One of my favorite travel activities is meeting chefs and taking cooking classes. My recent stay at Amanera in the Dominican Republic allowed for some free time with Executive Chef Antonio Tridenti. He eventually added a cooking demonstration to our schedule and at the suggestion of the more than willing to please GM Rocco Bova, we enjoyed the most delicious lasagna lunch before our airport departure. Chef Antonio rose to the request, Rocco had raved about the lasagne and then insisted we enjoy it before we departed…this is typical Aman hospitality! Light as air pasta with scrumptious ricotta, homemade tomato sauce, a touch of basil…yum!
Chef Antonio Interview:
Do you have a favorite meal? One of my favorite meals is pizza. I come from Naples and we usually like to enjoy it 2-3 times a week.
Do you feel a responsibility with your chefs in each kitchen you inhabit – a sense of mentoring younger chef’s? Yes, I try always to teach them everything I’ve learned in my experience. I share the process of a dish from the first step to last, and I also try to learn something from them because you can always learn from other chefs.
If so, what do you look for in a young chef? The passion they have in their job, this is the most important point to be a cook.
Did you have cooking or dining influences as a young child? Yes, from my mother and my grandmother.
Which talent would you most like to have that you don’t possess? My next step is to make a course of Japanese food and understand their technique, they are perfect on the cut and in creating raw dishes. This is a skill I do not have but I want to learn.
Have you always had an affinity for fine food? Not always, when I was a child I grew up with the typical Italian kitchen of my grandmother and my mother. Difficult to try something different, but when I started my adventure in London I started to try all types of food, from street food to fine dining and I started to open my mind to different flavors.
Do you have a preference for Michelin style dining or are you happy with a simple baked chicken or other comfort food? I prefer ‘mamma style’ cooking, for this reason, I chose to come with Aman. I like fine dining, but I think this is something you can have 1-2 times a month. On the rest of the days, I prefer simple food with nice flavors as you would enjoy in your home.
Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you started cooking? When I was young always tried to help my father (he was a policeman, but always with passion of bricklayer). When he needed help, I was always with him, but the passion of the kitchen was always with me. I tried to help my mother or grandmother when possible, and when I was 12 years old I had already been in my first kitchen, I understood this was what I wanted to do for life.
What foods are you craving the most right now? Healthy foods – now everyone tries to eat healthier.
How strong is the will to be recognized as a Michelin chef? Sincerely, not too much, because not every Michelin chef will be a good chef. In Italy I’ve been in a lot of restaurants where the foods is amazing, genuine and fresh and the cook is simply the mum of the owner. And I been in some Michelin restaurant where the foods was not the best experience. I prefer to always have happy guests with our dishes, it is not Michelin style dining.
Is there one food that you’re secretly obsessed with having at home? Like most Italians, we cannot eat a meal without bread, cheeses and enjoy a meal without a glass of wine.
How are you influenced by other chefs? Or cultures? I like to meet chefs from other countries and listen to their opinions and ideas; you can always learn from them.
Do you try to tell a story with your menus? I always try to add my experience and my history from my home country, Italy is famous for their pasta. So in this respect, I always offer fresh homemade pasta and a selection of dishes from my background.
Is there a food that you hate? No, I like all foods, but I find I am intolerant to bell peppers. Although, I sometimes eat them and incorporate them into a dish.
What do you do for fun? I like to stay with my dog and my girlfriend. I enjoy swimming and if I have a chance to watch a match of my favorite team (Juventus), I will watch them at any time.
Is there a childhood comfort food that you think about? Baked rabbit from my grandmother she always cooked it on specials days.
What kinds of ethnic food do you think are underrated right now? Food from Ethiopia. I meet one chef from this country and the Ethiopian food is very good.
Are you intimidated by choosing say, a menu/dish from a foreign country and putting your own twist/stamp on it? No, I am not intimidated, it’s a nice idea for chef’s to adapt different ideology of foods and add your own touch to a particular dish.
Has there ever been an ingredient that you weren’t able to master and have given up on, like animal innards or tongue or brains or a particular spice? I am not fond of brains. Animal innards and tongue is typical in my country, my father loves it.
Do you have a favorite foodie city in the world? I think London and New York, you can found all types and quality of dining in these cities.
If you could read anyone’s cooking notebook, whose would it be? Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura. http://tinyurl.com/h8x395h
On average how many times do you change a menu? My habit is to change one dish from the menu monthly. Trying to change the complete menu is usually too complicated. The kitchen staff has full knowledge of an entire menu, we can change options dish by dish, but not an entire menu.
What do you appreciate the most in your kitchen staff/friends and family? Sincerity, everyone in the world can make a mistake, the most important quality is having the courage to admit mistakes.
Where would you go for the best dessert in Italy? In Naples or Sicily they have the best dessert in Italy. If you visit Naples you need to try ‘Pastiera’ and ‘Sfogliatelle’.
Do you have favorite restaurants in Italy? Or any other international cities? When I’m in Italy, I always go to BelSito Hotel in Manocalzati AV. When I was young, it is where I spent some time in the kitchen. In London, I always go to Cecconi’s Restaurant, the executive chef is my friend.
Thank you Chef Antonio for taking time to respond to my questions and even more for your personal attention while at Amanera. I’m grateful you and Rocco were so enthusiastically receptive to our requests, which were usually at the last minute!
Delicious meals at both Amanera restaurants, great diversity, fresh and healthy and innovative!