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By Leanne Mirandilla | July 9th, 2019

Hailing from Tuscany, Enrico Bartolini is well known for his work at Le Robinie restaurant in Italy, which was awarded a Michelin star when Bartolini was just 29, as well as allegedly being the only chef in history to have simultaneously worked in restaurants whose Michelin star count came to four in total. In Hong Kong, he’s behind sophisticated Italian restaurant Spiga, which serves up authentic Italian cuisine with a contemporary twist.

How did you get into cooking?

As a child I loved cooking. When my dad suggested I not take the path of being a craftsman in shoes, as he did, I decided to enroll in hotel school.

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

Character and sensitivity. Also, a chef should not only be able to instinctively combine flavors, but be able to have an intrinsic understanding of textures, as well.

How would you describe your approach to food?

I love to present elegance in my own humble way.

How do you usually come up with new dishes?

Eating, traveling, and reading.

What are your favorite ingredients to work with?

Those that are fresh daily, locally available and of the best quality — nothing less. I enjoy using local seafood, particularly the sea bream as presented at Spiga during my recent visit.

What’s the relationship between authenticity and seasonality, in your opinion?

In Italy, we love biodiversity and the seasons. It allows you to get the best results. Waiting for good ingredients is a matter of discipline and respect for us. 

What else do you think defines authentic Italian cuisine?

The ingredients, the story, and the Mediterranean flavor.

What are some common misconceptions about Italian cuisine, in your opinion? 

Ingredients or recipes don’t necessarily make authentic cuisine. Having rules and a conservative spirit help us have an identity, although we must not deprive ourselves of being creative.

What do you think have been some of the biggest changes in Italian cuisine over the past few years, if any?

It will take time to fully understand the impact that modern Italian cuisine will have on the overall culinary landscape, but those that have a comprehensive understanding of traditional Italian cuisine will not get lost in the modern style.

Why did you decide on Hong Kong as the location for your first restaurant outside of your native Italy? 

I love Hong Kong and Chinese cuisine, and I grow as a chef every time I visit here.

Any future plans for Spiga?

I want to have greater ability to transmit my cooking values through Spiga, as well as conquer the Asian palate.

Any plans to open more restaurants in Hong Kong, or elsewhere? Or any upcoming plans in general?

Nothing planned immediately. I prefer to focus on seeing my restaurants develop. I like to consolidate a great style and exceptional cuisine.

Dishin’ the Dirt profile.