Antonio Carluccio in Dubai

King of Italian cuisine launches memoirs, A Recipe for Life

Interview

Why was this the right time to write your memoirs?
I’ve considered writing an account of my life several times, not for the publishers, but for myself, to really know who I am. Looking back over 75 years of life, you see lots of patterns emerging, such as mistakes being repeated. It was a great learning process to look back on.

What patterns did you notice?
Well, the most detrimental was depression. A combination and series of events lead to a long bout of depression.

You’ve said cooking helped with your depression – how?
I have to concentrate when I cook. It’s the same with other hobbies that require focus – I also like whittling sticks. I find this meditative and relaxing. Also, when you share food with others and bring them joy, it’s a pleasure to transmit your enthusiasm through the food.

How did you learn to cook?
I didn’t train as a chef. I was self taught – I learned through necessity. When I was young, I wanted to eat the dishes my mother used to make. I learned by remembering what she used to do, and the flavours she used to create.

Do you think more men should learn to cook?
Absolutely. Men who let their wives do all the cooking and can’t even cook an egg are stupid. I’m pleased that more people are learning to cook and seeing the fun in doing so. Most domestic cooks are female and most professional cooks are male. In Italy, we say there are many three-Michelin-starred chefs, and they are all housewives!

Do you wish you had gone down the Michelin route?
No – I’m against the system. Michelin gives stars to dishes that have been created to impress, with money or presentation. My motto is ‘mof mof’: minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour.

‘Mof mof’ vs Michelin: is that the Italian food philosophy versus French?
No – even the French are toning down their food, looking towards the food bourgeoisie rather than Michelin.

Carluccio’s has been called fast food for the middle classes. Do you agree?
That’s a good thing, but I wouldn’t just call it the middle classes – I would say intelligent people.

You gave Jamie Oliver his first break. What do you think of today’s young chefs?
These days, some chefs work towards being on TV. They should focus first on learning to cook. Then, if they are beautiful like Jamie, TV opportunities may come later.

You’re dubbed ‘the godfather of Italian cooking’…
‘Godfather’ disturbs me – it reminds me of the mafia! ‘Ambassador’ is better.
Antonio Carluccio’s new book, A Recipe for Life, is out now. Dhs145, available at Carluccio’s, The Dubai Mall and Mirdif City Centre, www.carluccios.com.

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