The Scotsman - - Business -

An­to­nio Car­luc­cio, TV chef, writer and restau­ra­teur. Born: 19 April, 1937, in Vi­etri sul Mare, Italy. Died: 8 Novem­ber 2017, aged 80.

Whether cook­ing, eat­ing or for­ag­ing, An­to­nio Car­luc­cio’s pas­sion for food knew no bounds, and he shared it with fans the world over.

A de­voted TV chef, writer and restau­ra­teur through­out his life, his culi­nary skills earned him pres­ti­gious ac­co­lades in both Italy and the UK.

The story be­gan at his home in the ru­ral north-west of Italy where, from the age of seven, he be­gan hunt­ing and col­lect­ing mush­rooms with his fa­ther – ac­tiv­i­ties which be­came life­long hob­bies.

Decades later, he be­came best known for start­ing the Ital­ian del­i­catessen and restau­rant chain Car­luc­cio’s Caffe, and one half of the lov­able duo Two Greedy Ital­ians, along­side Gen­naro Con­taldo.

But it was the smil­ing, white­haired “god­fa­ther of Ital­ian gas­tron­omy” who be­came syn­ony­mous with his kitchen motto: “min­i­mum of fuss, max­i­mum of flavour”.

The tele­vi­sion se­ries, also trans­formed into two books, saw the pair tease and bicker with each other as they rem­i­nisced pas­sion­ately over their favourite child­hood recipes, cook­ing over their knees or on makeshift out­door hobs.

Keen to share his en­vi­able Ital­ian gas­tro­nomic her­itage in Bri­tain, 1981 saw Car­luc­cio open both Neal Street Restau­rant in Covent Gar­den, Lon­don – which traded for 26 years – and a del­i­catessen next door.

His first Car­luc­cio’s Caffe opened to the pub­lic for the first time in Mar­ket Place, just off the cap­i­tal’s Ox­ford Cir­cus, in 1998. The chain has since been sold on.

But while his fix­a­tion with the kitchen be­came the love of both his pro­fes­sional and per­sonal life, he started out dab­bling in al­ter­na­tive op­tions. He tried out jour­nal­ism in Turin and had a short­lived role as a wine mer­chant in Lon­don.

The cook’s first tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ance came in 1983, when he spoke on BBC Two about Mediter­ranean food.

His first book, An In­vi­ta­tion To Ital­ian Cook­ing, fol­lowed shortly after, kick­ing off a ta­lent for writ­ing that even­tu­ally

“My phi­los­o­phy is to be happy and to make peo­ple happy. And by re­sult, if you make peo­ple happy they make you happy”

saw him cre­ate more than 20 ti­tles. In the months be­fore his death, he had worked on a chil­dren’s book, cen­tred around two mush­rooms.

He was able to gen­er­ate love af­fairs with the sim­plest of in­gre­di­ents, most re­cently pen­ning an en­tire book on veg­eta­bles – called Veg­eta­bles – pay­ing pages of trib­ute to roots and greens.

His tele­vi­sion ca­reer also spanned a healthy 25 years, be­gin­ning with an ap­pear­ance on Mas­terchef in 1991, be­fore a three-year stint on Satur­day Kitchen from 20062009 – later fol­lowed by guest ap­pear­ances – and then grac­ing screens for the first time in Two Greedy Ital­ians in 2011.

Car­luc­cio also proved him­self a TV hit in Aus­tralia, film­ing with Dr Richard Wal­ley.

His no-frills at­ti­tude to hearty fam­ily feasts earned recog­ni­tion, in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment as Com­menda­tore – the equiv­a­lent of a Bri­tish knight­hood – by the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment in 1998 for ser­vices ren­dered to Italy.

In the UK, he was pre­sented with an OBE by the Queen in 2007 for ser­vices to the cater­ing in­dus­try and in 2012 was hon­oured with the AA hos­pi­tal­ity life­time achieve­ment award.

The fifth of sixth chil­dren, Car­luc­cio did not fol­low with a large fam­ily of his own. He was mar­ried for al­most 30 years to Priscilla Con­ran (from 19802008) but had no chil­dren.

The break­down of the re­la­tion­ship came at a dif­fi­cult time for the restau­ra­teur, that he de­scribed to the Tele­graph news­pa­per as feel­ing “very de­pressed”, “ex­hausted and des­per­ate”. It was a pe­riod that cul­mi­nated in him re­port­edly plung­ing a knife into his chest while cut­ting bread in Septem­ber 2008. Doc­tors feared at the time that he may have pen­e­trated a lung.

Car­luc­cio told the pub­li­ca­tion shortly af­ter­wards that the in­ci­dent was “an ac­ci­dent”, but ad­mit­ted that it was the dif­fi­cul­ties in his per­sonal life that led him to con­se­quently check him­self into the Pri­ory, Lon­don’s psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal known for tak­ing care of strug­gling celebri­ties.

But re­turn­ing to the pub­lic eye, while main­tain­ing his ther­a­peu­tic cook­ing hob­bies at home, in­clud­ing jam­mak­ing and grow­ing grapes for wine, saw him ap­par­ently re­turn to a hap­pier place and in 2016 he told the Press As­so­ci­a­tion of his tech­niques for liv­ing a more ful­filled life.

“My phi­los­o­phy is to be happy and to make peo­ple happy,” he said. “And by re­sult, if you make peo­ple happy they make you happy.

“I like to have money, be­cause money is good. But it’s not too good, you know?

“If you have enough, it’s fine. It solves many, many prob­lems, but there are peo­ple that are avidly at­tached to it. It’s bal­ance.

“My mother used to say, when God cre­ated Italy and looked from above, he said, ‘It’s too beau­ti­ful, I have to bal­ance it and cre­ate Ital­ians!’” FRANCESCA GOSLING

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