Interview: Pino Lavarra, ex chef Palazzo Sasso (Italy), now Tosca (Ritz Carlton, Hong Kong)
Update, 12th March 2013: Pino Lavarra has moved to Hong Kong to restaurant Tosca in Ritz Carlton: http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/HongKong/Dining/tosca/Default.htm
The following is article from March 2011:
Born in Putignano, a very important village in Puglia, famous for it’s carnival, which is one of the oldest in Italy, Pino Lavarra is one of the most important chef in the Campania region.
He arrived at Palazzo Sasso in 1997 for the opening of the amazing hotel situated in Ravello. Today you will find Pino organizing his excellent team in one of the “IN” restaurants of the Amalfi Coast, the “Rossellinis“.
The magical place, the amazing views that “Rossellinis” offers, the style of a creative menu based on the traditional land, brings him daily to create delicious fine plates for those who want to taste the traditional gastronomy.
The magical touch of Pino can bring seduction to his fellow guests with a mix of innovation and tradition, finding the right balance elaborating his classical Neapolitan recipe alternating on a Menu, more creative, while containing in itself all the experience matured during the years.
In 2001, Pino received from the American Academy of Hospitality sciences, the recognition of “One of the Best Chef in the World” and also the Italian Guide start to express their gastronomic critics and in November 2002 “Rossellinis” took the prestige culinary award, One star Michelin.
In November 2003 “Rossellinis took the award from another prestige guide “Veronelli” with a star, while in January 2004, he received a 100/100 category from the Condé Nast Traveler ” The best by Food Europe” and in November 2004 the second Michelin star.
What has brought you into the culinary world and how did you decide to become a chef?
I was very passionate about the cuisine – I was often following my mother to the school elementary school where she was a cook. Everything started there – unconsciously I have felt in love with the culinary world.
How would you describe the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is most typical about it?
My culinary philosophy is based on valorizing in the best way the food and all the best ingredients with my knowledge, technique and gastronomic discipline with a bit of sense of esthetics.
Let’s go to your childhood. Are there any memories, tastes, flavours, which are important for your creations of today?
There are thousands of them, let’s name a few of them: home made bread, tomato sauce and other preserved food, fresh home made pasta, usage of different vegetables which are still part of my today’s repertoire and which I offer every day.
Are there any ingredients that you are specially fond of and which you use more often?
Aromatic herbs and spices are something that shouldn’t be missed on my plates – from garlic to ginger – the whole alphabet of flavours (in italian aglio, zenzero so the first and last letter of the alphabet, which makes sense).
Who were your tutors and mentors? Who has influenced you the most and how?
Of the real teachers there is only one – my professor of the hotel school Angelo Console, he, with his great knowledge and passion, made us fall in love with this art. After him there were people who influenced my culinary life – from Paolo Simeoni to Anthony Genovese and Raymond Blanc – also them, with their philosophies and passion have transmitted to me many important culinary aspects.
Who/what is inspiring you today?
Today I’m inspired by nature, through it’s beauty and complexity.
Creativity and technique. What is more important for you and why?
Creativity means to see the things from another point of view then others, technique means to valorize, cook and manipulate the product in the best way to exalt its characteristics.
For me they are same important. They go hand in hand …. passionately.
What’s your favourite dish?
What was your biggest success?
One wife and three kids.
Do you have any realizable or realized dreams?
I have a wonderful family which stays close to me and supports me.
Do you have also any unrealizable dream?
No, everything is possible if you want it strong enough.
If you wouldn’t be a chef, what would you do?
A chef. ;)