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The zen chef of Hells Kitchen. Interview with Matteo Grandi

"When you’re cooking you have to keep a control of yourself. The chief can’t get agitated, otherwise the whole team will be on edge"

Fire, flames and Carlo Cracco shouting. It certainly wasn’t an easy passage but today Matteo Grandi, winner of the Italian edition of the best-known cooking show in the world, is Chief Executive of the first Hell’s Kitchen restaurant to open in the world, at the Forte Village.

What does it feel like to be the Executive Chef in a 5-star resort at only 24 years of age? “It’s certainly a fantastic experience, an opportunity for personal and professional development.”

Matteo has been a cooking enthusiast ever since childhood. It started when he used to help his grandmother at home in Vicenza, but it became a profession only later: “When I finished high school I didn’t sign up for university. I decided I’d rather gain some experience abroad.” Matteo left for Shanghai, then he spent some time in Kuwait and India to work in the kitchens of the big international restaurants.

“I learnt a lot by travelling. Living away from your own country opens your mind,” he explains. “It teaches you to take a different view of things.”

The great kitchens of Asia and international collaboration taught him teamwork and how to keep control in any situation. Is this what earned him the nickname “man of ice” during the talent show?

“When you’re cooking you have to keep a control of yourself. The chief can’t get agitated, otherwise the whole team will be on edge.”

We all wondered what he felt when he came back into Hell’s Kitchen, this time in the capacity of Executive Chef of the restaurant. “The first thing I thought was: I want to get out of here! Then I saw that Cracco wasn’t there and I felt more relaxed,” jokes Matteo.

So is it true that Cracco is very severe?

Cracco is a great guy. He’s serious and meticulous as a chef has to be, but more than anything he’s very correct. He sometimes seems ill-tempered, but it’s just a way of hiding his shyness.”

What will Matteo be offering in his Hell’s Kitchen?

“Sea scallops! The ones that refused to open during the reality show,” laughs the chef. “But there will also be the ‘Rossini fillet steak’ and, in honour of local cuisine, my version of the Sardinian piglet. And then lots and lots of fish.”

What is he going to do in his free time? “The Forte offers such a wide selection that it’s difficult to choose. Maybe I’ll challenge Cracco to a go-kart race,” he jokes.

Is it true that he has had a pitchfork tattooed in memory of Hell’s Kitchen?

“Come on, don’t exaggerate! It’s just an ordinary fork.”