CHEF TALK: FIRE IT UP! with FRANCESCO GUARRACINO
This interview will forever be entrenched in my heart. Simply because Chef Francesco was the first Executive Chef to respond positively to participating in my CHEF TALK: FIRE IT UP! segment. Agreeing to do the interview was one thing, but the enthusiastic mails back and forth, the prompt replies and above all offering me the opportunity to meet and interview visiting Chef Marianna Vitale. To the man who gave me my first interview, whose reply made me persevere to make this segment a reality which I am thoroughly enjoying undertaking I am forever indebted.
Moving on…. I arrived at BICE MARE and was asked if I would like to conduct the interview in the kitchen. Hell, YES! I said (well not in exactly those words, but I did say them in my mind). Here I was on my first interview, questions in hand and I was going to be in a restaurant kitchen for the first time. How could this get any better! The kitchen was busy (I say this as I saw dish after dish being plated to send out to the waiting diners) but in a controlled and unhurried way. The team of Italian chefs, besides Chef Francesco were fantastic. And amidst all this plating, they also made exceptions to offer me a smaller version of a dish to taste if it was mentioned in the interview. Calling the food ‘Delicious’ would be an understatement.
So here goes!
Name: Francesco Guarracino
Restaurant: BICE MARE, Souk Al Bahar, Dubai
From (Country): Italy
Culinary School: Sorrento Culinary School, Naples, Italy
Knife Hand: Left
Were you a good kid, did you eat your veggies as a child?
I ate everything that was put on my plate, food is a passion with my family. Most of my family are chefs including my father so I always say there is tomato sauce running in my veins.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be a chef. I never had an option B.
What was your most memorable restaurant job?
My family managed a restaurant, Guarracino Restaurant near the beach and I worked there for 8 month. I lived, slept in the restaurant. I never had to leave the restaurant to go and buy fish, because every morning the fishermen would come with what they had caught and sell it to us, otherwise I would go into the water and fish. It was tough but I enjoyed it.
Place you eat most often on days off?
Q Bar at Holiday Inn Dubai for the casual atmosphere. Otherwise you will find me at La Petite Maison and Zuma in DIFC. If I am looking for good Italian food, besides Bice Mare, I visit Alta Badia at Emirates Towers.
What’s your favourite ingredient/ condiment to work with?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If it’s the last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in and what are you eating?
I would be in Quarto near Naples in Italy eating Impepatata (mussel, pepper and lemon) signature dish of Chef Marianna Vitale at Sud Ristorante.
Most exotic vacation destination?
Mexico. I love the people, the food, the ingredients…
If you left Dubai to cook somewhere else, where would you go?
Japan. The Japanese love seafood and they have the best fish and cooking techniques in the world.
What has been your most embarrassing cooking moment?
We had baked this beautiful multi-tiered cake for a wedding. I was walking out with the cake, 300 guest looking at me and smiling and clapping and then I tripped and the cake fell to the ground. I picked up what was left of the cake and ran to the kitchen. I was so embarrassed.
Who is the person you would most like to cook for?
The two people I would most like to cook for are my children – Myah and Emmanuel.
What is the dish on the menu you eat most?
I like to have the tomato soup
How would you describe your food philosophy?
The king of the restaurant is not the Chef but the ingredients. Choose the best ingredients and don’t ruin them through over-cooking or under-cooking. Understand how the ingredient should be cooked.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
The brain of a cow
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure food?
Pizza with French fries on top. I usually go to restaurants and request this, but always say that my children want it like that.
If you were an ingredient what would you be, and why?
Cherry Tomato because it is different. It is sweet and sour and you can do a lot of things with it. Even on its own you can make a lot of different things in different ways – bake, fry, grill and so on.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
When you get an order in the kitchen, always think that there is a person you love at the table. If you believe you are cooking for someone you love you will put your emotion into the dish.
Most underrated ingredient? Parsley
Best culinary tool? Tongs
A chef that inspires you? My father Luigi
Favourite cuisine? Peruvian
One dish you can’t live without? Spaghetti Promedor
What’s one food trend that needs to end? Fusion
Favourite food from your childhood/ Describe one of your first food memories: Eggplant Parmigina (an aubergine bake layered with Parmesan and tomatoes)
Last thing you cooked for yourself? A Rib-eye steak
Describe your cooking style in 3 words. Fresh – ingredients always have to be fresh, simple so people can recognize what they are eating and I believe you should never mix more than 5 ingredients and Napolitan – bring a little bit of my home to each dish.
THIS OR THAT
Food on a skewer or food in a tiny spoon?
Hot curry or haute cuisine?
Buffet or sit-down dinner?
Mints or gum?
Soup or salad?
Greek yogurt or labneh?
Butter or olive oil?
Chicken breast or chicken thigh?
Baked or fried?
Waffles or pancakes?
Lobster or steak?
And lastly, cake or pie?
Well, that’s that! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
P.S. They have recently started taking bookings online. Visit their website www.bicemare.com to book your table.