Simple. Fresh. Local. These are the foundations of traditional Italian cuisine. While emulated across the globe, there are few more qualified to talk about Italian food than Fulvio Pierangelini, Creative Director of Food for Rocco Forte Hotels. The Italian Chef, who’s famous for the success of his Tuscany-based two-Michelin star restaurant Gambero Rosso, was brought on board to spearhead Rocco Forte Hotels restaurants and introduce a hearty dose of Italian flair, creativity and harmony to the menus. We sat down with Fulvio to talk about his career in food and the secrets to making excellent, authentic Italian cuisine.
Please tell us about your Italian Heritage and how you were inspired to become a Chef?
“My path took place naturally. I grew up in a home where my mother, like nearly all Italian mothers, cooked with love, every day for her family. I started work as a lifeguard but spent most of my free time in the kitchen, watching and offering to help. In 1977 I started my first season in a beach restaurant, which I managed with a group of friends. Then, in 1980, I opened Gambero Rosso.
During this time, I understood that cooking was in my DNA and that I possessed talent but I also realised that I was missing the technique, so I went to France to learn it with Roger Vergé, a three-star Michelin Chef on the French Riviera. Many years of sacrifices, joys, sorrows, emotions, fears and successes followed, leading me to where I am today.”
When you joined Rocco Forte Hotels in 2009 you transformed the culinary offering. What was your aim when creating the new menus?
“I first met Sir Rocco Forte in my restaurant Gambero Rosso. We immediately realised that we had the same ideas about food and the simple concept of luxury. When joining Rocco Forte Hotels, I didn’t change anything about my style; I simply transferred all the passion that I put into Gambero Rosso into the hotels. I placed my knowledge, my heart and my life into the new menus. There are always new ideas to integrate and it is exciting to be able to work with Lydia Forte, Bar and Restaurant Development Manager, since she joined in 2014.”
How do you put your personality into the menus you create?
“My kitchen must be ‘apparently’ simple, where simplicity is a point of arrival, not a point of departure. For simple cooking, you need wonderful premium products, absolute technique and perfect timing. Without these prerogatives, cooking could become trivial. I do not study my dishes. Inspiration is autonomous. The dish originates from an emotion, a necessity or an inner urgency.”
When formulating a new dish, where do you start?
“All of my preparations follow precise rules: the base, the product quality, the respect and the sustainability. In addition to the traditional Rocco Forte dishes, I try to imagine dishes that resemble the place that you’re in, no matter where it is in the world. I also choose premium local products that reflect the different seasons and cultural sensitivities.”
What is your favourite dish to prepare?
“In every restaurant, I love to create ravioli – I love this dish because of the surprise that is hidden inside. With each dish, I try to tell a story of the place. At Hotel de Russie we have ravioli with cheese and pepper; at Villa Kennedy we have ravioli Gruene Sause; at Hotel Astoria we have ravioli with red beetroot; at Verdura Resort we have ravioli with aubergine, tomato and mint; at Hotel Savoy we have ravioli with pappa di pomodoro (tomato sauce); at The Charles Hotel we have potato ravioli; at Hotel de Rome we have ravioli with a filling which recalls the curry wurst; and at Hotel Amigo the ravioli is decked with Brussels sprouts and shrimp.”
From where do you source your ingredients?
“Before entering the kitchen of a new restaurant, I visit the local markets. I try to understand as much as possible and then I go back there with the Chef. This is where everything begins. I also offer all my knowledge, which is the result of thirty years of research. In the hotels outside of Italy, I send over exceptional and hard to find Italian products. One of the most important ingredients is extra virgin olive oil, which is the basis of most of the recipes.”
How do you ensure quality throughout all of the Rocco Forte Hotels restaurants around the world?
“I teach the young chefs I meet in the kitchens of our hotels the proper ways to cook. I teach them that each plate, including those that they sometimes consider trivial, should be performed with technique and emotion, conveying the affection put into the dish. Every day I think about the kitchen and wait for the inspiration to imagine new dishes that give me joy and that I hope will help to increase the success of Rocco Forte Hotels.”
Taste Fulvio Pierangelini’s culinary creations for yourself at the Rocco Forte Hotels restaurants around the world.