HONG KONG (Reuters) - Italian Chef Giuliani Dacasto has done much traveling to perfect his cuisine, moving from the three Michelin-starred Le Calandre to Gordon Ramsay's The Boxwood Café and 2 Venti in London.
But it was right in his family kitchen in Turin, Italy that he first learned all the tricks of the trade - and it is in Hong Kong that he plans to showcase his innovative Italian cuisine in a city with one of the densest clusters of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world.
Reuters caught up with the 33-year-old at the restaurant Aqua Roma in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui. Aqua Roma was awarded The "Ospitalita Italiana" Award for Best Italian Restaurant in Hong Kong.
Q: How did you get started in cooking?
A: "My adventure with cooking started when I was nine years old when I began cooking for my family every evening, seeing as my mother was too busy working. From the first moment I spent in the kitchen, I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and that this was something I could be really great at. My first steps in the art of cooking was taught to me by my grandmother, and she had a significant influence on my dishes at the beginning of my career."
Q: Name two dishes on your menu that excite you most, and why?
A: "Agnolotti, or veal shank ravioli, always excites me. This is a dish that was eaten on Christmas Day every year for generations in my family. I still remember my grandmother and my mother standing in the kitchen together, preparing the dish and teaching it to me step by step. The second dish on my menu which has a particular resonance would definitely be oven roasted guinea fowl filled with Boston lobster. It is a particularly difficult dish to find on the menu in most Italian restaurants. For me, however, the connection between game and seafood has always been fascinating in terms of taste and texture."
A: How did you innovate on the agnolotti served by grandma?
Q: "The first and the biggest difference is stuffing. My grandmother used to use beef, I've changed it to the veal shank. The sauce is made with veal juice and porcini mushroom, my grandmother used the sauce from the beef instead. Ravioli were served with parmesan, I change it to truffles for a better taste, and then added the parmesan directly into the sauce for texture."
Q: What about Hong Kong as a place for a new restaurant? What's exciting and challenging?
A: "Hong Kong is a really exciting place to live and culinary wise, it is definitely a place where all the kitchens of the world meet together. The clientele is international and demanding, yet with my experience, the support of Aqua group and the hard work of my wonderful coworkers I am quite confident that my experience of Hong Kong will be not only be a success, it will be a fantastic opportunity to develop my art."
Q: How do you think your time here in Hong Kong will influence your cooking techniques going forward?
A: "Every place I lived in starting from Italy through London and Singapore had some influence on my cooking. I love Chinese kitchens and therefore I expect Hong Kong to leave a mark upon my receipts and techniques. Most of my colleagues in the kitchen are Chinese and it is very interesting for me to see them cooking. I am sure that as time goes by, it will influence me more and more."
Q: Do you see Hong Kong influencing your cuisine in the way your stint in Singapore influenced you in your previous years?
A: "As I said before, I am very excited to be here. Hong Kong is full of famous places representing so many different types of kitchen seen in the entire world. Being at Aqua gives me the opportunity to meet many interesting and professional people working for our company, representing the diversity of Hong Kong itself. We have Italian, Japanese, French and Chinese kitchens in Aqua Group and all of those will hopefully blend with my recipes and influence my perception of cooking itself. My menu is Italian, yet I believe that to be a successful chef one has to keep his mind opened, learn and develop."
SQUID INK TAGLIOLINI WITH WHITE PEARL OYSTER, LEMON CONFIT AND CHAMPAGNE SAUCE
300 g (2.4 cup) flour
200 g (0.8 cup) egg yolks
200 g squid ink
200 g (3.5 cup) bran
200 ml (0.8 cup) champagne
150 g (0.6 cup) unsalted butter
30 g (2.2 Tablespoons) extra virgin oil
50 g lemon confit
Cloves of garlic and shallots
Chive, dill, Italian parsley
1. Mix all dough ingredients, chill for one hour
2. Roll out the dough and hand cut into tagliolini
3. Separate the oysters and the oyster liquid (keep the oysters chilled in refrigerator)
4. Roast the shallots and garlic slowly with olive oil and butter.
5. Add half the oysters, lemon juice and champagne. Reduce the sauce, and stir in the tagliolini.
6. Add the herbs and extra oysters, and serve.
Additional reporting by Jadyn Beverley Sham, editing by Elaine Lies