told to leave instantly. I only saw a couple of chefs leave - we were all so super concentrated and on edge throughout the day so you would not make any mistakes. The fact that you knew that he could get any chef to replace you at any point made sure your guard was always up. At the beginning my French, of course, was not all that great as I had not spoken a word of French since school, but being totally submerged in it all, I picked it up very quickly.
I lived near the Gare de Nord which is a good 45 minutes from work. I would get up at 4.40am and I would be at the Trocadéro near Avenue Raymond Poincaré by 5.30am, leaving time for a quick triple espresso and a croissant before entering the kitchen by 5.50am. You worked from 6.00am to 1am with a quick break at 4pm. In this break we would run down to the Häagen-Dazs ice cream stall and eat vanilla ice cream for twenty minutes before returning to work at 4.20pm. We would get ready for the evening service and by the time we cleaned down and put everything away, I would leave at 1am and be in bed by 1.45-2am. By Wednesday you were out of it, having 3 hours sleep a night was not great – by the end of the week the guys in there were dropping. One day I was asked to do Madame Robuchon's lunch which was always a drama as it had to be the best and no one liked doing it as if it was messed up you know whom would be the first to hear about it, chef. I had cook her lunch one time - an omelette - and I made the most perfect omelette for her. Then after that he wanted me to make them for her all the time. He would speak a tiny amount of English and say "well done "Anglais" the best omelette in France".
There was one time when I had to cook Boeuf Haché for the staff, all sections had to take it in turns. I thought, being French, they would want them medium rare. They wanted them shown to the frying pan on each side – still fridge cold in the middle, warm tartare style - "bloody Englishman doesn't know what he's doing". I was given a tongue-lashing for that and Robucheon thought it highly amusing that the English chef had cooked their beef well done.
Later I worked in Reims for Gerard Boyér. A 3 star restaurant in a beautiful location.It was like chalk and cheese compared to Robuchon; you had one morning team and one evening team and you did 10 hours a day absolute maximum. It was very different and so much more relaxed than working with Joel Robuchon, the stress levels were so much lower here for sure.
When I was 26, whilst working at Gerard Boyér's Les Crayères, I got a call from David (Moore) about going back to be a co-owner and head chef at Pied à Terre. This was a very big decision to make and I thought long and hard about it.
I remembered how when at college a teacher who took a dislike to me, told me that I wasn't good enough and would never make anything of myself. The same teacher who said I had only been accepted to the college because they didn't want to split my twin up from me. From that moment I had it in my mind that I would "make it" by the age of 26, if not I would be a failure. That was the moment that I said "I will be someone, I will be successful". So it was a momentous coincidence and I had to grasp the opportunity to be a head chef at the age of 26. I didn't know if I would have been offered this chance anywhere else, so I grabbed it with both hands and thought why not.
It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Nobody knew who I was or what I stood for. By far the worst thing was that I could not get any staff at all. I went back to London and worked with Richard for two weeks before Richard left and took his brigade with him. Why would anyone want to come and work for me? I had no following, no reputation, and most thought I would lose a star, if not both. Essentially, my career as a head chef got off to a nightmarish start after losing nearly the entire team in the first week. My goal – and challenge – was to build a team from the ground up and try to defend our stars at the same time. We notified the Michelin Guide about the fundamental changes we were making, and I think we had over seven visits in the following year. There were three of us in the kitchen for 6 months and it was mental, working 20 hours a day, 6 days a week. My entire time at Pied à Terre was very tough as I had no management experience and my people skills were diabolical. There was a lot of pressure on me to at least to try and keep a star, but I had never seriously thought that I would ever keep two.
When I found out I got the second star at Pied à Terre a weight lifted off me and I had a big grin all day. Everyone was ecstatic. I also realised what it meant to hold such an accolade and to have the associated reputation as a chef. It was very hard to cope with the pressure and the status at that age – it was barmy, nuts. The effort paid off, and we kept both stars after a year. I was the youngest UK chef ever awarded two Michelin stars in that short of a time.
In 2000, I was in need of a rest. I quit my job and began working on an organic farm. The following two years were spent working in the private sector, for both Lord Lloyd Webber, and the Bamford family. I helped Lady Bamford develop a range of organic products for Daylesford Farm Organic Shop and Wootton Organic, which I helped to set up at the very beginning. It was a great experience as it made me really think about food in a very different way. I got to understand how a farm functions and I worked in the abattoir, seeing the whole process from start to finish. This was a real eye opener and it's where I really learnt to value produce and where it comes from. I learnt a lot about organic food and realized how little contact chefs had with the farmers who produce their ingredients. It seemed crazy to me.
This gave me the idea that chefs should provide the whole story on where your food comes from. From the farmer to how he grew and reared his animals and crops. When I opened the first Tom's Kitchen in 2006 I pioneered the concept of a restaurant having close connections with farm supply, as I demonstrated by having pics of the farm all over the walls.
Before this, in April 2003, we opened Tom Aikens Restaurant in Chelsea. We earned numerous prestigious critical accolades, including a Michelin star in 2004 and 10th place in 2007 World's 50 Best Restaurants, a 'rising two-star' status in January 2008 and 5 AA Rosettes.
In August 2010 I opened a second Tom's Kitchen in Somerset House, followed by a third in Canary Wharf in July 2013, the first Tom's Kitchen outside of the UK in Istanbul in Dec 2013 and a fifth Tom's Kitchen in St Katherine's Dock in May 2014.
Today I have 5 restaurants in London, 1 in Istanbul, 2 in Hong Kong called The Pawn and The Fat Pig and also Pots, Pans & Boards in Dubai.

