When did you realise you wanted to work in hospitality?
From the first day that I walked into a professional kitchen aged 13. The focus and discipline that you could see there was exhilarating, and you felt the adrenaline. I saw the Head Chef directing all the staff like the leader of the orchestra. It was incredible. I also fell in love with the idea that you could put your personality on a plate – taking a few things, a few ingredients, putting them together and a new flavour coming up.
Where and how did you get your start?
When I was 13, I went to Don Salvatore, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Naples, and asked for a job. Salvatore was the hottest chef at that moment. He looked at me and said, “if you’re just looking for something to do, you won’t get a job here. To be in my kitchen you need to belong in this kitchen and want to achieve something in life.” I convinced him that I was up for the challenge. I wasn’t good enough at the beginning, so my job was to listen and learn. At Don Salvatore, I was always the first one in and the last one out, so it taught me the resilience and grit I needed to last in the industry. And he was right; being in hospitality is not just a job - you need to feel something from the inside. He told me that if you don’t feel that spark, you shouldn’t do it. You must care, listen, learn, anticipate. You must really believe it. Hospitality is much more than a job.
Sum up your current work life in one sentence
Obsession and drive. I’m not here just to take part, I want to make a difference.
Who has been really influential in your career and why?
Angela Hartnett. She is one of the main reasons why I am a chef. She gave purpose to what I was doing and opened doors for me. She might not even know what an impact she had on my career. I can’t wait for her to sit at a table in my restaurant. I’m grateful for all the lessons that she taught me and the opportunities that she gave me.
What’s next for you?
The opening of my first solo restaurant, Xier, in February. I’m really excited. It’s the culmination of
everything I’ve learned up until now. Having a restaurant in central London means a lot to me and it
feels like an opportunity to sit at the big boy’s table. Now, I’ve got to make sure that the food and the
service prove we belong there.
What’s your one piece of advice to someone starting out?
To be honest, I don’t feel qualified to give that as I feel like I’m still starting out myself to some
extent. But of the chefs that I have worked with and admire a lot - like Angela Hartnett and the
Galvin Brothers – qualities they all share are a willingness to push boundaries, to be creative and to
have the will to succeed.
Where did you last have a great meal?
The Rhug Estate in Wales! We are using them as a supplier as their produce is exceptional. I was
lucky enough to be invited to the Estate for dinner recently by Lord Newborough. It made me really
excited about what we’re going to be able to play with. The bison meat in particular, was delicious.
Other restaurants I love include The Clove Club. I felt spoiled when I went there and the flavours
were incredible. I also like Hide. I think Ollie is a great chef, and also enjoyed his cooking a lot when
he had Dabbous.
Are there any openings you are looking forward to?
My own! It’s really big moment in my career and I won’t have time to eat at anyone else’s
restaurants once it’s open!
Where is the most exciting city for hospitality (after London)?
New York. I’m lucky enough to have travelled around the world and to have cooked in kitchens in so
many different countries including Japan, Italy, Sweden, France. But for me, New York tops it. It’s a
city that has amazing energy. It’s buzzing. It’s also a foody place. When I’m there I eat at Blanca and
Roberta’s (the chef/owner is a friend of mine), and Per Se because it’s just incredible
Who would you identify as a rising star?
Tom Phillips - Sous Chef at Restaurant Story. I’ve never met him, but he is young to have come so far in the Bocuse d’Or which is
such a tough competition. I admire his focus to achieve so much at such a young age.