Yes, Chef! Chef Enrico Bartolini Chats SPIGA, FIAMMA, and Italian Cooking
July 26, 2023
Asia is one food-crazy continent! We take great care to pick restaurants based on culinary vibes, rankings on international gourmand guides, mentions in magazines, Instagramability, and added hunger. Yes, Chef! features the region’s chefs' stories of love and labour in kitchens, which has made some of our restaurants the next big thing in Asia.
Enrico Bartolini is a trailblazer in the culinary industry, having made history as the only chef in the Michelin Guide to be awarded four stars simultaneously. His passion and dedication have positioned him as one of the most successful figures in the realm of fine dining.
Born in Tuscany, the chef started his culinary journey abroad, honing his skills in kitchens across Paris and London. He later returned to Italy to work alongside Massimiliano Alajmo, earning his first Michelin star at the age of 29.
By the age of 33, Bartolini had not only clinched his second Michelin star but had also added prestigious accolades such as L’Espresso’s Tre Cappelli and the Gambero Rosso’s Tre Forchette to his list of achievements. In 2016, he set a record, receiving four stars at once from the Michelin Guide.
That same year, Bartolini expanded his culinary influence to the Far East, opening SPIGA, a contemporary Italian restaurant with a classy 1950's themed interior. Four years later, he inaugurated FIAMMA on The Peak, further solidifying his reputation for producing exceptional pizza. The Beat Asia recently had a chance to sit down with Chef Enrico Bartolini to delve into his inspirations and the challenges he has encountered in his illustrious career.
Chef Bartolini, you've been recognised as Italy's most decorated chef. Can you share a few moments that were pivotal in your journey towards earning this title?
One of the most important moments in my professional journey was definitely in 2016 when I opened Ristorante Enrico Bartolini inside Mudec in Milan, and simultaneously, La Trattoria in Tuscany, and Casual Restaurant in Bergamo and began to think about a new model of catering.
When the Michelin Guide came out in November, and we were awarded four stars at a stroke, I had the confirmation that we were doing a good job.
How does it feel to return to Hong Kong after four years? What are your impressions of the city's culinary scene compared to your last visit?
I missed it a lot, because here I learned both a new language and a different culture, also what it means to be a foreigner abroad. I am happy to come back today more mature and aware.
Italian cuisine is renowned for its transformative and creative nature. As a master of Italian haute cuisine, how do you embody this transformation and creativity in your dishes?
I love ingredients, Italy, and talented people who challenge themselves every day to satisfy guests. In the dishes, after the careful choice of raw materials, I express my creativity, and in the dining room, I look for a service that understands all the guests' needs so they can have an unforgettable experience.
Drawing from your Tuscan heritage, how does it influence your cooking style, particularly in your creative flavour combinations featured at SPIGA and FIAMMA?
Tuscany is the point of origin of my culinary thinking. When simple and tasty dishes were requested in SPIGA and FIAMMA restaurants, I started precisely from Tuscan flavours, and always had the opportunity to evolve my initial thought through my own strengths and the collaboration of partners.
FIAMMA's menu leans more towards traditional Italian home cooking. What's the significance of these traditional recipes to you personally?
Home cooking is part of a country's cultural heritage, and with these recipes I have tried to pay homage to Italy. The recipes are simple, tasty, and give honour to the Italian culinary tradition.
Looking ahead, how would you like to shape your legacy in your culinary career?
I would like to teach young people to be patient and follow the right mentors. I understood during my career that projects can be reality only if you have perseverance and the right guidance.
Speaking of the future, what are your goals for your restaurants in Italy, and how does Hong Kong fit into those plans?
My main goal is to grow, especially in a cultural way, and I think Hong Kong cuisine represents this kind of growth.
Chef Bartolini, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring chefs looking to follow in your Michelin-starred footsteps, what would it be?
The advice I could give to all young aspiring chefs: choose a mentor and invest in them.
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