2. Tesi: What advice would you give a young, skilled cook at the beginning of his professional life who wants to start a career as a chef?

Tom: To stand out as a chef is very difficult. In 1993, when I was at the beginning of my career, it was very unusual to leave your own country. I took the initiative and went to France for 2 years, which was my way to stand out. Today, the world is much smaller and young chefs should travel the world to get better experience, even within the English-speaking world – for a time, and push himself to the limit.
Working more than 16 hours a day in a country where you do not understand the language is a very hard thing to do, but you discover if you really love the profession enough to be a chef, plus you will meet some like-minded chefs. I have sent several chefs abroad - chefs I know that can push themselves and chefs that have a dream. The dream is a story like mine; they must have goals, dreams, ambition and be driven. My first pastry chef, who worked for me at Tom Aikens for two years, wanted to open a small pastry shop in his local village. I said "no way, are you mad, I know that you can do better than this" and I sent him to Thomas Keller. That was ten years ago and today he is Head Pastry Chef for The French Laundry and Per Se. When you see a bright light in a chef, it very rewarding to help them improve and guide them along the right road. I can tell very quickly whether a young cook has the character to become a good chef. Skills are not everything; it is the ability to work hard and to organize. They must have initiative, keep their eyes open and most importantly listen. You can tell by the way people speak and how they organize their work life and tools, whether they will get through the rough times. If they do they will most assuredly be on their way to becoming a great chef. I always timed myself when I was a commis chef see how long it took me to do a particular job. No one told me to do this, I did it because I knew it would make me better than the others.

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

Tom: Food is my life and my first true love. It has given me more than I could ever imagine. I have met so many amazing people and I feel truly blessed and thankful for these moments and occasions that are built around food. This is the special thing that great food connects all, it holds us together and gives us amazing unique experiences on every level.
I enjoy food most with friends and family. At the beginning of the interview, I spoke about the experience of cooking and gardening with my mother. Now, I cook with my four-year-old daughter who loves mixing and making as I did, sticking her fingers in everything and tasting food that she has never seen. Kids start developing their long term memory when they are around four. Just as food and cooking are some of my first memories, they will also be some of my children's first memories, which I think is a complete cycle of life. Good food is an excellent bonding element and means true love to me.

