Chef Alessandro Breddo. The one kitchen with an Italian touch

Like any typical Italian, chef Alessandro Breddo (28) likes to eat and he was guided by his grandmother through the mysteries of the kitchen. Maybe this is how he got the passion for old, traditional recipes. After he completed his studies in the field, he started a culinary journey that made him travel from Italy to Austria, Dubai, India, and now Romania, where he is in charge of `Cucina`, the Italian restaurant of the five star hotel JW Marriott. His kitchen represents his world and he likes to make `good food, with good ingredients cooked in a easy, rustic way`, obviously trying to bring the Italian lifestyle into the restless Bucharest environment.

Although he would like to have at a certain point his own restaurant, he thinks having the life of an expat is more exciting. The young chef born in Florence describes Romania as a buffalo and thinks the winter here is a little bit rough for a mediterranean person. He is eager to learn from every experience, and in the kitchen he follows a simple rule: lead by example.

Chef Alessandro Breddo. Ph. credit: personal archive

Cristina Dobreanu: Where does your cooking passion come from?

Chef Alessandro Breddo: My cooking passion comes from my family, mainly from my grandmother. She inspired me, she gave me some directions. And, of course, I always like to eat, like all Italians do.

How many plates have you broken before becoming a chef?

Many! And also I failed many times. Maybe you do some preparations you don’t like or you try to motivate your team, but results don’t come out as you wish. It’s normal. It’s like when you are an expat: some days are the best, because you do a lot of stuff, meet a lot of people, go out, and there are some days when you don’t know whom to call because you are new in town.

You travelled to many countries before coming here, how did it all begin?

First, I left Italy for Austria, for five months during the winter season, in a family restaurant. I was then 23 years old. It was not far away from home and it was a good beginning. If you want to be an expat, the first step is very important. It will give you a clue about what will happen next.

So Austria was your first experience as an expat. But there were many more to come, right?

After my experience in Austria, I went back to Italy to work for a catering company during the summer season. But I was feeling that staying home it was not enough. So I went in Dubai. Far away from home this time. I never went out of Europe before, so I didn’t even have a passport prior to this. It was my first experience in a big hotel with huge operational: 16 restaurants with 150-160 cooks. It was amazing for me, coming from a small operational. I learned a lot then. After my almost two years in Dubai, I went back to Florence and after that I spent a short time in Russia.

And before coming to Romania you had one more stop in your way…

I went to India for one year. It was totally different: the country, the environment. And coming from hyper hygenic Dubai, going to India was a little bit strange. But somehow you could make good Italian food.

How did Bucharest appear on your map?

When people ask me why I have chosen Romania, I tell them that, actually, Romania chose me. It is true. When my contract in India was ending, I was invited in Bucharest at the JW Marriott Hotel for a food test. So I could come and see the restaurant, see the place, and see the city. I made the food test and I really liked the restaurant, the fact that you really breath Italian atmosphere here.

Since you arrived, you tried to change some things, adding a bit of the Italian culture, what was the source of your innovation?

When I am going back home, for sure we have in the family a grandma’s table with a big table, wine, and food. This were I had my inspiration for `Grandma’s table at Cucina` as a Saturday brunch. And it can work here. You can try many preparations from the menu in one meal, like 12 to 15 preparations. And you have a good reason to come: to meet people, especially if you are expat. It gives you the feeling of, what we call in Italian, `dolce far niente` because regular Italians spend Saturdays to relax, and to drink a glass of wine.

What makes a chef a leader in the kitchen and what is the difference between a chef and a cook?

For sure every chef is a cook, but not every cook is a chef. For a cook to be a chef it needs some leadership, control, and to make people trust him. If people don’t trust you, then you cannot work with them.

Where do you learn these skills from?

Personally, I learned from the people above me, from my chefs, and from the people that trained me. I `steal` a little bit from everyone.

What is your favourite dish?

A very easy recipe, like spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino. But, usually, if I like to eat something, I can cook it well even if I don’t know the recipe.

If Romania would be an ingredient, what would that be?

Romania may be one buffalo. People here are very strong.

What do you dislike about Romania?

First on the list are the taxi drivers. Then, the winter was a little bit hard for me. But I like that people are nice to me, and most of them know English. I feel good here.

When you are abroad, what do you miss the most from home?

I miss being together. One talk with your mother or grandmother, or an evening out with your group of friends. You miss all this, especially at the beginning.

What do you usually do during your first month in a foreign country?

I visit places. Here I went at the mall, in the Old Town, in the park. And then you try to make some connections. I did the same here. But if you make friends among expats, the problem with them is that one of them is always leaving at a certain point.

What is your favourite quote?

Lead by example! If you are proactive, you don’t waste time, you are positive and focused on results, this is how your team will be.

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