With one Michelin-star to his name, along with other prestigious personal awards of his illustrious career, Luca Fantin can certainly be ranked amongst the best chef in the world. His coveted reputation and talent makes him a perfect leading figure to represent Bvlgari Resort through Il Ristorante Luca Fantin of Ginza Tower, Japan. Known to elaborate classic Italian recipes with refined techniques and distinctive creativity based on the change of yearly seasons, Luca’s contemporary creation has elevated his eatery amongst the finest in Asia (18th on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant lists, to be precise). In this edition, Hellobali got an exclusive chance to dive into the wonderful mind of the man himself; from his cooking style to things you might not expect from him.
1. As an Italian-born who venture away to establish a top-class culinary destination in Japan, what is the most fascinating Asian cooking techniques that you every see/apply during your extensive career?
“Ikejime” technique; it is a Japanese traditional slaughter method that keeps the fish meat fresh by making the fish brain-dead (through insertion of thin needle to its spinal cords). To cause immediate brain death and extract blood from the fish, it allows us to restrict the propagation of bacteria. Thanks to this wonderful technique we can make better flavor and taste of the fish. By doing this method, you can adjust the texture of the fish meat depending on the time you put it on. Japanese sashimi has a nice elasticity since it is served right after the Ikejime. In Italian cuisine we put a little more time and serve it where softness comes out. (How long to wait is depending on the fish).
2. Tell us about your signature cooking style and how it affects the menus of Ginza Tower in general?
I have no particular “signature”; neither menu nor style. Because my dishes are created by paying respect to the season –so I choose the best ingredients of the season and the year first and decide the best cooking method to bring them to life. However there are also some “always on menu” selections because of the request from our guests.
3. Of all the notable figures in your career, name us two of the most compelling, along with the reasons why!
• Andoni Luis Aduriz. He is a chef and the owner of the restaurant “Mugaritz” where I had my first experiences as chef abroad (Spain), it is one of the most incredible restaurants I could ever worked. There were more than 40 chefs for 20 seats at that time, and they also cultivated wild flowers, herbs and vegetables by themselves. I was greatly inspired by the system he created.
• Gualtiero Marcheis, who is considered as the founder of modern Italian cuisine, and was the owner of Gualtiero Marchesi’s Osteria dell’Orso in Roma where I once worked, he was exactly the person who had made contemporary Italian cuisine with a future oriented attitude and made it known to the world. He and I shared the same vision.
4. What should we anticipate from your establishment in the future? Any chance we would see you expanding to a broader horizon (i.e South East Asia)?
I am not thinking about business expansion such as opening restaurant in other countries right now. I would like to focus on further development within my current territory; namely technological improvement, training of young chef, etc.
5. According to you, what is the most important aspect in creating a fine dish?
The most important thing is to respect the seasons. My dishes are to start with selecting the best ingredients of the season.
6. Who inspired you to pursue your career in culinary industry? What is your fondest memory of the said figure?
It is my culinary teacher when I was 18 year-old – I would rather say he guided me to the right way. And the fondest memory with him is that he gave me the opportunity to work at Il Bersagliere”; a 2-star Michelin restaurant in Mantova Italy. A young boy with zero experience and enough knowledge of cooking was given the opportunity to work at luxury restaurant with a Michelin star; I think I was lucky enough to be selected. And since then, I was able to have a clear vision of my career. By the way, I still don’t know why he had chosen me…maybe it’s because the passion inside of me?
7. Tell us want thing about you that not many people know/expect!
I am a shy person…it might be one of the reasons I become a chef right now.
8. What’s your most favorite Japanese local food? Is there any of your menus that are strongly inspired from the country’s indigenous cuisine?
My favorite Japanese food is definitely Sushi, but I don’t draw any inspiration from it for my menus. I found it is interesting, though, how sushi can gives you surprise in just one bite; how raw fish and rice can create harmony. As soon as you bite it, you can enjoy its texture and complexity of the flavors. That idea might have been helping me to create my menus.
9. If you could cook for one person in this world right now, who would it be? And what would you serve to him/her?
It would be my grandmother. She already passed away –so it’s not happening anymore. I would The most important thing is to respect the seasons. My dishes are to start with selecting the best ingredients of the season. love to make Zuppa di Cipolla (Onion Soup) for her, since she raised me up with so much love and care and always made a delicious soup for me. A kid doesn’t really understand the taste of food until certain age, but I unconsciously felt her love through her meals which I memorized as “deliciousness”.
10. Last piece of (practical) advice for all aspiring young chef out there?
Never stop learning and keep doing it not only by watching, but also by using your hands and brain as well. We are artisans; that’s why we need to keep practicing until it becomes automatic. ”Practice makes perfect!” Also it is so important to read plenty of books. Lastly, your passion is important so keep that flame lit all the time.