Food has always been a passion of mine but I didn’t immediately consider it a career prospect. Initially to appease my parents, after I finished secondary school, I started studying a Bachelor of Law degree.
However, six months into my studies I realised I had no true interest in law. At that time, the idea of becoming a Chef became more of a realistic vision for me, but I wasn’t ready to take it to the next step.
I thought I should try to persevere with my studies and perhaps it was law that was deterring me from continuing my tertiary education. As such, I changed to a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering; but yet again, about six months into that degree, I lost interest in my studies.
It was at this time, that I decided I was ready to pursue a career in food. I enrolled in one of the most prestigious culinary institutes in Italy, the ALMA International School of Italian Cuisine. I thrived every day I was at that culinary school. It strengthened my love for food.
Once I completed my culinary studies, I was employed at a two Michelin-star restaurant located in my home town of Ragusa, Sicily. While there, I was able to put my skills into practice and learned professionalism in a well-operated kitchen.
During my time at the restaurant, I worked in all of the departments including pastry, main, pasta and entrees; this enabled me to build foundational knowledge in all of those areas. After some further experience in other restaurants in Sicily and in the north of Italy, I decided to move to Melbourne, Australia.
My first restaurant experience in Melbourne was at Bistro Vue, a one-hatted French restaurant, which is a part of the Vue de Monde Company owned by Shannon Bennett.
I was at Bistro Vue for three years and worked my way up to Senior Sous Chef. My time at Bistro Vue was undoubtedly the most challenging, rewarding and formative working experience of my career.
Being at a French restaurant, I developed a fondness for classic French cuisine and it is the base of my style of cooking today.
While in Melbourne, I also worked with Paul Wilson at his one-hatted restaurant Wilson & Market. Paul introduced me to exotic foods, spices and flavours and showed me how to use Australian produce to create modern Mexican, South American, European and Middle Eastern dishes.
Towards the end of my career at Wilson & Market, I decided I wanted to take an opportunity where I could have more control over the direction of the menu and restaurant. I moved to McLaren Vale in South Australia and found my second family at Serafino's restaurant.
Since being promoted to Head Chef, I have revolutionised the menu by focusing on offering customers a Mediterranean-style cuisine, using seasonal local produce with classic techniques.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef:
I grew up cooking with my grandmother, who was a wonderful cook for my family and she instilled the love of cooking in me. When I was young, I would prefer cooking dinner for my family than completing my homework. As I previously said, I never thought there would be a career in cooking for me, but I am so pleased that it consumes my days.
How would you define your style?
My cooking is simple, not too overcomplicated. I use and respect seasonal ingredients to create Mediterranean dishes.
Flavour. I believe it is the soul of all food.
What do you love about this business?
I love the variety in my job and thrive on the challenge to excite different palates.
Carnaroli rice risotto with pumpkin, saffron and red mullet - risottos are my signature. It is a dish which tantalises all of your senses - you hear the toasting process, you touch the grains that have been toasted to check that they are cooked properly, you smell the wine which is used to deglaze evaporate, you see the saffron turn the rice a sun-like colour and finally, you taste your creation.