Thank you,
Matthias Tesi Baur

Armin Amrein
Armin Amrein
Michelin Starred Chef

Honoured member

Born 1955 in Lucerne, Armin Amrein discovered his passion for cooking in a cookery course during his schooldays. His father was a professional musician and would have liked him to follow in his footsteps, but Armin Amrein wanted to prove his talent in the culinary world rather than the world of music. After his apprenticeship and various seasons in Arosa, Davos, Zurich, Lucerne and Engelberg, his path led him to the 5-star Bürgenstock Resort, where he faithfully plied his craft for 32 years. As chef de cuisine in the Bürgenstock restaurant “Le Club”, he was ultimately awarded 17 GaultMillau points and a Michelin star.
From 2007 to 2012, Corina and Armin Amrein were managers of the Relais & Châteaux Hotel Walserhof in Klosters, which numbers the British royal family among its illustrious guests. Winter season 2012 saw Armin Amrein’s debut as chef de cuisine and host in Amrein's Seehofstübli in Davos, where he remained until spring 2015. The star chef now spoils his guests with his exceptional creations at his very own restaurant, "Glow by Armin Amrein".
Awards: 17 GaultMillau points / 1 Michelin Star

Pascal Aussignac
Pascal Aussignac
Michelin Starred Chef

Honoured member

About Pascal Aussignac & Club Gascon
Chef Pascal Aussignac hails from Toulouse in the South West of France, where foie gras, duck, fine charcuterie, cassoulet, good wines and Armagnac are the order of the day. He trained with French master Chefs like Gerard Vie, Alain Dutournier and Guy Savoy. His love of food and attention to detail has been delighting foodies & critics in London since 1998.
Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur, he cooks in and oversees in close collaboration with his business partner Vincent Labeyrie seven award-winning restaurants in London, all of them with a slightly different culinary theme but celebrating the food of France and of his beloved homeland of Gascony.
Their flagship restaurant, Club Gascon, was awarded a Michelin Star in 2002 that it has kept since. In 2007 it was awarded the ultimate peer group accolade of Restaurant of the Year by Caterer Magazine.
Over the years, Pascal Aussignac and Vincent Labeyrie opened 7 other affiliate artisan restaurants:
- in Smithfield:
Club Gascon – Michelin-starred restaurant
Cellar Gascon - specialist wine bar
Comptoir Gascon – bistro and Official Embassy of Cassoulet in the UK
- Le Cercle in Chelsea
- in Chancery Lane: Cigalon and Baranis dedicated to Provençal and Corsican cuisine
- Chip + Fish in Westfield London, Stratford City & Trinity Food Court Leeds.
In 2008, He wrote his first recipe book: "Cuisinier Gascon" awarded Best French Cookbook by “Gourmand Award”.
Well respected in the industry, Pascal has kept his dedication to the cuisine he loves and passion: he still cooks at Club Gascon every day, looks after the floral arrangement in all his restaurants, and keeps surprising the London foodie scene.
In 2015 Pascal and Vincent launched a new venture Duck’N Roll for the Street Feast group at Hawker House trading over 5 weekends and scheduled for a permanent site throughout the summer of 2015 in Shoreditch.
Key dates
1967 Born in Toulouse, France
1982 Lycée hôtelier of Bordeaux-Talence
1985 First wage as commis for Gérard Vié at ‘Trois Marches’
1989 At 25 year old already knows that he wants to open his restaurant
1998 Opening of Club Gascon in London
2002 First Michelin star
2009 Publication of his first book Cuisinier Gascon
2013 2013 Restaurant Chef of the Year award at the Craft Guild of Chef Award
