CHEF TALK: FIRE IT UP! with LUCA TRESOLDI
Chef Luca was forced to shorten his beach lounging day-off thanks to this interview and I was glad he did. He has had a few wonderful kitchen roles working with some wonderful Chefs and restaurants – he spent five years with Alberico Penati, worked with renowned Chef Joël Robuchon and its now been more than four years since he’s been with Enoteca Pinchiorri. Luca is chilled out – nothing seems to faze him – or at least that is how he appeared to me and has a great sense of humour – I guess they are good traits to have considering you are working in a heated kitchen for hours. What The Artisan by Enoteca Pinchiorri is setting out to do is introduce good Italian food to the people of Dubai and I know with Luca at the helm it’s going to be a masterpiece.
Name: Luca Tresoldi
Restaurant: The Artisan by Enoteca Pinchiorri
From: Cologno Monzese, Milan, Italy
Culinary School: Amerigo Vespucci Milan
Knife Hand: Left
Were you a good kid, did you eat your veggies as a child?
Yes. I was lucky because in my family, as with most families in Italy, they taught me how to eat properly – by this I mean, my mother Rita never gave me pre-cooked food or ready to eat food. My mom used to cook a lot for me and my sister. More or less, most of our meals consisted of vegetables. I loved all vegetables – in fact I like everything and that is because since the beginning my mother and father – Massimo – taught me to try everything before I could say I did not like it.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
To be honest, because of my father, my idea was to be a barman; in fact my grandfather was the first bar manager of the Campari brand in Milan. My father encouraged me to become a barman, so I went to culinary school. During my four years at culinary school, when I started to cook, I realised this is what I wanted to do.
What was your most memorable restaurant job?
I would say it would be when I went to London in 2007, which also happened to be the first time I left Italy. I found a job a day after I arrive in the city – it was at the Annabel Club – which was part of a Group, and the Chef, Alberico Penati taught me everything. He was eccentric – the way he dressed, the way he cooked – and I worked with him for five years. Chef Alberico’s kitchen was 100% Italian and he was full of ideas, of trying something different – everyday he had something new to teach me. He was my mentor.
What did you have for lunch yesterday?
In my world lunch does not exist. I do a lot of tasting in the kitchen, but don’t sit and eat lunch.
What’s your favourite ingredient/ condiment to work with?
Extra virgin olive oil because it’s the base of Italian cuisine. You start everything with olive oil after which you can play with many ingredients. The extra virgin olive oil I use I bring down from Florence
If it’s the last weekend on earth – what city are you eating in and what are you eating?
I would say Paris eating oysters. There is this really small oyster bar on Boulevard Saint-Germain which has about 3-4 tables, which serves only 5 or 6 kinds of oysters and wine. You have to experience the atmosphere – there were many people outside waiting for a table, and while they were waiting, they were chatting – it was so Parisian.
If you left Dubai to cook somewhere else, where would you go?
I would say New York – I have never been there but people say that it’s amazing. I think I will open my own restaurant serving fusion cuisine – some Italian, maybe French and even a mix of Japanese.
Who is the person you would most like to cook for?
The only person I would really like to cook for is my girlfriend. I really enjoy cooking for my women. I am sure cooking for her will make her extra happy, and to see my girlfriend happy is the best gift I can receive from her.
What is the dish on the menu you eat most?
I would say the Polipo Cotto in Olio di Oliva, Fagiolini, Patate e Olive Taggiasche – which is the octopus dish on our menu. The way we prepare it is unique and every time I try it, it is consistently good. The octopus is slow cooked in olive oil – it has a mix of fish saltiness, crunchiness in the skin and soft inside with the mix of lemon, potatoes and beans. What makes it different is that it is very crispy outside, and inside it’s very very very smooth.
How would you describe your food philosophy?
I don’t like to prepare dishes with many ingredients. My philosophy is to keep the flavour as much as possible and not mix too many ingredients together. I usually limit it to 3, maximum of 4 ingredients. And to never compromise on quality.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
At home, for sure. Every time I have returned to Italy, my mother used to prepare my meals. I love her lasagne with pesto. Shes a great chef, she knows how to cook everything.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure food?
I love chocolate – a lot. I love the one which is a mix of milk chocolate, white chocolate and hazelnut puree so it’s more like a cremino.
If you were an ingredient what would you be, and why?
Extra virgin olive oil because I am everywhere.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
Alberico Penati told me to try and not be better than the people around me but try and help them to be like you.
If you weren’t a chef, or in the food business, what would you be?
I would be a personal trainer.
Most underrated ingredient? Vegetables. It’s getting better, but I would like to give vegetables a better chance of being on menus.
Best culinary tool? Knife because it’s the best friend of a Chef. Without a knife you would be unable to do anything.
A chef that inspires you? When I arrived in London my dream was to work with French Chef, Joël Robuchon. He had a restaurant called L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in London and it was the first place I applied to. But because of a friend of mine I started to work for Alberico Penati who was friends with Joël Robuchon. After 5 years of working with Alberico, he asked me if I wanted to stay in London or go to maybe Paris. I said I did not mind going to Paris and he said there might be a position for me at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Paris which was the original restaurant. Joël Robuchon started to completely change the way restaurants look – his restaurant is made like a sushi bar – so there are no tables around, there is only the counter behind which is the kitchen – so it’s like a show more or less. The way he cooked and prepared the dishes was amazing. So everything I learned in terms of decoration, I learned from him.
Favourite cuisine? Italian – because it represents me, my lifestyle, my family. After that I would choose Japanese, because it is very fresh, there is a lot of technique and the combination of spices and the different vegetables that they use. I love it.
One dish you can’t live without? Pasta. The sauce does not really matter to me nor does the pasta shape. But I need to have pasta at least for one meal a day.
What’s one food trend that needs to end? I think it’s come to an end, but some people are still working on it – Molecular. I don’t really like it, nor do I understand it. I really don’t like the science behind molecular – it more about science than food.
Favourite food from your childhood/ Describe one of your first food memories. This one is easy – deep fried aubergine. My mother, to make me happy used to make this. I remember sitting in front of the TV, leaning on my mother and eat the aubergines. She used to slice the aubergine, put it in bread crumbs and deep frying it. I have tried making it since but it’s not the same.
Last thing you cooked for yourself? Greek salad with lettuce, feta, tomato, onion, cucumber and olive oil and a lot of mint.
Describe your cooking style in 3 words. Simple, well presented and full of flavour.
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?
Lobster or steak?
And lastly, cake or pie?
Well, that’s that! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!