Italy to Hong Kong, Spain to Japan, our expat chefs add some unique flavours to the city’s foodscape By Jackie Pinto
@Alba, JW Marriott
After 18 years in Italy, France, Poland Germany, Switzerland, Dubai and now India, the flamboyant chef Ferarri, speaks Italian, English, Spanish, French and German with ease and is very sociable and media savvy. “I have my own website, www.brunoferrari.com, I share my work on Facebook with my 32,000 contacts and friends, I’m present on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Net Log, Flickr, WordPress, Instagram, and on Google Search,” he begins as we quiz him on his very visible tattoos covering everything from an Arabic tagline — ‘I was born to be over the top’ and music notes as a tribute to Mozart and Beethoven to Polynesian aquatic animals. Then, like a true-blue Italian, he tells us he is addicted to women and food and his idea of romance is sharing a plate of spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil and fine Italian wine over candle light. Ferarri spends a lot of his free time exploring the restaurants in town — “but mainly Asian as I only eat Italian food in Italy or what comes out of my kitchen,” he smiles, adding, “I once hopped onto a six-hour flight from Italy to Wien just to eat real wiener schnitzel. I miss my mum’s lasagne and my grandmother’s parmesan ball cheese, although I stock my fridge with parma ham, cheese, fruit and sparkling wine.”
@Memories of China, Vivanta By Taj, MG Road
Almost everybody who eats out knows the peppy chef who put Memories of China on the foodie map. “I never went to a fancy culinary school. My first job was at a garment factory, but I simply love cooking and I have been in the business for over forty years,” he says. Tong has a naturally adventurous palate with an innate appreciation for less common fare like snake, rabbit and tortoise. And good French and Australian wine. His love for food reflects in the way he speaks about it. “Just like India has no standard definition of Indian food, you cannot standardise the eating habits of over a billion people as generic Chinese food either. It goes way beyond what is served up in restaurants the world over, often indigenised by workers who were hardly culinary experts. Have you ever sampled bird’s nest soup from Shandong, Zhejiang’s beggar’s chicken, braised Anhui-style pigeon or the crisp eel specialties of Jiangsu? Does anyone even know about the tea-flavored dishes from Hangzhou, the cult-inspiring hairy crabs of Shanghai, the fabled honeyed ham from Yunnan, the Fujianese soup that is so amazing it is poetically called ‘Buddha Jumps Over the Wall,’ meaning it is so good that a Buddhist monk would break his vegetarian vows to sample it.” Clearly not, we admit, although we are quite willing to settle for his succulent garlic prawns (one version is richly coated with egg yolk), his signature dim sum and his stir-fried greens bursting with sweet snow peas that he imports from his native Hong Kong. “Sometimes, I yearn for my mum’s home cooking but my all-time favourite holiday food is steamed fish, sausages, dried fish, preserved egg and green vegetables,” he signs off.
@Alto Vino, Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield
Naples born Alfonso Montefusco speaks Italian, Spanish, English, Arabic and Catalan fluently, graduated from the Natural Gourmet School of New York, has authored a popular Italian cookbook ‘l fantastic cuoco’, appeared in cooking shows on Italian radio and television like ‘Il gusto del Parco’, a two year road- tour around culinary regions in Italy, served as visiting faculty at top culinary schools and as editor of the food pages at Vogue Uomo and Look magazines. He also once baked a cake for Madonna. In his kitchen, Montefusco is all business. Wielding his ‘indispensable’ fine strainer, tongs and Japanese knife to good effect, popping out to chat with guests and de-mystifying certain speciality dishes. But his Italian-ness is very evident in his love for big families (if I won the lottery, I would adopt ten children) and his idea of romance. “A perfect dinner date would be my love and I sharing a single plate and sipping from the same glass,” he tells us adding that he has just discovered the pleasure of kathi rolls in Bangalore.
@ Citrus, The Leela Palace
British born Adrian Mellor has worked in star properties around the world from the fancy French Les Amis in Singapore to the charming Forte Village in Sardinia and did a stint as King Abdullah of Jordan’s private chef. “I speak a bit of English but my Italian was really good 23 years ago,” he jokes , then reminisces fondly about his first job as a paperboy at age 11, his mother’s flaky homemade pies, large boisterous family celebrations over the holidays and the changing seasons and fresh spring produce back in Oldham. “In India, I’ve grown addicted to sambhar and masala dosas,” he smiles adding that he also drinks too much coffee, smokes too many cigarettes and his fitness regime will “start from tomorrow” without fail.