Club Gascon (1998)
57 West Smithfield
020 7600 6144
Opened its door in September 1998 in a former Lyons Tea House, Club Gascon is situated between Saint Bartholomew Church (one of the oldest churches in London) and the famous Smithfield Meat Market.
Low-key, sophisticated and consistently rated as one of London’s best restaurants, this Michelin-starred restaurant is an intimate and chic venue with marble walls, wooden floors, big mirrors and olive-green banquettes.
Specialised in imaginative cuisine from the South West of France, it offers a menu of mouth-watering selections. Chef Pascal Aussignac's talent with seasonal produce, and his ability to bring ingredients together, show in every dish.
The menu is designed with the intention of tasting different flavours by sampling arrange of smaller plates. As such guests are invited to choose 3 or 4 delicacies among the 5 different sections of the à la carte menu or to choose Le Marché, a popular 5 course tasting menu based around the best in seasonal produce.
The Food
The sections from the à la carte are as follows:
La Route du Sel – This section is named after an ancient French salt route from the Mediterranean coast to the province of Rouergue, just north of Toulouse. All these dishes feature salted or cured ingredients - including marinated foods and smoked fish or meat
Le Potager – A ‘potager’ is a vegetable garden and this section is full of delicious, vegetarian dishes
Les Foies Gras – These are Club Gascon’s speciality. Nowhere else in the UK offers such a range of these exquisite goose and duck liver terrines that manage to be rich, buttery, and delicate all at once
L’Oceane – These delectable seafood dishes showcase the finest offerings from the southern French Atlantic coast and little-known local cookery techniques
Les Paturages –Superlative meat and game, for the bountiful forests of Landes are packed full of wild birds and deer
All the ingredients are seasonal, of superlative quality and are sourced from small artisan producers from the South West France. Club Gascon is monitored by ‘Le Comité Renaissance’ which has a commitment to maintaining the highest standards of freshness and authenticity.
The wines
Club Gascon’s wine cellar similarly takes diners on a journey across South West France with numerous exclusive specially-imported wines and spirits.
The wine list is mainly from the Southwest, Languedoc Roussillon and Bordeaux areas. There is no wine from Burgundy or the new world.
2014 Best in Taste Award – Taste of London ‘Croque Gascon’
2014 3 AA Rosettes (published September 2013)
2013 Restaurant Chef of the Year award at the Craft Guild of Chef Award
Tatler Magazine - Test of Time
Trophées des francais de l'étranger - Lauréat catégorie Art de Vivre
2012 Best in Taste Award – Taste of London ‘Marmite Royale’
2011 Best in Taste Award – Taste of London ‘Foie Gras Burger & Summer Truffle’
2008 Gastronomades France - Best French touch
2007 Catey Awards - Independent Restaurateur of the Year
2007 Francais of the year - Meilleur Chef-Pascal Aussignac
2005 Hotel & Restaurant Awards - Best French Restaurant
2004 Tio Pepe ITV London Restaurant - The Outstanding London Chef of the Year
2003 Harpers & Moët Restaurant Award - Best Restaurant in London
2002 Michelin Guide - One Star (Since 2002)
2000 Good Food Guide - Restaurant of the Year
2000 AA Guide - Restaurant of the Year
2000 Hotel & Restaurant Awards - Best French Restaurant
2000 Decanter - Newcomer of the Year
1999 Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards - Best New Restaurant
1999 Caterer & Hotelkeeper Catey Awards - Best New Restaurant

