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Matteo Puccio: former student of Gambero Rosso, he arrives in the signature restaurant of Barneville-Carteret

Matteo Puccio, born in 1979 in Spoleto. He begins his law studies, but knows he wants to travel the world, so he changes course, he decides to do it inside the kitchens. After working in a few restaurants, he frequents Gambero Rosso Chef’s Craft Course in Rome, the springboard of his profession. His career is marked by many experiences, from Montenegro to Russia, passing through the Caribbean and Greece, and crossing the world aboard luxury cruise ships with Regent Luxury Cruiser and with Silversea at the Relais & Chateauux restaurant “Le Champagne”. He manages various rooms for private companies, under the figure of Executive Chef and also returns to the Gambero Rosso Academy, but this time not as a student, he participates in Top Chef and opens a ghost kitchen. Now his time has come, the one he has been waiting for a long time: one evening in mid-September at midnight his phone rings, he is the general manager of the Hôtel de La Marine in Barneville-Carteret in Normandy. A few days later he signs the contract and from the beginning of October he will be operational in the kitchens of starred restaurants in France, with his wife Mila and the brigade he is setting up. Here is his story.

When did you take the course and what was it?

Chef profession course in 2012

What was the most important thing in this course?

The contacts you can get through Gambero Rosso. The actual approach to the subject must then be done in the restaurant, with practice. The course serves as a basis for understanding what you will be doing in the kitchen, a general anthology of preparations and techniques. What gives you more is the knowledge of many renowned chefs, thanks to which to establish relationships and collaborations. Although I have already had experiences in catering, I took the courses to speed up the times, and also to know the management part of the direction.

What did you do after class?

Initially I started working as a chef in the Gambero Rosso schools, but shortly after a proposal for the La Posta Vecchia hotel in Ladispoli arrived, where they hired me directly as a demi-chef, without do an internship. A “fun” experience that only lasted a week, there I realized that at school I had been taught how to enter a kitchen but not how to stay there.

What happened?

I prepared an amuse-bouche and asked chef Michelino Gioia: “Chef do you want to try?”, For me it was a simple gesture to receive his approval, certainly not to give me airs, but apparently it was not the right attitude. I didn’t know the system: I came from case law, I didn’t know how to behave.

You said you practiced law, why this change of direction of course?

I did not like the case law, it was not mine. As far as I’m concerned, that life is worse than the cook’s, not that the chef’s is less burdensome, but it’s probably for me and for my vision: I wanted to travel the world and it’s also for that’s how I started the kitchen journey.

So you’ve traveled the world?

Immediately after the Ladispoli experience, I left for Montenegro. I arrived in Budva, where I had found work for the season through the Shrimp for a Russian who had opened the restaurant Porto Maltese. Then I catapulted myself into the world of cruises, I landed a contract in the Regent ships on Seven Seas Cruises where I was the chef who managed the Italian restaurant, which seats around 400 people. I worked 7 days a week for 6 months, sleeping about 4 hours a night, taking care of breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bottom line is that if you survive these beats, you’re on your way.

Did you survive?

I survived. And after two months I hired Silversea again on the extra luxury liners, where the Relais & Châteaux restaurant “Le Champagne” was located, with 35 seats, which we manage in two. A unique atmosphere, when I left the kitchen they applauded me, like a standing ovation. I was there for another 6 months, but the last two weeks I couldn’t even wake up, but I would do it again because it saved me years and years of learning.

What did you do after the cruises?

I left again. I went to Russia to an Italian restaurant in St. Petersburg, then to Jamaica to a resort and to the Middle East. Finally, I returned to Italy to open my restaurant, later I participated in the TV programs Top Chef and Top Chef Cup, and I taught at the Gambero Rosso Academy.

What is the importance of going abroad?

Going abroad is essential to learn to be respected in Italy. From a commercial point of view, Italy is the country where I have found myself the worst off, especially for restaurateurs who think they know everything, even if they come from other backgrounds. There is too much family management and it is unclear what the distribution of tasks is, which is essential to work well and respect the roles and powers of others. Experience abroad is about investing in yourself, learning professionalism and English, and then coming back, because there’s nothing like home.

Who was your first teacher?

All the people who have helped and taught me, and who have played an important role in my growth and my career. First Davide Mazza, who was the leader of the Gambero Rosso and now a teacher at Niko Romito’s training school in Castel di Sangro. I recognize in him the beginning of my career and the foundations of my training.

What are you doing now?

I was a little bothered by certain rhythms, so with my wife we ​​invented a new format, opening the Cucina Centrale in Torvaianica. A ghost kitchen project that guaranteed a maximum of types of take-out and delivery dishes: poke, sushi, raw fish, hamburgers, couscous and desserts. We opened this summer and it went very well, we should replicate it in Rome.

So now you’re leaving for Rome?

In fact now there is very important news for me, a few days ago at midnight the general manager of the Hôtel de La Marine in Normandy called me, where I will be going to play the role of chef, in the aim of maintaining the Michelin star after parting ways with the former chef. Now that I have just signed the contract, I am building my staff to start in October.

The dinner or lunch that impressed you the most and why?

Certainly Mauro Uliassi’s experience, which was my first time in a 3 star. I ate fantastic dishes, he has an ability to manage flavors and balance them in an absurd way, maybe on the bergamot fish I cried. An experience that was a source of inspiration for my work but, that said, it was less fantastic than I thought. I mean maybe I had mythologized the tristellati cuisine in general too much, I realized that anyway it’s just food and in a way it’s doable.

What do you think is the kitchen of the future?

Cooking has now become a luxury market, that’s why in my opinion we are moving in a smarter direction like street food and delivery, it’s no coincidence that I started a similar activity This year. Then I want to say that home restaurants are going to come back into fashion, there is a strong need to return to simplicity. Gourmet restaurants will not be lost on the street, but increasingly in hotels and hotel chains, because otherwise they are not economically viable.

The qualities that a leader must have today.

Learn to say yes, even as you become a chef. In the logic of running a restaurant, it’s not just what you individually want that matters. To have more freedom you have to make everything else work, freedom is a point of arrival, not a point of departure. Constant study and knowledge is fundamental, it is not necessary to study the recipes but to understand what happens between the different ingredients… and to learn English, especially if you want to work in the kitchen. ‘foreign.

Which dish, among those of the other chefs, impressed you the most?

Steamed sole, lettuce and bergamot dedicated to Pier Giorgio Parini di Uliassi, for the reasons explained above.

What dish or experience are you most proud of?

When I won my place at Relais & Châteaux, and the call I received a few days ago to carry out the Hôtel La Marine project. I am not proud of the television program, in which fundamentally professionalism is not emphasized but character. I don’t deny it but I was sorry to work like this, that said, without this experience I would not have met my wife Mila. She is also a chef, we are together every day 24 hours a day. Her dream is to take a boat and get away from it all, and I hope to do it after closing my way having fun, and I couldn’t do anything wish for better than staying with the grown-ups, at the Hôtel de la Marine.

curated by Vivian Petrini

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