Above all, cook with the “Luxury of Simplicity.” The Wordrobe speaks with renowned Italian chef and former Junior MasterChef judge Alessandro Borghese to find out more about his dedication for gourmand perfection
What inspired you to become a chef?
When I was five years old I would wake up every Sunday morning to the smell of meat sauce wafting through the house. I used to wake up very early, go to the kitchen and watch my father moving with confidence between the kitchen stove, plates and knives.
Those moments have the unforgettable taste of that meat sauce that we used to have covering a slice of bread for Sunday lunch. A warm atmosphere marked with an unforgettable emotion. My father’s smile as he would describe a recipe to me is what has inspired me the most.
Tell us more about your culinary background…
Following my graduation, I signed on cruise ships as my first rung on the ladder, and for the following three years I worked in the kitchens. Travelling the world gives creativity and inspiration. The ship was my home and my moving school. A world made up of many stories, one night loves, wrong recipes and delicious successes!
On November 30th 1994 I was on-board the Achille Lauro off the coast of Somalia when a fire broke out, causing the ship to sink two days later. Once on land, cooking became my life, with courses and experiences in the kitchens of Paris, London, San Francisco and Rome.
I studied to be a sommelier, as I had become passionate about wines during my last year of High School. I used to read ‘Wine Spectator’ and take notes on the complexity of wine. A good plate without the proper wine just isn’t right.
Describe your cooking philosophy in three words.
Luxury of Simplicity.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
When my company “AB Normal” began to collaborate with important national and international brands. For us, team work is essential and I have an incredible group of professionals for private events and for companies. The colleagues with whom I’ve started this work are old friends, and today they collaborate within my team.
If you weren’t a chef, which career would you like to pursue?
Easy – a rock star!
Tell us more about the new menu… why mozzarella?
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is one of the most well-known Italian products worldwide, and is at the base of the Mediterranean diet. I am particularly proud to work with Obicà, the world’s most famous Mozzarella Bar, by becoming the new Creative Chef.
It’s an innovative concept with 22 restaurants all over the world, from Italy to Great Britain, all the way to the United States and Japan. We both share a passion for good Italian food, the selection of extremely high quality raw material and the firm belief that real luxury is based in simplicity. Together we want to really push the concept of food to share that is at the heart of the Mozzarella Bar philosophy.
As part of this I have created a range of new small plates that enrich the menu and the Obicà experience. Our belief that food is for sharing is also the motivation behind the Live Aperitivo tour, providing the perfect mix of informal atmosphere, pleasures of the table, excellent quality food and good music!
What is your favourite midnight snack?
Garlic; oil and chili spaghetti and, in the background, “Bang a Gong (Get It On) by T.Rex”
Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs?
It isn’t enough to simply improvise. To become a chef you need talent, study, passion and experience. Talent is necessary but alone it isn’t enough. Professionalism is needed to together with effort, dedication and lots of team work.
To prepare pasta with cheese and pepper you need more than just the recipe and ingredients; you need to know about the maturing of the cheese, that one cheese binds better than another and find the proper coupling with the starch of the pasta.
Preparing food isn’t easy, it’s a great responsibility. The kitchen is a demanding environment, you need concentration, intuition and physical ability. While cooking you get hot, adrenaline filled and also dirty, but in the end you have great satisfaction.
Passion is important, but the key qualities for me are mettle and humility. Being a judge for Junior MasterChef gave me the opportunity to share my emotions and experiences with the young chefs. Year on year the young people are always getting better, they study and exercise at home with their parents and grandparents before taking part in our castings.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
I am a curious person who loves discovering new styles and techniques. My cuisine is generous and creative, satisfying those who love refined food but don’t want to lose sight of tradition. This is best represented by the name of my catering company, the Luxury of Simplicity.
Cooking is my way of communicating, my instrument of creativity. It’s my way of being spontaneous, mixing incredible flavors with simple smells that are sometimes surprising.
What provides you with inspiration for the dishes on the menu?
Inspiration can come from everywhere. For me, my joint passion for music and art are key, but I can also be inspired by leaving the kitchen and going outside. Markets are a great place to start, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. I see the art of food as an adventure for the mind. A specific ingredient will stimulate my imagination with its colors, its shapes and its tastes.
Travelling is also a big inspiration for me. It has always been fundamental to my personal and professional growth. I have managed many restaurants both in Italy and abroad and I have sailed on cruise ships from one side of the world to the other, and every journey has given me inspiration and creativity.
Do you have any role models?
I had many teachers and for each one I remember something specific: I remember well the welcome speech of a head chef who spoke of humility, that talent needs to be seasoned with studying, passion and maximum respect for raw materials. These are words that are with me still today in my work.
What food takes you back to childhood?
“Paccheri al ragù” (pasta with meat sauce), as cooked by my father. As I mentioned, he would start preparing it early in the morning and fill the house with its smell while it simmered. My father used to tell me that the sauce had to “think”.
What is your favourite spring dish?
A light fresh dish is perfect for spring time: zucchini made the ‘scapece’ way with buffalo mozzarella. I love it so much I have included it on my menu for Obicà!