Last Bite: Enrico Bartolini
What is your earliest food memory?
When I was three years old and I was at school, our teacher prepared caramel in front of us. It was in that moment that I realised this was something special.
Who inspired you to become a chef?
Many people! I’ve been doing this for the last 25 years. At the beginning, I started at a hospitality school and I spent a lot of time in the restaurants that my uncle owned and the restaurants of the Grand Hotel in Montecatini Terme. I had the drive to become a good cook and with experience, I decided to open my first restaurant and became a chef, rather than a cook.
How would you describe your culinary style?
It’s really difficult to say, because all the chefs share the same description. Everyone says ‘contemporary, modern technique with old recipes and creative ideas’. I think that in my kitchen, the ingredients arrive and every dish has a special treatment, because when we have a new dish, it’s an event in itself.
What has been your proudest moment as a chef?
I’m really never happy! But when I decided to move out from Tuscany to other countries, I have been proud of what I have learned. For example, I discovered fine dining in Paris, which was my first experience of that kind of cuisine. I grew up in a small town in Tuscany, and while we loved going to small restaurants, they were simple ones. I learned a lot in Paris when I was 19 years old — I discovered this magical town, and then I returned to Italy to be a good Italian.
You host quite a few events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. What is the best part of collaborating with other chefs?
I love doing it every time. Whenever I move to other restaurants, it’s a new experience for me. People in different places with different characters to work with. And every time I am in the UAE I am surprised because it changes every two months. When it comes to the food scene, that is also growing a lot — like the buildings! Last time I was in Dubai, I visited Rüya which was amazing. This time I visited The Artisan By Enoteca Pinchiorri. The chef, Enoteca Pinchiorri, is amazing; I hope to be at that level one day.
If you weren’t a chef, you would be?
A shoemaker. When I was young, my father was a shoemaker. But when I had to choose my school to continue my professional education, he advised me not to follow him because the market was struggling at the time. But I follow the shoe trends, and I think it’s very similar to being a chef. Shoemakers also use their hands and essentially choose the ingredients to create the best results.
What’s next for you?
I’m opening my sixth fine dining restaurant in Italy. La Locanda Restaurant Sant’Uffizio in a very old building, in Montferrat, Piedmont. Then I am opening another bistro in the centre of Milan, Pandenus. My dream is to open a patisserie in the centre of Milan.