The inventive flair and creativity Chef Massimilano Sperli puts into each one of his dishes is magnificent. With an extensive global culinary experience, Chef Massimiliano’s passion for Italian food reflects in his recipes of handmade pastas, aromatic sauces and delicious desserts. His cuisine is focussed on conferring an authentic Italian dining experience for a deeper understanding and passion for Italian cuisine. Edited excerpts.
What inspired you to become a chef? Have you always found yourself in the family kitchen as a child?
Cooking is a passion for me and I was fortunate enough to be born in the family of chefs and continue the family legacy of cooking and serving people. As a kid, I started working in my family restaurants in Rome. Kitchen for me is an enchanted place where dreams
Having worked around the world, what attracted you to India? Were you able to combine the Indian spices and produce with your style of cooking?
I love Asian hospitality. People are warm and friendly, and this makes my job even more fun. I chose New Delhi as I wanted to explore Indian culture. Marco Polo and many great travellers used Indian spices in Italian cuisine. Cinnamon, anise and cloves have been used in several Italian braised dishes and pastries.
What are the cupboard essentials that Italian chefs should have in their kitchen?
The cupboard essentials for any chef are truffles, pasta, cold cuts, cheese, seasonal products such as lemons and tomatoes. The most important aspect is the detailed knowledge of the Italian cuisine.
For anyone who hasn’t dined at Sorrento before, how would you sum up the dining experience? What should food lovers expect from your menu?
I always tell my guests to come to my restaurant with an open mind and I will serve you real food of my origin. At Sorrento, my key focus is on the seasonal produce, so you will experience modern touch in all the dishes, but I always ensure to keep ingredients and flavours authentic. My new menu promises to offer a dining experience that is truly unique. The signature dishes include fried black cod in parsley and basil batter, orange zest salad with red capsicum and thyme sauce, rosemary strudel, homemade tortelli filled with potato, ricotta cheese and rosemary and smoked scamorza cheese with tomato and basil.
Italian cooking varies drastically from one region to another in Italy. Do you believe one restaurant can provide an all-encompassing food experience?
At Sorrento, our prime focus is to provide signatures from central and southern Italy. However, on the menu, you will find dishes from other parts of Italy as well.
You have a way of working with authentic taste while giving your own twist to the dish. How are you able to blend the two?
While my philosophy of cooking rests on the foundation of classic recipes, I prefer to lend my own personal touch while retaining the authenticity of the dish. The diners will experience traditional southern Italian cuisine in a modern version, but I always make sure to keep the real traditional flavours intact from the old classic recipes. They will experience Sorrento’s special artisanal pasta, Neapolitan delicacies, pizzas and slow-cooked family-style specialities made with seasonal, authentic and regional ingredients.
Italian cuisine is known for varieties of pasta. If you could teach the world one little trick about cooking the best pasta, what would it be?
To serve the best pasta, never pre-cook it and always boil the pasta in salted water. Pasta should always be removed from the kettle al dente and should be finished while cooking in the sauce.
What has been your greatest achievement as a chef. What’s your dream for the future?
I received four Rosettes awards at the Cameron restaurant in Scotland. My dream is to open my own restaurant soon.
If you haven’t become a chef, what other roles would you have taken on in the hospitality industry?
If I were not a chef, I would have taken a role in the front office, as I love meeting people and I believe it’s a challenging profile.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a chef? Would you enjoy mentoring the novices in the culinary world?
I personally believe and always tell the younger generation to follow their passion and then they will love their job. I would love mentoring younger chefs if I see they are really interested to enter the culinary world and are ready to take up this challenging job.