This weekend, Beirut welcomes a culinary great: Michelin star Chef Luciano Zazzeri. Born to a family of fisherman, the Italian chef has gained a reputation for his Tuscany specialties made with fresh, quality ingredients. Catch him cooking at Sydney's Club on Friday, Eau De Vie at the Phoenicia Hotel on Saturday, or Caffe Mondo for lunch the following day.

Beirut.com sat down with the chef ahead of his gastronomical events to learn more about what led him down this successful path.



Beirut.com: Describe the experience of setting up your own restaurant (La Pineta at Marina di Bibbona in Tuscany). Why did you opt for a modest beach shack for the restaurant’s venue?
Zazzeri: It was not a choice, but rather a [party of my] family heritage! The business has been running in my family for the past 20 years. I have chosen simplicity and modesty because I believe it creates distinctiveness and it is what turns the restaurant into such a pleasant and loved venue.

Beirut.com: What is the menu offering at La Pineta, and how often does the menu change?
Zazzeri: Our menu at La Pineta is based only on local fish caught by me and my friends or bought daily at the local market. Therefore, to cope with availability, the menu changes seasonally and the daily dishes are very much influenced by what is available in the market.

Beirut.com: Describe one of your favorite ingredients to cook and the techniques involved.
Zazzeri: I would say red tuna is one of my favorite ingredients. Usually it is found in sea during the months of April and May, and I often try not to serve it cooked but rather raw or seared.

Beirut.com: How have you evolved your personal signature on a plate?
Zazzeri: I try to keep it simple and just go with what the market has to offer and always respect the quality of the products and their main traits.

Beirut.com: How would you describe your kitchen management style?
Zazzeri: Being a father and having my two sons working with me at the restaurant and in the kitchen, I am considered a father figure to most of my team members.

Beirut.com: At what point in your career - from fisherman to acclaimed chef - did you realize that being a top-end restaurant chef was your destiny?
Zazzeri: I still haven't realized it yet! I am just somebody who loves what he does and has been lucky enough to get recognition for it.

Beirut.com: Which chefs from the Michelin association do you admire and why?
Zazzeri: If I had to base my choice on similarity, I would definitely pick Chef Giuseppe Sestito because we both share the same sense of passion and dedication. Chef Sestito is also the mentor of one of my closest friends, Chef Alessandro Morelli, now the Italian master chef at the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut. On a side note, Alessandro is the reason I am here today. He was he was the one who introduced me to the country and the hotel itself and was the direct link to my visit.

Beirut.com: When you have the opportunity, where do you want to eat out?
Zazzeri: Visiting other Michelin star chefs is always a pleasant experience, but I don’t mind dining in small countryside places where authenticity is usually present.

Beirut.com: How do you believe reader-led guides like Zagat and Trip Advisor compare to inspector-led authorities like Michelin and AA? Is there ever agreement?
Zazzeri: Every opinion is valuable! Both customers' and professionals' opinions can make or break a restaurant in general and a chef in particular.

Beirut.com: What’s your perspective on the locavore movement and sustainability?
Zazzeri: Using products at “0 km” as we say in Italy has always been a priority for me. Therefore, I am pro the movement.

Beirut.com: Have you ever sampled Lebanese cuisine, and where? Are there any restaurants you are eager to try in Lebanon while here?
Zazzeri: I haven’t yet been introduced properly to the Lebanese culinary traditions but my good friend Chef Morelli has spoken so highly to me about it that I can no longer wait to try it. So I am sure he will be taking me to some interesting places during my visit.

Beirut.com: What are your plans for the future?
Zazzeri: For now I will keep doing what I love most until the time becomes right enough to take a step back and hand over my heritage and business to both my sons.

Beirut.com: For your dining events at Phoenicia and Le Vendome, what Zazzeri specialties will you introduce to Lebanese diners?
Zazzeri: Phoenicia and Le Vendome clientele will be enjoying some of my best signature dishes such as the Straccetti pasta with red mullet sauce, the Risotto with baby cuttlefish and their ink and of course my royal hometown dish, the Cacciucco - a casserole of mixed fishes and seafood.

Beirut.com: Will all ingredients be sourced locally, or are you bringing some delicacies with you from Italy?
Zazzeri: Most of the ingredients will be chosen locally before my arrival by Chef Alessandro Morelli but some products like the fresh truffle and the bottarga will have to be imported.

Beirut.com: Are you planning to add a bit of a Lebanese twist or flair to the dishes you prepare in a nod to the local palate?
Zazzeri: You have to come and taste it for yourself, but what I promise you is dishes to be simply loved.

Beirut's Big Catch: Michelin Star Chef Luciano Zazzeri Visits Lebanon
 

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Chef Luciano Zazzeri at Cafe... Market & Sale (Food)
Chef Luciano Zazzeri at... Market & Sale (Food)
 

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