INTERVIEW - Chef Andrea Oreste Delzanno and His Vision on the Asian Restaurant Industry Landscape

On September 2019, we interviewed Andrea Oreste Delzanno, chef of CuCina restaurant in Hong Kong. His journey across the top restaurant in Italy and Shanghai ended up now here in Hong Kong. Read more to find out about his career achievements and highlights during his journey to becoming a talented  italian chef in Asia. Chef Andrea Oreste Delzanno

Chef Andrea Oreste Delzanno: iconic professionist and emblematic figure of the Italian fine dining CuCina. Located in one of the most famous hotel in the heart of hectic area of Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong, CuCina delivers high-end Italian food with a special touch from Your long expertise. What’s been the path that brought You up to here?

Lisa, thanks for asking, as my experience roots back to my teenager age. I started to work very early but the important jump up to fine dining cuisine was done thanks to Chef Corrado Michelazzo in a Michelin starred relais in Northern Italy. Under his guide, I learned how to handle truffles, foie gras and all further fine premium ingredients of Italian tradition. And it was useful also for cooking techniques, as I learned to how to use sous-vide and implement technology in my kitchen.

It was Chef Michelazzo who allowed You to move to Asia, right?

Indeed. Thanks to him, I moved to Shanghai, to his Ristorante Milano, where I got to know Chef Paolo Monti who made me think of Hong Kong as next step of my career and in fact I arrived here to work within Gaia Group, where I stayed for long 5 years.

Another 3 years at the fine dining Sabatini , where I first got in touch with the hotel experience, being working under The Royal Garden Hotel.

… and last Marco Polo Hotel, one of the most iconic venue of the city

Yes, true. And I’ve been here for the past four years. Quite a gorgeous time, in fact. A sort of record in this field for FnB industry!

CuCina is mainly focused on Italian cuisine only. Do You try to propose “easy” “understandable” classic plates or do You offer more “extreme” solutions? What’s the feedback to Your menu? Do Asian clients appreciate the whole A la Carte or do they focus on just a few plates only?

I have been around Asia for over 12 years and I must admit that almost 90% of my proposals are always successful. We basically offer a standard menu, whereby I change only five or six plates every three months. Not more. My choice is very classic and we have special promotions every two months, in order to push the seasonal premieres.

We also cooperate with some Michelin starred Chefs who are often our guests here and in those occasions we dare a bit more, by proposing extreme recipes with more aggressive peculiarities. End of the day, we only propose Italian genuine ingredients of premium quality. A chef without good ingredients is not a Chef!

Chef Andrea Oreste Delzanno at work in CuCina Restaurant

As far as tableware is concerned, how important is the mise-en-place? How much do You rate the value of the right plates, drinkware, cutlery…?  

It is absolutely essential. Sometime I first create the recipe according to the plate I have to serve it in!

Tradition and innovation are two words that are often used together in the hospitality industry. This concerns recipes and products, but also techniques and tools. How important  is technology nowadays in the kitchen?

Technology is very important, but every Chef has to be able to cook without it. Of course, I take advantage of it, in order to make quality a standard worldwide and to help other chefs of the brigade to work on the same level.

You are Italian in a pretty Asian world, mostly coming from Mainland China, both on top management level and staff. What’s the secret to find the perfect balance between locals and Your Italian roots? What’s the main difficulty in this?

I always teach the Italian recipes to my staff and try to convey the Italian culture, by carrying out food tasting together. We work as a real team. Always altogether, by sharing every and each experience. Without understanding the culture, they would not be able to understand tastes. I always listen to their comments, their feedback and that’s why I also let waiters taste my plates. They’re the sellers of my recipes on the table, so I share my knowledge with everyone. For instance, local people always look for seafood and therefore I always try to propose grilled or baked fish. I try to meet their needs and desires.

Are You able to offer a wide range of plates?

Yes, indeed. The important thing is that people like and approve my choices and come back because they’re satisfied with their dining experience here.   

The plate we see on the table is just the iceberg peak of a hard work “behind the scenes”. What’s the most difficult/challenging part of this hidden job?

Undoubtedly it’s the sourcing. Me myself I carry out food tasting with suppliers and make a lot of trials. Without my trusted ingredients, I would not be able to work properly – for instance, I got one supplier for each pasta shape! Can You imagine? I carried out product researches thoroughly for each single ingredient!

Chef Andrea Oreste Delzanno and the value of ingredients

The whole work before serving on the table can be highlighted or ruined by the last moment of service. Do kitchen and dining room work together in a synchronized harmony, or do they face contrasts?

Kitchen and dining room work as a well synchronized team, but of course there are some arguments sometime. Waiters and service staff show their face in first person to clients. They are there to listen to all clients congratulations, but also to clients complaints. And that is not an easy work! Our serving staff is our business card. They sell my kitchen and my recipes, although Chef’s image has changed quite a lot over the last few years. Once upon a time, chefs were meant to stay and remain in the kitchen only. Now they’re allowed and are welcome to enter the dining room to please clients  and coordinate staff. It’s the chef himself to decide every single detail of the table setting or service care. And me myself I like to share experiences with staff and I always attend meetings with them in the afternoon.

Now it’s more than 10 years working in Asia. Did You see a change in proposing the Italian cuisine and style? What’s the secret to keep on being competitive in such challenging world?

Personally, I keep on studying and carry out researches. I go and visit other restaurants, I keep on reading and studying new culinary techniques, I try to be always up-to-date with new trends and latest styles.

There are always more TV shows with chefs and culinary programs. Nowadays Chefs are the new stars and everybody aims at becoming a TV star by cooking. How do You live this trend and what do You think about this fashion?

There are pros and cons. As a pro, I must admit that all these shows have upgraded the level and perception of my job. So that’s a good thing, as chefs are now considered as higher professionists.

As a con, I guess now young people attend culinary school, thinking they’d become TV celebrities, but in fact they’re more lazy and the reason why they choose this professional path is basically wrong at the ground. It is a very hard job, in fact.

Anyway this new trend is bringing back old traditions and classic recipes. People now look for simple dishes and genuine ingredients.

What’s the dish that could never be missing in Your menu?

 Linguine with Sicilian prawns from Mazara and cherry tomatoes!

Linguine with Sicilian prawns from Mazara and cherry tomatoes

Thank you Chef Andrea Oreste Delzanno for your time and for sharing with us such precious insights on your industry.

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