Francesco Mazzei was born into a southern Italian family who prized the craft of artisan food. After havingopened restaurants for others around the world, Chef Mazzei then builthis own, L’Anima, one of London’s bestItalian restaurants. The award-winning restaurant is famous for its accessible dishes, beautifully executed with exquisite flavour, and championing the specialitiesof his home region in Italy.
What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
When I was 8 years old, I made my very first hazelnut ice-cream for my uncle’s ‘gelateria’ (ice-cream parlour). It’s been my favourite ice-cream flavour ever since.
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
My family in Calabria. Even today, we still make everything ourselves, from home-pasta and cheese to ‘salami’ and we do bake bread daily. When you are brought up surrounded by such a strong food culture, it’s impossible not getting inspired.
Describe your culinary style…
Rustic but sophisticated.
Can you tell us which chefs have inspired you the most over the years and why?
As every Italian guy would say, my mother. She’s always been a source of inspiration and influence for the simplicity of her cooking, a sublime marriage of flavours. One of the dishes I will introduce in the new menu at Sartoria, Lasagna Pastachina, is one of my mum’s signature recipes – it’s a bit of a ‘thank you, mamma, for all you’ve taught me.’
How did you devise the menu and where did you get your inspiration from?
I will present my take on a typical Italian family Sunday lunch.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
I like to think that it’s yet to come.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?
I would tell my younger self to keep working hard and remain humble – as rewards will eventually come – and to keep my feet on the ground as much as possible.
What’s next for you?
I look very much forward to the re-launch of Sartoria in Mayfair in November, where I’ll be chef patron, and I’m confident we can create one of the best Italian restaurants in London. Also, I am truly thrilled about the launch of my new cookbook ‘Mezzogiorno’.
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy (3* Michelin stars).
Find out more about Chef Mazzei and Sartoria here…