5 MINUTES WITH ALDO ZILLI
What do you have on your plate in terms of TV shows, books and career? I am very busy working on recipe ideas, especially with Mother’s Day and Easter coming up – a busy time for me. I’ll be doing more events in the UK, and I’m working with a great charity, Centrepoint, that supports young people who have experienced homelessness to get into work. They are opening a charity café in London’s Soho and I’m helping with some of the training. What will you be cooking at Taste of Dubai, and why did you choose those dishes? I’ll be making fresh pasta from scratch using cuttlefish ink and I’ll be bringing along some of my own truffles. For the cook-along I will be making risotto – these are both classic and delicious Italian dishes. What distinguishes a great restaurant from a simply good one? A great restaurant is one that takes all the best things and moves it up a notch – so the very best ingredients, presentation, service, location, ambience – all these things done brilliantly are what distinguishes a great restaurant from a good one. What’s your advice to anyone who wants to start a restaurant? Be prepared to work hard, it’s a tough industry and you should have a good understanding of all aspects of what makes a great restaurant – from cooking, to sourcing the best ingredients, service standards – and all the back-of-house elements too, from training and health and safety to profit and loss and procurement. You need to know it all. I read something today that said Italians taste their own cuisine differently than the rest of the world does. Would you agree with this statement? I am not sure if I agree as I don’t know what it
is like to be a different nationality; however I do know that we Italians are incredibly passionate about food and, importantly, we understand provenance and quality – even our school meals are made from scratch. So from a very young age we are brought up to respect food and it is very central to family life. What makes Italian food special, especially when we have so much choice nowadays? I think it is so special because you really get a taste of country when you eat it – fresh tomatoes, olive oil, Parmesan. The cooking is always seasonal and local – so what you eat in one area of the country you may not eat in another and we have a huge number of DOC [protected origin] products, which cannot be replicated anywhere else. How do you approach making Italian dishes ‘light’? How do you stay healthy while working in the restaurant industry? It’s not that hard to make Italian dishes light, especially if you follow the Mediterranean diet, which, with its balance of oils, fish and vegetables, offers a healthy way to enjoy Italian food. The most important things that I have learned about staying healthy are: only eat when you are hungry; remember to keep it small, light and often (five small meals a day); eat oily fish three times a week; try not to eat fruit after your evening meal (it stops the digestive system working properly); don’t eat late at night. Have a light evening meal, then go to bed two or three hours later. I promise, you’ll sleep better, and will wake properly re-energised.
Aldo Zilli will be cooking at the Chef’s Theatre at 6.30pm on March 9, 1.30pm on March 10 and 6.30pm on March 11 and at the cooking challenge tent on March 9 at 7.30pm, at 2.30pm on March 10 and at 5.30pm on March 11. Tickets are on sale at platinumlist.net, starting at Dh75 (Dh150 for Thursday).