From Shore to Shore

YTL Life - - Life Interview - Words RENYI LIM

“To me, the flavours of Si­cily are all about com­fort food,” ex­plains chef Lino Sauro, on the af­ter­noon be­fore he is due to de­but his four-course din­ner menu at The Li­brary in The Ritz-carl­ton, Kuala Lumpur. “I grew up in a fam­ily of farm­ers and I had seven sib­lings, so my ear­li­est food mem­o­ries are of my mother, who was al­ways at the stove, cook­ing for all those hun­gry mouths.”

As one of a reg­u­lar se­ries of guest chefs who let their skills shine at The Li­brary, he stepped away from his kitchen at Gat­topardo Ris­torante di Mare in Sin­ga­pore re­cently to de­liver his in­ter­pre­ta­tions of clas­sic south­ern Ital­ian dishes to equally rav­en­ous Malaysian gour­mands.

Ever one for im­mers­ing him­self in each coun­try’s culi­nary her­itage, Sauro took the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy a lit­tle well-de­served down­time with his fam­ily, thanks to the “out­stand­ing hos­pi­tal­ity” of The Ritz-carl­ton, Kuala Lumpur. Work­ing with The Li­brary’s kitchen team was an equally mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence, a process he de­scribes as, “ab­so­lutely cool”. He adds: “For some, it was their first time en­coun­ter­ing Si­cil­ian cui­sine, but they were so help­ful and col­lab­o­ra­tive.”

What sparked your in­ter­est in cook­ing? I ini­tially wanted to be a chef in or­der to go trav­el­ling, but I ended up trav­el­ling so that I could cook! I’ve vis­ited the Ama­zon River, Peru, Chile, China, Laos and Cam­bo­dia. I’ve spent the past 12 years in Sin­ga­pore.

Do you en­joy go­ing off the beaten track? I once trekked to the mid­dle of the Ama­zon River to a vil­lage in Peru so that I could learn lo­cal cook­ing tech­niques. I like im­mers­ing my­self in the culi­nary her­itage of each coun­try I’m ex­plor­ing.

Which of your dishes proved most pop­u­lar in Kuala Lumpur? The risone with charred citrus-glazed oc­to­pus, cap­sicum, sun-dried tomato aioli, chilli and pis­ta­chio pesto. I think Malaysian din­ers were in­trigued by the risone’s tex­ture be­cause they ate the dish ex­pect­ing it to be rice, but were sur­prised to find it was ac­tu­ally pasta.

How did you se­lect wines to pair with your menu? I started off by look­ing at how pep­pery, sweet, warm or spicy each dish was, and then made my se­lec­tion from the op­tions that The Ritz-carl­ton, Kuala Lumpur of­fered me from their cel­lar. I opted for a chi­anti from Tus­cany and south­ern Ital­ian white wines that could be eas­ily matched with seafood, as I wanted to en­sure that the wine wouldn’t over­whelm the food, and vice-versa.

What do you think of our lo­cal food of­fer­ings? I ven­tured out to Soo Kee Mee and or­dered as many dishes as I could fea­si­bly fit onto the ta­ble. I pre­fer the street food here much more than I do in Sin­ga­pore. It seems more hon­est, some­how.

What, to you, is a clas­sic Si­cil­ian dish? Pasta con le sarde – bu­ca­tini pasta with fresh sar­dines, an­chovies, wild fen­nel, a lit­tle bit of saf­fron and among other things, a sprin­kling of Si­cil­ian lemon zest. It’s a 2,000-year-old recipe, so you can’t go wrong with it.

Award-win­ning ex­ec­u­tive guest chef Lino Sauro re­veals the art of bring­ing the es­sen­tial flavours of his Si­cil­ian home­land to The Ritz-carl­ton, Kuala Lumpur.

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