Chef-owner Mauro Colagreco runs more than 10 restaurants globally, including the three-Michelin-starred, fine-dining Mirazur on the French Riviera, as well as restaurants in the US, Thailand, China and now Singapore, where he opened Fiamma, a casual Italian restaurant at the Capella Singapore in June. Fiamma means flame in Italian.
In the coming year, he will open a fine-dining restaurant and brasserie at the Raffles London.
What’s his secret to running a global restaurant empire? The Italian-Argentine chef says having an open mindset that embraces a melting pot of cultures has served him well.
In his own words: “Having travelled around the world from an early age permitted me to quickly understand the culinary approach of different cultures. When I opened my restaurant in Shanghai, I learned a lot about techniques, textures and food flavours I could incorporate into my South American heritage. Having a rich understanding of different cultures helps me build good kitchen teams around the world, where I am always looking for a different touch to each city.”
We chatted with Colagreco during the much-lauded chef’s visit to Fiamma about the traditional Italian dishes he was inspired to recreate after his grandmother’s cooking.
Is there a food memory from your childhood that you cherish most?
My grandmother’s ravioli, stuffed with spinach, shallots and veal brain. She served it with a fantastic tomato sauce made from tomatoes from my grandfather’s huge garden since he was passionate about plants. I am trying to adapt this recipe for Fiamma.
Why did it take you so long to open an Italian restaurant?
Now is a good moment in my life to share my roots and an aspect of them I haven’t shared before. The prospect of opening an Italian restaurant near Mirazur was not very interesting to me.
You had a chef residency at Mandala Club in 2021 and opened burger restaurant Carne, which has since closed. What do you think of our restaurant scene?
Competition is very high and the market is mature, as diners are knowledgeable about food and love to eat. The concentration of restaurants is also higher in Singapore, which has a lot of energy. The kitchens of the world are all here with so many varieties of cuisines. Carne was opened during the pandemic, which was wrong. While it had a good start, the operators didn’t want to continue running it during that difficult period.
Has the pandemic changed your approach to fine dining?
That was a big shock for us at Mirazur, as 2019 was a fantastic year. We received three Michelin stars and were No. 1 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The restaurant was fully booked for the next two years, and then everything was shut down. During the lockdown, I spent a lot of time in my garden. The connection with nature made me rethink the future of the restaurant.
The produce in my garden is grown biodynamically and follows the lunar cycle. So I changed Mirazur’s menu to follow the lunar calendar. Depending on the location of the moon in the sky, certain days are better suited to cultivating vegetables and fruit.
What is your favourite dish in Singapore?
After my grandmother’s, one of the best dumplings I’ve eaten is the beetroot soon kueh from One Kueh At A Time. The skin is so soft and chewy, it has a melt-in-your-mouth texture, and its taste is so delicate. It is difficult to replicate these dumplings, so I eat them whenever I am here.
What’s another dish you tried and liked here?
I remember eating pig’s trotter soup for the first time during one of my earlier trips here for a four-hands collaboration with chef Andre Chiang. I had it for lunch at an eatery near his restaurant. I enjoyed nibbling on the nice textures of the meat and bones. I learned so much about the textures of food here. In Western cuisine, you can find two or three different textures in a dish, but Asian cuisine can have as many as 10 types of textures in one dish.