Silvia Baracchi
Silvia Baracchi
Michelin Starred Chef

Honoured member

Michelin Starred Chef from Italy

Matia Barciulli
Matia Barciulli
Michelin Starred Chef

Honoured member

Nato nel 1980 a Firenze, Matia Barciulli inizia a dare una mano nelle cucine di piccole pizzerie e ristoranti familiari già a 14 anni, appena iniziato a frequentare l'istituto alberghiero, e scopre subito un legame particolare con il mondo dell'olio extravergine d'oliva. Dopo alcune esperienze in giro per l'Italia diventa curatore per gli abbinamenti tra olio e piatto in diversi convegni dedicati all'extravergine di oliva. Da questa esperienza, alla scomparsa del suo maestro Marco Mugelli, decide di fondare l'associazione "Il Magnifico" che dal 2013 assegna l'Oscar dell'olio extravergine d'eccellenza. Dal 2001 inizia l'avventura all'Osteria di Passignano, all'epoca guidata dallo chef Marco Stabile. Iniziano così 7 anni di ricerca, innovazione, corsi di perfezionamento, viaggi in giro per il mondo (San Francisco, New York, Stoccolma, Helsinki, Barcellona, Budapest, Seul, Dubai, Vienna e Astana) nel 2007 arriva la prima stella Michelin, nell'anno in cui il ristorante supera la soglia dei 15mila coperti. Nel 2009 un'altra avventura, la trasmissione su Rai1 "La Prova del Cuoco", mentre dal 2003 collabora con la trasmissione regionale "Sapori di Toscana" con Claudio Sottili su Italia 7. Nel 2010 il debutto sulla rete satellitare "Alice" nella trasmissione Casa Alice, poi nel 2011 la trasmissione "Le Stagioni". Insieme al collega Nicola Damiani, all'Osteria di Passignano conduce una cucina di 7 elementi, cercando il più possibile di portare nel futuro le sue origini: "Mi piace alleggerire una cucina essenziale, pulita, dai sapori intensi e presentata nel modo più elegante possibile, senza mai scendere a compromessi dove a perdere sia il gusto". Dal 2013 gestisce anche la ristorazione di tutta la casa vinicola toscana Antinori, nel Chianti Classico, e dà vita alla "Scuola di Cucina di Fonte de' Medici", centro di formazione enogastronomica nel Chianti.

My resume is a bit strange, in fact I do not have big names behind me, but a lot of work, I started at age 14 during the culinary institute of Florence Aurelio Saffi.

I was born in Florence on 1980 and residing in San Casciano VP and of course I take their first professional steps right there.

My path was a bit 'and studied a bit' fortuitous. But the constant has always been in the early years to want to prove that every part of the profession of "cook" it offered. So here I am in Pizzeria, in small family restaurants, in large hotel chains such as Accor, here I am in a catering or in Sardinia for two seasons to the sea, I am cooking teacher for the courses in the grocery store of the province of Florence and Siena, here I am curator for the pairings oil - flat in several conferences dedicated to the extra virgin olive oil. From this experience, the disappearance of my teacher oil Marco Mugelli, I decided to found an association in 2013 and assign the award of extra virgin olive excellence "il Magnifico".

In 2001 the meeting with Marcello Crini was the beginning of the adventure at Osteria di Passignano.

I started under the guidance of Chef Marco Stabile, who ended his own experience at Osteria in December of that year. From then began seven years of research, innovation, specialization courses, Travel around the world (San Francisco, New York, Stockholm, Helsinki, Barcelona, ​​Budapest. Seoul, Dubai, Vienna and Astana) to better understand what and how was the exalted Osteria di Passignano. And in the end after so many efforts Michelin also decided to give us our own coveted star in 2007, the year in which we exceeded the record figure of 15,000 seats per year.

In 2009, a yet another adventure, "La Prova del Cuoco", broadcast on RAI 1 that best embodies the fervor for Italian cuisine.

Since 2003 collaborates with the regional broadcast "Taste of Tuscany" with Claudio Sottili on Italia 7 later became "Waiting for the TG" always on the same network.

In 2010 the debut on the satellite network "Alice" in the transmission Casa Alice, then in 2011 the program "The Seasons".

Together with my colleague Nicola Damiani conduct a kitchen of 7 elements, trying as much as possible in the future to bring our origins. This is my "tradition": lighten a kitchen essential, clean, intense flavors and presented in the most elegant way possible, without ever compromising where you lose both taste.

In 2013 opened a new challenge, Antinori, the prestigious winery we work has opened its new and impressive wine cellar in the Chianti Classico, here I am pleased to lead the dining part that includes the restaurant "Rinuccio 1180", events business and the Mensa serving 150 meals every day.

