World Chefs: Pino Lavarra ups the ante in Hong Kong

Tue Jun 4, 2013 11:47am EDT
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By Cathy Yang

HONG KONG (Reuters) - At the top of Hong Kong's Ritz-Carlton, one of the highest hotels in the world, two-star Michelin chef Pino Lavarra busily toils inside the kitchen of Tosca, whipping up Italian dishes that marry tradition with innovation.

But the 44-year-old chef from Putignano, Italy, admits he has yet to create the perfect east-meets-west dish as he prepares to open the Ritz's fine-dining Italian restaurant this month.

Reuters spoke with Lavarra, former executive chef of Rossellini's restaurant in Ravello, Italy, and sous chef of Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford, England, about dining in Hong Kong, how one year in Malaysia influenced him, and why his mother is "the most brilliant home cooking chef".

Q: What has changed in the city dining landscape since your first visit in 2002?

A: I was very impressed at my first visit to Hong Kong. I experienced a high standard of cuisine. Since then I've been here a few more times and I've seen there is an increasing level of professionalism, culinary knowledge on best products from around the globe. This city attracts more and more great chefs to come here and share their knowledge and experience. So the changes are evident and in a positive way.

Q: How is Hong Kong inspiring you with your new creations? You are known to present classical ingredients in contemporary and innovative ways.

A: Hong Kong is a dynamic city, a global metropolis at the crossroads of East and West, and at the same time rich in local flavor. My creation is inspired by everyday life, through research and preparation. It is not difficult to have new ideas.

Q: How would you define the "gastronomic memory" you wish to imprint on your diners' minds?   Continued...

Chef Pino Lavarra works in the kitchen at Tosca inside Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong March 18, 2013. REUTERS/Tosca, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong/Handout via Reuters