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By Gayatri Bhaumik | September 21st, 2020

Executive Chef Andrea Zamboni has had quite the career. Over 20 years, he’s trained at the side of some of the best Italian chefs in the world, including Gualtiero Marchesi (known as the father of modern Italian cuisine), two Michelin-starred chef Oliver Glowig of Napoli’s Capri Palace Hotel, and one-Michelin starred chef Luca Marchini at Modena’s Ristorante L’Erba del Are. More recently, he’s headed up accolade-winning kitchens across Asia, including Hong Kong’s Otto e Mezzo Bombana.

Now, Zamboni is bringing his modern Italian cooking to Aria, a flashy new restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong. The Loop HK spoke to Zamboni about his culinary influences and developing a unique experience at Aria.

How did you get into food and cooking?

I’ve always been surrounded by great produce and cooking as I grew up on a farm and my brother worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant. As a child, I was always fascinated by my parents’ cooking, and I especially liked helping them make ravioli.

I’d actually wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps as a Maître D’; I used to visit him at work all the time. But, after I saw the chefs working in a professional kitchen, it was love at first sight.

What training did you do to become a chef?

I started working when I was 15 years old, and I had all the different culinary experiences in their highest form. I worked in five-star luxury hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants – I even worked in a butchery as well as a pastry lab. After more than 20 years, I’m still learning new techniques and I try to cooperate with other chefs in order to constantly improve and evolve.

What do you think are the most important attributes for a chef?

I believe the most important quality is consistency – then comes everything else.

What makes a good dish?

A lot of factors go into a good dish. The ingredients themselves, the process of cooking, and respecting the ingredients to let their natural flavors shine.

What influences your cooking style?

My daily life, my travels, my team, and my memories.

What’s your process for creating a dish?

I don’t have a singular process. Sometimes, I’m inspired by things I’ve seen or experiences and at other times, an idea pops into my head and just creates itself. Often, I’ll take months to adjust and fine-tune an idea to create a good dish.

What do you consider to be the standout moments of your career?

Working with Luca Marchini, Oliver Glowig, and Gualtiero Marchesi were all experiences that were very meaningful for my journey and they’ve all inspired me in different ways to become the chef I am today. I’m honored to have worked with some of the best Italian chefs in the world.

You’ve cooked at several prestigious restaurants and worked with renowned chefs throughout Italy. What did you learn from these experiences?

I didn’t only learn skills and techniques, I learnt about the ideals behind cooking, the passion for ingredients and sustainability, how to work with great chefs and great men as humans, each one of which had different but great qualities. Apart from my mentors who I mentioned above, I also learned a lot by working with Michelangelo Mammoliti, Filippo Cammarata, and Davide Pezzuto.

What is your approach to Italian cuisine?

I try to keep up with the times. I base my cooking on the traditions of Italian cuisine, but I also incorporate my own experiences into my cuisine so that it’s constantly evolving.

What is your vision for Aria?

We aim to be recognized as an authentic Italian restaurant, where our guests can enjoy a great experience with a warm, relaxed yet modern ambience with some of the best Italian food in town.

Can you tell us about how you developed the menu for Aria?

I based the a la carte menu on traditional Italian favorites that you can find in your mamma’s kitchen, but with a modern twist using techniques my mentors taught me. But, our daily specials and the chef’s table menu will focus more on modern Italian cuisine and are inspired by my travels and experiences around the world. All our dishes are heavily focused on seasonal ingredients from the best suppliers I can find.

You’ve worked at plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants. Do you hope Aria will gain this accolade? If so, how do you hope to achieve this?

In Italy we say, “Hope is last to die.” I think every chef hopes to achieve recognition from Michelin. Everyday, my team and I work hard with passion to offer the best dining experience to our guests and I think if we continue training and working on consistency and sourcing the best products, hopefully, one day, we will get noticed.

What do you hope guests will take away from their experience at Aria?

A good memory of good times shared with their friends. I hope my guests will always leave with a big smile on their faces.

What’s next for you?

Keep evolving, staying passionate, and discovering new experiences.

 

Dishin’ the Dirt profile.