Also in 2013 finally our cooking school has found its permanent home. In collaboration with KitchenAid "The Cooking School of Fonte de Medici" is the training center of the food and wine Chianti, in a renovated barn nestled among the vines, here are able to satisfy the curiosity of the passionate and viscerare requests of the most demanding.

Also in 2013 he founded together with G. Mori, the Oscar of Italian oil, the Magnificent, in memory of two great friends and teachers, Marco Mugelli and Massimo Pasquini.

Joe Barza
Joe Barza
Consultant Chef/Founding Partner

Honoured member

Biography Joe Barza

Master Chef Joe Barza has over 25 years of experience and has helped raise the profile of the Middle Eastern Cuisine and Chefs. He is known as the rebel chef who revived the Lebanese cuisine that has been stagnant for many years by combining local ingredients in unconventional ways in order to create new trend setting revolutionary dishes that have become his trademarks. Chef Barza has earned award after award in international culinary forums where he has represented his country with pride and honor. In addition to being Founder and Chef Consultant of Joe Barza Culinary Consultancy, he is a member of the Academie Culinaire de France, The President of the Lebanese Chefs Association and on the organizing committee of the Lebanese Salon Culinaire HORECA. The consultant of GET GROUP in Qatar, Waldorf Astoria in Ras Al Khaimah, Hilton in Jordan, as well as many more. Chef Barza has participated and hosted a number of TV shows and programs.

We shouldn't forget to mention that he took part in many International events such as, Le Festival de Mougins, Slow Food in Terra Madre, Six Senses in Maldives, Dubai World Hospitality Championship, CIA in California, La Route des Etoiles in Portugal, Sydney International Food Festival and many more...

Chef Joe Barza has traveled across the world working hand by hand with some of the biggest names in Culinary Arts such as Frederic Anton, Gerald Passedat, David Higgs, Guillaume Gomez, ...

Matthias Tesi Baur
Matthias Tesi Baur
Portfolio Director Food at UBM

Honoured member

I first discovered my passion for good food through travelling. I love discovering new food from countries around the world – although, coming from Germany, my national cuisine does still hold a place in my heart! I love to eat venison with fresh mushrooms in Bavaria or slow cooked “Kassler” – a delicatessen from middle Germany.

My passion for good food and dining began when I was in Zurich for the first time and I was impressed by the level of service the restaurants offered. I will never forget how the owner of a good restaurant we stepped into in Switzerland suggested that as we weren’t locals we should cross the street to go to another restaurant because they just had freshly delivered fish, try that first and then come to his restaurant tomorrow, which, of course, we did! By the time we stepped into the other restaurant he had already called the owner of the other restaurant who welcomed us by describing the fish on offer and offering us his best table. I had never experienced such a customer centred approach and I had one of the best dining experiences of my life.

So, what does Gourmet mean to me?

In my opinion, it comes to down the atmosphere, the service, the food and the people.

I love places that have a really unique atmosphere. For example, a while ago I discovered a very small side street in Beijing that had a number of very old Japanese restaurants. It was the type of street I would never have walked down myself if my Chinese colleague hadn’t taken me there. Yet, the restaurant we went to offered traditional Japanese cooking as it was served 100 years ago in simple surroundings with incredible honesty. I was probably one of the first Westerners to enter the restaurant in a long time!

When it comes to service I have to admit that I can be quite specific! My wife always laughs at me when I want to have a chat with the owner or the chef. Like everyone else, I love to be treated as if I’m a special guest: have the owner recognise me, be placed at one of the best tables, and be offered a bottle of wine not on the menu. Not too long ago I watched a BBC program on the Claridges Hotel in London where the manager said “good service is about creating one absolutely unique moment that the guest will always remember and that is what makes them come back”. I think that hits the nail on the head of what good service is about.

Whilst I love experiential cuisine, I’m a big fan of simple and honest food.

And, finally, it is the people. It sounds obvious, but even with the best food, outstanding service and the most unique place, I don’t think it could be a truly gourmet evening if the company were not right. A friend of mine once said “food is about sharing” and I think this is it! Good food needs to be enjoyed with friends and family!