Comfort food is a cheese and ketchup sandwich with English Breakfast tea, and while “I love my current job, I would like to come back as a musician in my next life,” he smiles. Mellor’s fridge is loaded with milk, butter and artisan cheese — after all, he once drove several miles up into the mountains of Sardinia just to sample their famous Casu Marzu (maggot cheese). Having enjoyed the company of celebrities over the years, he especially cherishes the time he spent having a beer with rockstar Billy Idol in an open air bar in Malibu. Although his job has taken him travelling, he hopes to celebrate Christmas at the Plaza in New York and eat an energy bar at the end of running the London marathon sometime soon. And his idea of a perfect romantic evening? Enjoying chilli crab, on the beach in Boracay with the ocean lapping at his feet.
@Edo, ITC Gardenia
Specialised in Teppanyaki, Robatayaki and Tatami styles of Japanese cooking, Kukita cannot live without his trusty sushi knife, his bamboo mat and knife sharpening stone no matter where his job takes him. While most of us are familiar with the very engaging Teppanyaki-style of cooking, Kukita explains that the lesser known Robatayaki style or the grilling of skewered food over charcoal, that originated hundreds of years ago among Japanese fishermen, can also be a very lively and exciting experience. “In a restaurant setting, the chef is seated on a deck surrounded by carefully selected and displayed ingredients. The atmosphere resembles a traditional farmhouse. The chef will scoop up your choice on a huge wooden paddle, cook it on the spot, and serve it back to you on the same paddle. It’s all great fun,” he shares as he recounts some interesting guest reactions, “A guest once ordered sashimi then asked me, ‘Do you think I am a cat? How can I eat raw fish!?’.” Kukita himself loves Parisian foie gras, Kobe beef steak, the unusual texture of crocodile meat and has recently discovered the aromatic crispness of South Indian dosas.
Greco Vittorio hails from the South of Italy, speaks several European languages, and is currently working on his Hindi. An avid food blogger who contributes to the ‘Italian chefs of the world association’ and ‘world chef alliance’ blogs, Vittorio is addicted to chefitalianinelmondo.it and finedininglovers.com — “amazing websites for chefs like me,” he tells us. He also has plenty of funny guest stories, “A guest once complained that the tuna steak he ordered was fishy,” he laughs. Among his favourite celebrity guests, he makes a special mention of George Clooney — “a very nice man and curious about food”, Diana Krall — “ an amazing singer, jazz pianist and a very beautiful woman with a real sense of humor” and Sachin Tendulkar — “a courteous man who truly appreciates gourmet food”. After a rough day at work, Vittorio unwinds with a great Cuban cigar, a shot of nicely aged Zacapa XO rum and the company of his wife and doberman Rene. “Comfort food is my mom’s chicken soup, her potato gnocchi or a nice risotto in the winter. Sashimi or fish tartare in summer, although white truffles with anything works right through the year. I add zest to my salads with Xeres wine vinegar and a pinch of pink Himalayan salt but I still have to eat Fugu sashimi — a poisonous Japanese blow fish that needs to be prepared by a specially trained expert, some time soon,” shares Vittorio.
Pics: Jithendra .M
Location Courtesy: ITC Gardenia
@Bene, Sheraton Bangalore
From Hamburg, Germany, the burly Bela Reick has worked in Ireland, Indonesia, China and is getting around India nicely.“ I enjoy travelling to different countries but one day would like to open a beer pub, serve excellent food and hold live band performances everyday,” he tells us. Reick patently adores his wife and his cat, has a couple of discreetly hidden tattoos and admits that his fitness mantra is no to sports! The German Chancellor complimented him on his buffet spread once and when he is not working, he likes to escape and spend some quality time with his wife, switch off his mobile and savour a good cigar. My comfort food is a calorie-laden dish of fried potatoes topped with fried egg like my grandma used to make, and yes delicious green cabbage stuffed with sausage from my hometown.
And the best way to start the day — with French toast, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast.
With a degree from culinary school in Malaga, the young boyish chef has already made quite a mark with his paellas and his seafood specials. And he loves to talk about his life back home in Fuengirola, Spain. “Holidays are spent at home feasting. My father makes the meal — he goes to the market early and shops for his ingredients. It’s usually duck breast with apple puree, roast suckling pig with gravy or roasted baby lamb leg with potatoes. My family loves roasts as you can see. And come what may, I have to head home for summer — volleyball, beach barbeques, tinto de verano (red summer wine), parties and Barcelo (rum) with Coca Cola. After a rollicking party, my brother and I make these decadent three-layered sandwiches stuffed with chorizo, two fried eggs, tomato, goat, blue and cured cheese, and bacon for everyone.” And still on his list of must try foods? Snake, alligator and definitely alligator eggs.