Giorgio Locatelli first became involved in the culinary world working at his family’s Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy. He has worked at top restaurants, Laurent and La Tour d’Argent in Paris and the Savoy in London before opening Zafferano, which earned him his first Michelin star. He is now chef-patron of the delectable Locanda Locatelli in Mayfair, where he has earnt and retained a michelin star for over ten years.
We caught up with Giorgio to hear all about his inspirations, motivations and some of his own expert tips.
You were surrounded by food from a young age, with your uncle’s Michelin-starred restaurant. How did this ignite your love of food?
It was a different time in history back then. Being a chef was not considered glamorous years ago. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer, or a doctor, definitely not a chef. I was the youngest in the family though, and the kitchen was always the place I could go to and truly be myself and hide away when necessary. The actual passion for food came much later, but still today, I always find that problems are best solved in the kitchen.
Locanda Locatelli has remained one of London’s top restaurants for over 10 years now. What do you think the secret to its success is?
I think the success is based on the relationship between the clients and the staff. We have the utmost respect for our diners at Locanda Locatelli and from this, they find the restaurant to be a place of utter comfort. In fact, we had quite a well-known diner in the other day and at the end of the meal he left without paying the bill. When we called him to find out why, he said he was so relaxed in the restaurant that he had just forgotten to pay. You know, the relationship we have with our clients and the knowledge we gain of them is what makes them so comfortable. Our care and attention also extends to the training of our staff, which is also fundamental to the success of Locanda Locatelli.
How difficult is it to retain a Michelin star?
It is an amazing accolade, and I think the best way to retain it is to take each day as it comes and strive to constantly do your best. I don’t wake up every day thinking about retaining the star, I just continue to work hard.
What is your favourite dish to prepare and why?
Definitely risotto. What would life be without risotto- it is so delicious.
What other restaurants do you admire and frequent around the world?
I admire anyone involved in the restaurant world. The kitchen is a tough working environment and I have respect for every single working chef. There is also an exciting new breed of Italian chefs at the moment who are producing amazing food.
Do you have one food staple you could not live without?
Olive oil. As long as I have olive oil, I can cook anything.
What are your tips to those who aren’t the most confident cooks?
Confidence comes with knowledge, not just of the recipe, but of the story behind it. Once you create the story, you own the recipe. People have a sentimental attachment to food and an affinity to food and the recipe is what makes the best meal. Simplicity is also the key. If you throw a dinner party, your friends are not expecting a Michelin-starred menu, so focus on simple foods like stews and make sure you spend time with your guests and relax. The most soulless food is that which has been prepared purely to impress.
What do you do when you have time to relax?
I like swimming, pilates and going kite-surfing when I have the chance. I also love to ride my motorbike, but it is in Italy so I don’t often get the chance, only once or twice a year.
You are a devoted family man. Are your children interested in the culinary world at all?
No not yet. They are only 22 and 17, so we will have to wait and see.
Which chefs would work in your dream kitchen?
The kitchen is a team, it is not just about personalities. Everyone plays a vital role and I would definitely love to have an awful lot of people, including Auguste Escoffier, Michel Guérard.
Christmas time is approaching, what is a typical Christmas Day like in your household?
Usually, I go to the restaurant with my family, who have come over from Italy and we cook a meal for the staff. My wife and the girls take care of the washing up and we feast on antipasti, tortellini, lasagne, pasta, prawns and salmon. We open up a few presents, welcome some guests and serve a large roast around 5 or 6 pm. This year, however, I am going to Italy, which will be very different for me. I am used to this huge feast we have every year, so this will be something quite different. We will definitely be eating smoked salmon on Christmas day, it is a very Italian delicacy around Christmas time.
Do you have any tips and advice on preparing the ultimate Christmas Day meal?
For the turkey, I use some truffle butter and breadcrumbs. I will cover the turkey in breadcrumbs and the butter and it gets so moist and delicious.
What’s next for you and the Locatelli empire?
Well, I would love to open up another restaurant. The challenge always remains, as to where and how do I create this? We shall see.