Matthias Tesi Baur

Heinz Beck
Heinz Beck
3 Michelin Starred Chef

Honoured member

Nowadays, Heinz Beck is known as one of the most notable "Masters" of gastronomy in the world. His unique interpretation of the "Modern" kitchen goes beyond his undisputed culinary talent, but includes the utmost attention toward the selection of ingredients and their transformation into highly innovative flavors.
Beyond an excellent career as a highly decorated Chef, Heinz Beck has been heralded as a leader in Italian and Mediterranean culinary tradition. Among numerous awards, Chef Beck has been recognized by "Michelin", "Bibenda", "Gambero Rosso" and "L'Espresso" (just to name a few).
His profound understanding of the culinary culture is revealed in several of his texts, which address more than culinary practices.
Among all, one of the best sellers in the past year is Beck's "L'Ingrediente Segreto" (The Secret Ingredient). His other noteworthy works include "Arte e Scienza del Servizio" (The Art and Science of Service), "Heinz Beck", "Vegetariano" (Vegetarian), "Pasta Heinz Beck" and the ingenious "Finger Food". Furthermore, Beck has tackled nutrition and healthy culinary practices in "Ipertensione e Alimentazione" (Hypertension and Nutrition) followed by "Consigli e ricette per piccoli Gourmet" (Tips and recipes for young Gourmet) always in collaboration with a big Italian pharmaceutical company.
Multistarred and pluri-awarded, since 1998 is the winner of the "Five Star Diamond Award", and since 2013 also of the "Six Star Diamond Award", both conferred by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, first in Italy to obtain such acknowledegement.
In the year 2000 Heinz Beck is awarded with the "Gold Medal at the Foyer of Artists", an international prize of the
University of Rome La Sapienza, awarded for the first and only time in 40 years to a Chef.
In 2010 he is recipient of the recognition of the "Knight of the Order of Merit" from the Federal Republic of Germany
awarded by the Minister Friedrich Däuble.
Always in 2010 Heinz Beck and others 10 Italian Top Chefs decided to join their forces and found the "Order of the
Knights of Italian Cuisine", in order to communicate with National and International institutions, as well as the media,
as a united front.
In 2014, thanks to his strong and persistent attention towards health and innovation in gastronomy field, Heinz Beck
was awarded during the tenth edition of international Congress Identità Golose with the prize "Chef of the year" and
with the "Lion of Venice Career Award", conferred by AEPE during the sixth edition of the Congress Gusto in Scena.
Always in 2014, a new, unprecedented prize, testament to his growing interest in nutritional values and benefits of
food on the body; the award "Taste & Health", assigned to Chef Heinz Beck in occasion of the presentation of the
Guide of Rome 2015 by Gambero Rosso.
Careful observer of food effects on the body, Heinz Beck has been carrying on for more than 15 years important
cooperations with national and international scientists as well as Italian Universities concerning the good balance
between food and health.
As an author of several noteworthy texts, today Beck consuls several businesses, offering the same attention to details
that his Guests receive at "La Pergola" in Rome as well as in all his Restaurants worldwide (listed below), a testament
to the genius of Heinz Beck.
Heinz Beck is truly a polyhedric genius of our time, in which different attitudes evolve into different arts, the true size
of modern gastronomy.

Heinz Beck's Restaurants around the World

"La Pergola" – Rome *** Michelin since November 2005
"Cafè Les Paillotes" – Pescara (Italy) * Michelin since 2009
"Heinz Beck Seasons" at Castello di Fighine – San Casciano dei Bagni (Siena) * Michelin since 2013
"Gusto by Heinz Beck" at Conrad Algarve – Portugal
"Social by Heinz Beck" at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah – Dubai
"Heinz Beck" and "Sensi by Heinz Beck" – Tokyo (inaugurated on November 2014)
"Taste of Italy by Heinz Beck" - Dubai (inaugurated on June 2015)

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