Andrea Torre – Executive Chef at the signature Italian restaurant Arva at the Amanyangyun hotel in Shanghai
Andrea Torre is Executive Chef at the signature Italian restaurant Arva at the Amanyangyun hotel in Shanghai and at Amanpulo in the Philippines. His menu at Arva draws inspiration from Italy’s farm-to-table gastronomic tradition. The restaurant is part of the Aman brand’s new culinary concept that Chef Andrea co-founded.
We chat to Andrea about his culinary life in Asia and what Arva is all about.
Andrea, please tell us about your culinary background – when did you decide to become a chef, what school did you train at, and which restaurants have you worked in?
I trained at a culinary school in Anzio, near Rome. My most valuable experience to date would be working at Zafferano & Cecconis in London, La Petite Maison in Istanbul and three Aman destinations – Aman Venice, Amanyangyun and now Amanpulo.
You moved from Aman Venice to Amanyangyun in Shanghai – what was this move like? Did you enjoy living and working in China?
It has been a very interesting move. I had never lived in China before and eagerly immersed myself in the destination. Shanghai is an amazing, vibrant and exciting city, which has a lot to offer and I was able to try many new experiences.
How would you describe your cooking style?
My cooking style is authentic. When cooking, I always consider where the ingredients have come from and I bear in mind what we are cooking. I believe it is important to respect the ingredients and the people behind them; use local and seasonal ingredients whenever you can and lastly consider the location in which you are cooking and eating.
For instance, if I am in Sicily, I will cook and eat fresh seafood from the surrounding sea. When I am in Thailand, I will look for local cuisine, such as pad thai, or pomelo and shrimps.
My golden rule, which relates to any cuisine, is to make everything immediately and to avoid preparing any aspect of the dish in advance. I always challenge my chefs with the notion that if they are at home, it is unlikely they are going to slice bread and then eat it two hours later.
Has being in China changed your approach to food at all?
Living in China has confirmed my theory that the culinary culture found in both Italy and China are very similar. Both countries enjoy eating seasonable produce and therefore adhere to nature and its own calendar to determine what ingredients to use.
You are a co-creator of the Aman’s new culinary brand, Arva – please give us an idea of what Arva is all about.
Arva is the result of many long discussions with the culinary team at Aman. A big concern of our guests is the authenticity of each menu. Therefore, we wanted to avoid creating a generic hotel-style menu with a poor fusion of recipes, and an ill thought-through concept.
The Arva concept was first announced at Aman Venice, as this was the first Aman I was introduced to. We believe Aman Venice sits in the best location surrounded by a variety of excellent food products. I wanted to ensure my guests receive delicious food, but also an experience at the same time. This experience is that of a traditional Italian family meal, where everyone is warmly welcomed on arrival. We wanted our guests to feel at home, as opposed to in a restaurant.
It is this desire that is behind our encouragement of Arva guests to share each dish, as this is an excellent way to connect with the people you are eating alongside. Chefs in Italy are famous for their mastery of the ‘cucina povera’, having prepared food in this manner for centuries, feeding family and friends with honest, uncomplicated dishes created with love and generosity. Italian cuisine is appreciated worldwide, because of its simplicity. This can also be said for Japanese cuisine and why it’s valued by many.
The Arva concept focuses on the main ingredient, which is easily identified with just one glance at the dish. In Shanghai, seasonal ingredients are grown in the vegetable garden at Amanyangyun and on local farmland, foraged from local soil or plucked fresh from the surrounding ocean. We then transfer the simple fare into a bold, heart-warming dish, alive with flavour.
Do you use any unusual ingredients?
I love to use simple ingredients to create an amazing dish. My focus and main interest is really the source of the product, and its origins as opposed to the method used when cooking the dish.
Are there any ingredients that are difficult to source in China? What are suppliers there like?
At Amanyangyun, we have a brilliant vegetable garden and we are currently trying to use as many vegetables from this garden as possible. Imported products are tricky to source. We avoid importing whenever we are able to.
What is the dining scene in Shanghai like?
The dining scene in Shanghai is evolving daily. The Chinese are continuously searching for new experiences and culinary concepts and therefore the restaurant scene in Shanghai is expanding at an incredible rate.
In Shanghai, aside from the local Chinese restaurants, most of the restaurants are French, but there is also a heavy influence of Italian, Spanish and Japanese cuisine as well. A Shanghai Michelin guide was introduced many years ago, and we are delighted and very proud to say that Arva is now listed in it.
Is there a focus on sustainability and local, seasonal produce?
Fresh seasonal vegetables, fish and meat are all produced in China. There is a big focus in China on eating seasonal produce, and therefore although sustainability is still a new concept in China, I am certain it will be more widely recognised by the Chinese in a few years’ time.
Thank you, Andrea! And all the best from our team at Cook Concern for a fantastic 2019!
If you want to see more of his work see his recipe here.
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