Chef Luigi Ferraro who won the gold at the International Kremlin Culinary Cup, shares his love for Southern Italian fare.
Calabria is known for fresh pastas, what are your faves?
Calabria is surrounded by the sea, and small mountains that grows mushrooms of Pollino. My dishes are influenced by seafood — Lobster, prawns, clams, seabass, citrus — bergamotto of Reggio Calabria, limone of Rocca Imperiale, Arance of Piana di Sibari.
Growing up, how did cooking become such a passion?
Being a chef is not a job but a passion that drives me. Since childhood, I have seen my mother and grandmother cooking fresh seafood, fresh pastas, making salami. I started getting passionate at a very early age and later enrolled in culinary school. I have also worked with Michelin star chefs in Italy and this helped develop my skills. After many stints in Italy, I decided to take my cuisine to the world and make Calabria known to the world.
You studied at IPSSAR di Castrovillari in Italy?
The school was important, after what I learned from my mother. At home I learned basics but in school I learnt professional cooking, management, discipline, and so much more.
What you will be bringing to the South Italian food festival Capri to Calabria?
Whenever I travel from Calabria, I always pack some surprises from my native town that I can use in dishes. Like n’duia, caciocavallo silano, riso of sibari and bergamotto of Reggio Calabria.
Your signatures, and why?
My favourite signatures are homemade pastas. In Calabria, it’s authentic and traditional fare, a staple. Especially on Sundays, we cook pastas at home. Since childhood, I have seen my mother making pastas and have taken inspiration from that.
Pizza and dough making are your fortes... the best pizzas? What we do wrong?
A good pizza is right quality flour, fresh cheese like mozzarella, fresh ingredients like tomato sauce. Indian restaurants use refined flour and commercial mozzarella cheese which is not good, also fresh tomato sauce is better. Pizza is a very traditional Italian food and the recipe should be kept traditional. My best is a Margherita.
Indians and spice? Tabasco?
I really like Indian food and its fragrance-filled spices. I have learnt to eat spicy food and enjoy it. Sometimes I get requests to modify according to Indian taste, adding onion, green chilli, etc. I do it, but my suggestion would be to try it as authentic as possible. If someone wants to add tabasco to pasta, I would suggest not to do so but rather add chilli flakes as it will not destroy flavours.
Your cooking experiences in New York, George Town, Londra, Stoccarda, San Pietroburgo, Parigi, Moscow?
My last assignment in Moscow stands apart as it was a super luxury stand-alone restaurant using expensive ingredients like white truffle, caviar, aged-balsamic. I have cooked for Russian ministers, Hollywood actors and influential business tycoons in Russia.
The book Calabria, in tutti i sensi... the most delectable part?
The idea of writing a book came when I realised that the cuisine of my region is still not famous. I wanted to bring out my cuisine and my experience and it bundles 22 years of my culinary experience and the places I visited and the people I met. I am today the culinary ambassador of Calabria and was nominated by the Calabrian regional government.
Cooking shows, meals, your favourites?
My favourite was the cookery demonstration with a group from a womens’ club in Bengaluru.
Your personal life, and hobbies, new projects?
My family is very important and I am grateful to them for travelling with me, my wife Ivana and my daughter Dafne. I am also planning to publish a book on Calabrian cuisine.
— The chef from Delhi’s Eros is curating the festival, at Caprese in Shangri-La Hotel.