Antonino Graziano is an Italian chef who has transported his traditional and modern approach to Italian cooking all the way to Moscow, Russia.
Originally from Sicily in the South of Italy, Graziano runs the Semifreddo restaurant which he has fronted since it opened back in 2003 and the opened the Mulinazzo restart in 1988 eventually earning two Michelin stars.
He says he takes picking ingredients as important as picking his life partner and, for a chef with no classic culinary training, he’s certainly managed to pick up a wide mix of techniques since he started cooking at 15.
We caught up with Graziono before the final event to hear about his own career as a young chef and ask for some of his advice to the young chefs of today.
Who was your most important mentor for your profession and why?
I am a self-educated, I didn’t train in a culinary school, this can motivate you to work hard and do your best, even without a mentor you can reach big goals.
What’s the best advice you were ever given when you were training?
Undoubtedly respect for the raw material.
Do you remember one of the big mistakes you made in a kitchen when you were training?
I was working in a restaurant in a hotel in Rimini, it was my first summer experience, they asked me to prepare vitellino da latte al forno –roasted suckling veal. But I didn’t know that this is veal of a young calf, so I cooked the veal with milk all day long!
Is there one mistake you see young chefs making very often?
Yes, there is one very common mistake, they are more focused on appearance more than on taste.
What are the best characteristics a young chef can have, nowadays?
A young chef should be a connoisseur of the seasons of the products. Behind the choice of the products for a menu there is all the philosophy of the chef.
What are the worst?
Young chefs often think that being a chef means to be a superstar, but this way they become narcissists, not real chefs.
What’s your main focus in advising the S.Pellegrino Young Chef candidate of your region?
I want to focus him on taste and flavours and above all on the products of his region, if the jury can feel that the dish has Russian, Northern flavours, that means that the dish is successful.
What’s your message to all the finalists of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 worldwide?
I wish them all to remain humble and to think of the success of the kitchen, rather than that of the media. And also to thank this kind of contest, because they can really motivate people to work better.
S.Pellegrino and Food for Soul, the non-profit organisation founded by Lara Gilmore and chef Massimo Bottura, form a new global partnership to drive social and environmental change and promote a sustainable food culture.