"i really want to tell how food is the result of emotions, experiences and childhood memories, travels and places where I lived: through food, I want to convey to the guest who tastes my dishes this fundamental concept. That's how I live cooking: a way to express and communicate "
Hailing from Cagliari in Sardinia, Massimo did not follow the usual well-trodden path to Executive Chef. With his love of travel and a global outlook, Massimo spent the past 16 years helping manage the construction, design and launch of hotels and restaurants across the UK, Europe and now the Middle East.
Undertaking a culinary journey in its truest sense, Massimo’s attention to detail, quest for perfection and rounded, international approach to hospitality, has resulted in a career spent gathering skills, techniques, and ingredients across two continents and which has now taken him to the helm of the Scalini kitchen.
Since 2018, Massimo has been a member of the prestigious EuroToques Guide founded by master Gualtiero Marchesi, together with the top 200 Italian chefs in Europe. His motto in the kitchen is simple and clear: "have fun whilst always working hard.”
What is your culinary inspiration?
My inspiration in the kitchen is based on my childhood. My grandmother had 9 children and many many grandchildren. Every Sunday it was a must to go to her house for lunch. She prepared and cooked ingredients of the highest quality bought early in the morning in the local market and from various points around the city. She knew where to buy the best, freshest, meat, fish, bread, vegetables but also spices and condiments such as olive oil. Nothing was left to chance and lunches with her on Sundays are an indelible memory that has guided me throughout my career to date. I always hope to convey to others the joyful emotions and all-encompassing hospitality she transmitted to me as a child, along with an insistence on quality, seasonality and an exceptional local knowledge.
Why did you choose to become a Chef?
I started my career in a well-known restaurant in London and I learnt a great deal from the accomplished and hugely experienced Chef, Helena Puolakka. I was fascinated by her way of dealing with the challenges of running a busy kitchen and brigade with honesty, humour and firmness, which in turn motivated the team enormously. An occasional smile went a long way in driving the team forward and this first experience of professional hospitality inspired me to work hard, with integrity, respect for others, and with good humour.
What is your signature dish & most loved ingredient?
I have lived and worked in nine different countries, therefore my preferences have evolved over the years. For example, I had never tasted ginger or coriander before becoming a Chef, today I love them. Ingredients I currently love working with include saffron from Puglia, Spanish anchovies and sweet carrots from Fasano in Puglia. In fact one of my more unusual signature dishes showcases the contrasting flavours and textures of different types of Italian carrots, using a variety of cooking techniques and a vanilla marinade! I also adore tomatoes in all their shapes, sizes, colours and varieties, especially those from Southern Italy.
Who is your culinary hero/oine and why?
There are two people in particular that I hugely admire in my sector: Massimo Bottura, because of his rich imagination - he is always lucky enough to have a team capable of translating his complex ideas into a language that is understandable to the rest of us through his gastronomy. The other is Carlo Cracco - for me he is the greatest culinary technician in Italy.
What is your favourite place in Italy and why?
Venice - I was lucky enough to work in the lagoon at one of the most prestigious 7-star hotels in the world and also had the honour of taking care of George Clooney's wedding dining. Venice is romantic at any time and from any point of view. The lagoon at certain times of year also offers up gastronomic gifts, rare and delicious crabs, and it was during my time in Venice that I was able to cook ancient Venetian recipes dating back to the 1800s - the most prestigious professional experience I have ever experienced. All this in the most unique city in the world, where a car can be dispensed with, but a small boat become essential!