En­thralled with cook­ing from a very young age and fas­ci­nated by his mother’s skills in the kitchen, An­gelo Cic­cone started work­ing in a seafood restau­rant ev­ery day after school at the ten­der age of 13 so he could un­der­stand the se­crets of the culi­nary wo

Exquisite Taste - - Up Close & Personal - – By Amanda O'Con­nor

: You started work­ing in kitchens very young, can you imag­ine be­ing any­thing other than a chef?

An­gelo: At a young age, I was fas­ci­nated by top singers (like Freddy Mer­cury) who were able to make thou­sands of peo­ple at a con­cert scream for them, so I was al­ways fan­ta­sis­ing about be­ing a singer. In fact, when I was 9 years old, I sang in the lo­cal church! As I grew older, I re­alised my pas­sion for food was my life. Also, ap­par­ently my off-key voice didn’t help my singing ca­reer!

: You have said that Lo­coro­tondo, your home town in south­east Italy, is all about fresh seafood and good qual­ity wine. What would your com­ment on Sin­ga­pore be?

A: I think that Sin­ga­pore is a par­adise for food­ies. You can taste some of the best cuisines from all over the world on this beau­ti­ful is­land. Some amaz­ing chefs are based here as well so there are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­pe­ri­ence spe­cial­ties from places such as Ja­pan, Peru, Europe, In­dia, Ko­rea, and so on, with very high lev­els of qual­ity and au­then­tic­ity.

: You’ve worked in pas­try, Ital­ian restau­rants and much more in be­tween, do you have a favourite part of the culi­nary world?

A: Ital­ians by blood are pas­sion­ate about the art of pas­try and in­trigued by rare spices. My favourite part of the culi­nary world is that it is al­ways evolv­ing and get­ting bet­ter. In the last 20 years, we went from Mamma-style Ital­ian food to clas­sic English roast and pota­toes. There­after, we moved into re­fined French nou­velle cui­sine, then or­ganic su­per­foods,

molec­u­lar cui­sine, farm-to-table con­cepts, and now “In­sta­grammable food”. It’s al­ways chang­ing. The re­dis­cov­ery and creative free­dom al­ways keeps me in­spired and sharp.

: What is it you most en­joy about cook­ing?

A: Find­ing the right bal­ance pre­sent­ing modern-day guests with food in a new way, but keep­ing the flavours au­then­tic. I be­lieve we must al­ways re­spect the food and the in­gre­di­ents them­selves; source the best pro­duce, cook it in the right way, and you are al­ready set for suc­cess. I like to push my­self and my team to come up with the “next thing”, not fol­low­ing, but in­stead try­ing to set new trends.

: Tell us what you find most in­ter­est­ing about set­ting up a wine din­ner.

A: Wine din­ners are some of the greatest events that hap­pen in a restau­rant. We get to con­nect with the wine­maker to un­der­stand their story and prod­uct, learn more about the wines through the ex­pe­ri­ences of the som­me­lier, and learn about the chef and their creative process to cre­ate food that matches the wine. And you need a good PR/mar­ket­ing plan to ex­e­cute for pub­lic­ity. There is al­ways great syn­ergy from dif­fer­ent in­di­vid­u­als when or­gan­is­ing a wine din­ner. That’s what makes it so ex­cit­ing!

: At Re­gent Sin­ga­pore you’re over­see­ing very dif­fer­ent cuisines served in renowned restau­rants. What sort of chal­lenges do you come up against with, for ex­am­ple, be­ing hands on with a team of chefs prepar­ing pri­mar­ily Ital­ian food, an­other team prepar­ing award-win­ning Chi­nese food and an­other han­dling the Tea Lounge?

A: That’s the exquisite­ness of my job; hav­ing to col­lab­o­rate with in­ter­na­tional teams from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and ex­pe­ri­ences, in dif­fer­ent con­cept restau­rants and ban­quet­ing. It is al­ways im­por­tant to have an en­cour­ag­ing out­look, an open mind, but more than ever, the need to fo­cus on four let­ters: BEST! Ev­ery­thing that we do has to be the best. We don’t get out of the bed in the morn­ing just to be medi­ocre.

: As an ex­ec­u­tive chef, do you still man­age to find time to cook?

A: Yes, of course I do. Nowa­days as an ex­ec­u­tive chef, I need to fo­cus on fi­nance, mar­ket­ing, hu­man re­sources and cre­at­ing menus, while in­spir­ing and lead­ing a big group of cooks into de­vel­op­ing their ca­reers. But first of all, I’m still a chef and food is my life.

: What was it that drew you to Asia as op­posed to re­turn­ing to Europe?

A: I think in the next 30-50 years, Asia will be the “hap­pen­ing place” to be at! Cities like Sin­ga­pore, Hong Kong and other cap­i­tals in Asia will be where new trends for the rest of the world come up. Par­tic­u­larly, I love Sin­ga­pore as she has a great mix of tal­ented peo­ple work­ing to­gether.

: Your hob­bies are very dif­fer­ent from each other - golf, foot­ball and chess! Why these three?

A: I have loved foot­ball since I was a baby! I al­ways played and scored many goals and am a huge sup­porter of the Ital­ian foot­ball team Ju­ven­tus. I started golfing in the last 10 years and love the game as you are re­ally com­pet­ing with your­self. As for chess, it’s my favourite table game. I think you can re­ally see how some­body’s brain works when you play chess, and I’m very com­pet­i­tive, I like to win.

: Other than your own restau­rants in the hotel, where do you like to eat?

A: I love dim sum and al­ways try new Chi­nese restau­rants that are fa­mous for dim sum. Also, I must have au­then­tic Ja­panese food at least once a week! Usu­ally I will be out try­ing new restau­rants in the city.

Ital­ian meat plat­ter for two

Roasted pi­geon in parch­ment pa­per with roast-baked sea­sonal veg­eta­bles

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