Starred chef of a Parisian palace, he has also become a star of the web, where his playful videos and his concept of Bomba Atomica are a hit, the Italian chef is multiplying his activities. We ran into him backstage at Tomorrowland.
Photo Georges V / Copyright Jean-Claude Amiel
Is it important for a chef to get out of his kitchen?
I like to be in my kitchen. I don’t like to multiply addresses; it involves taking care of so many things that we get away from the operational. I need to cook, to have my lair, but I like to get out of my “comfort zone” literally and figuratively from time to time. Which is not easy; a chef is very methodical, he has his recipes, his products, his cooking methods… Having to produce dishes in an environment other than his own while maintaining his level of quality is an interesting challenge!
In video, the Bucatini all’amatriciano recipe from chef Filippo La Vecchia:
Since your beginnings, the profession, or rather the image of the profession, has changed. How do you view this development?
It is linked to that of society. Restoration has always been a direct reflection of this. And yes, the job has changed… The way I train my team, for example, how I manage it, has nothing to do with what I knew when I was young. On a social and human level, if we managed restaurants as we did when I was twenty, there wouldn’t be many people in the kitchen! Today, people in the community, young and old, want another life alongside work. Before, we dedicated ourselves to his work. Myself, for about ten years, I thought only of the job. We don’t want these sacrifices anymore. I want to spend time with my wife and my children, have time for myself… We recruit and manage differently, we set up actions on several levels… It’s an attractive universe. Hard, with challenges, pressure… but fabulous!
Speaking of challenge… The pandemic has marked a turning point for many chefs. You, you took the opportunity to launch yourself fully on social networks!
I owe a large part of my popularity to social networks. But be careful, I don’t consider myself a celebrity (laughs)! During confinement, I wanted to continue to live from my kitchen when my work tool had been taken away from me. We thought as a family about a way to continue working while having fun. After all, everyone was at home, we could all cook, some even got started (laughs). Hence the idea of making videos of recipes that were easy to make at home with the children… At the beginning, we were followed by a thousand people; then it exploded (the chef has more than 300,000 subscribers on Instagram, editor’s note), with views that sometimes exceed 8 million. We have created a community of gourmets, who want to eat well, to prepare meals as a family. It also generated a universe parallel to that of the restaurant: I still officiate at the George and next door, we manage a company, which does workshops, publishes books, sells products. The adventure is beautiful and full of challenges, I love it!
Family is important to you!
We often talk about the negative effects of the pandemic, but we forget that it has also strengthened ties. Freed from the frenzy of work, many of us were finally able to enjoy our loved ones.
Family is also an essential element of Italian cuisine, right?
It was at my house. In my family, even though my parents and grandparents were not restaurateurs, it was always important to eat healthy. We were five children, my father produced his meat and vegetables, to save money and because it was better. I grew up with this product enhancement. Piano, piano, I started cooking, baking bread, working the pig… When I was 14, my father sent me to work in restaurants on Lake Garda. When I was 18, I moved to London, where I felt I had to go a step further in learning. I worked with Gordon Ramsay and discovered team work with more than 20 people, crazy schedules, technicality, precision… That’s what I wanted to do! For years, I worked in starred restaurants, I myself had a two star restaurant. At 40, I wanted to return to my roots, to other values. I try to associate the technique with the cuisine of the heart, with the tastes and memories of my childhood: the nonna’s coffee, the mamma’s tomato sauce…
How would you describe your approach?
I have always been driven by the desire to please people. My cooking has a technical part, but it is always at the service of taste. I want to “hit” people with flavors, not with drama. In this, my cooking is very Italian: I am a follower of simplicity, but with marked tastes, which will create memories! We can compose a magnificent plate, if it has no history, does not create memories, it has no interest!
The strength of Italian cuisine is precisely the memories and emotions it generates?
Cooking is a social moment. Eating is a basic act: we cook to feed ourselves, we eat to live. The Latins have added the social touch: we sit down to spend time together. Italian cuisine is conducive to creating an atmosphere, thanks to its simplicity and also, to everything it conveys. It has thus been magnified by the cinema and has become inseparable from la dolce vita. In Italian or American films depicting Italians, food has an important place, both beautiful elegant women and gangsters eating in one scene or the other.
While we praise its simplicity, we talk more and more about high Italian gastronomy, with more and more starred restaurants…
Again, it’s social. Cooks are traveling more and more and are inspired by what they see, learn and bring it all back to Italy. Most three-star restaurants in Italy are run by chefs who went through French schools. Bottura for example (at the head of the Osteria Francescana in Modena, Ed.) worked in France. Annie Feolde, the chef of the Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, is French. Their strength is to marry Italian products and French technicality.
Which Italian address arouses intense emotions in you?
Lido 84 at Lake Garda, by chef Riccardo Camanini, a disciple of Ducasse. The perfect embodiment of Italian cuisine developed with excellent products. It’s exceptional cuisine, which you don’t want to eat every day, but which offers a unique experience.
No, I offer a cuisine that can be enjoyed every day. I have clients who come to eat at the George several times a week. We have a very Italian approach, with know-how, hospitality, warmth, which go hand in hand. People feel good with us and don’t want to go elsewhere.
In an Italian restaurant, what is your go-to dish?
Spaghetti with tomato sauce, the base. It can be very complicated to prepare in the rules of the art! This is also a test that I pass to the members of my team!
Restaurant Le George, Four Seasons Hotel George V, 31 avenue George V, 75008 Paris.
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