Bruno Ferrari – a chef career which started at age of 14
Bruno Ferrari, a chef career which started at age of 14, with several international stations up to his own company the Bruno Ferrari Group China & Hong Kong.
When did you know to become a chef?
When I was 14 years old, I started the culinary school near my home town. Honestly speaking, I wasn’t really interested in the Chef job by that time. Besides, no one could allow me to work in the kitchen as a Chef due to my young age, so I just started to work in the kitchen as a part time and during the weekends, I was working as a waiter in a couple of different restaurants in my home town.
Until one day, I met a chef who explained to me a lot how hard and tough of being a chef. Even though, I still started to have some kind of interest in exploring this new field and excited for the adventures. After that summer, once I was back to school, I signed up for the culinary lessons.
Which cooking school did you visit?
The only school I visited was my culinary school, located in Villa Santa Maria, in Abruzzi, Italy. I was studying there for 5 years, and received my diploma. After that, I started to work in full time as a dish washer for the first whole year. After that, I was allowed to work as a helper chef.
I had always been dreaming of going to some private culinary schools in Italy, somewhere really well-known for training and cultivating great chefs. Unfortunately by that time, financially I couldn’t afford those courses.
In 2006 you worked at the Michelin Star restaurant Wien in Zurich (Switzerland). What was the culinary direction at that time to gain the Michelin Star?
In 2006, the Michelin Guide I can say was pretty tough, especially in a city like Zurich where everything must be perfect, otherwise the guests will complain. I remember one time we served one dish, and the plate wasn’t hot enough. Then the guest made a huge complain and just walked out of the restaurant. From that moment on, I started to understand that whatever comes out from my kitchen, it must be more than perfect, otherwise just do not serve it.
After your time in Switzerland you worked some years as Executive Italian Chef in Turin, bevor you moved in 2012 as Head Chef de Cuisine at the Grand Hyatt at the United Arab Emirates: “Hands on Heart”: was it a cultural shock for you; coming from fine dining restaurants in such a large organisation?
As an Italian and as a Chef, I can say, you won’t think too much about how to prepare classic and traditional food while you are working in Italy. Because you can easily find so many places having that food style, so we always try to be a bit different in the market, and offer a modern Italian style food, revisited in fine dining way. After starting my experience in Dubai, I found out how important it is for our Italian food just to be traditional and classic overseas. It was like for me to go back to school, and cook only classic Italian dishes, such as lasagne, spaghetti, pizza etc… initially I was bored with that kind of food, but only after a few months, with the time, I received those appreciations for the food from many guests, I started to understand that I must adapt myself and become someone like an ambassador of authentic Italian food out of my country.
In 2013 you moved as Head Chef de Cuisine with JW Marriott to Bengaluru Area in India. What was your learning out of this time as a chef in India?
That was a really really hard experience for me as chef, especially in the beginning. Try to imagine, switching from one of the richest cities in the world like Dubai to India, where it was also hard to find a simple Italian cheese as an ingredient for the restaurant.
What I really learned from there was that sometimes being a good chef has to make compromises with his skills and be able to create the same authentic food, while only using some local products. By that time, there was some rules that Italian products couldn’t be imported to India, I remember the craziest thing is when I was making a pizza dough with the flour for making Indian bread. However, to be honest, that pizza was great…
In 2014 you moved as Head Chef de Cuisine with Shangri-La to Shanghai to manage the Calypso Italian restaurant. In what sense the expectation on Italian food was different in China, then it was/ is in Italy?
First of all, as we know, Shanghai is the most developed city in China, and China is just so huge with big population, and rich culture about food.
In shanghai, there are more than 18,000 restaurants, between western, Asian etc.. and over 250 are Italians. But not in all of those Italian restaurants, they have Italian citizen chef.
So the first thing when I started to do once my arrival in Shanghai, was to turn around all the well-known Italian restaurants, to watch how they were working, and what kind of food was being served, did researches on the prices, local people’s dining habit, etc. Let’s call it market researching in my way.
Nowadays, in most of the cities in China, people still have very limited knowledge about the Italian food. For them, Italian food equals to pizza, pasta, tiramisu, and in a sharing and family style. It means if you are trying to make some kind of fusion or modern food for them, there could be one kind of guest who appreciate, but based on the condition that you must make sure to teach and explain to your guests what is that dish and the reason why you create that dish. Only in this case, most of the people even though they don’t know much about that dish, they will still appreciate and enjoy it.
With your deep Italian roofs and so much international experiences as chef; how would you describe your culinary line today?
I’ve been working as chef, in the kitchen and restaurants since I was14 years old. So today it’s actually been 23 years of my life experiences in this business. I had my moment where I was only thinking to create new, creative and different kinds of food, experimenting different fusion styles, and sometimes I was really not that open-minded to think that a great chef not only knows how to cook, but also knows how to adapt his skills in that market, in that city, and in that environment to make sure your restaurant make profits for the owner’s concern. If one chef can’t make profits, he or she will never have a long life career in that place.
Since 2015 you are the Founder & Chef of the Bruno Ferrari Group in Hong Kong. Can you let us know what do you offer?
Yes, after those 23 years of experience and the last experience in Shanghai for Shangri-La hotel, I decided to set up my own company, initially it was only in Hong Kong, doing consulting for restaurants and hotels. After 1 year, I also set up a new management company in China.
My mainly service for China, Hong Kong and other country in Asia are :
• Brand Ambassador for kitchen & food brands 形象代言人
• Start-up, Full and semi management Hotels, Restaurants chain, Clubs. 餐厅，酒吧及其它涉及餐饮行业项目的全／半方位管理
• Creating and developing new projects concept 创建与开发新餐厅的理念设计
• Business plan consultation- 商业计划与发展的咨询
• Problem Solving & Business development- 解决问题方案与业务发展
• Menu engineering and food cost- 菜单设计管理与食物成本计算
• Headhunter and staff training- 人才猎聘及员工培训
• Look for/ search for suppliers for food and beverage 食品与酒水供应商的筛选推荐
• Kitchen and restaurant project layout 厨房与餐厅工程布局设计
Marketing and PR- 市场营销与公共关系
Does Hong Kong still offer any niche for foreign chef’s to run their own small restaurants?
Hong Kong, even though is smaller than Shanghai, is very well developed in terms of food, culture, open-minded and also they have many Michelin stars restaurants. The competition in this business in Hong Kong is pretty strong, but it doesn’t mean you can’t set up your own restaurant business or do consulting. The only suggestion I always feel like to give to other people when I was asked, is first of all, you have to know the market and the city very well, which means you have to spend some time in that place to kind of live like a local and to understand better how it works. At least for 1,2 or 3 years, maybe that is not even enough. It all depends on the quality of the time you spent.
After that, you can be able to think better if start your own business there or not. There are opportunities everywhere in Asia, it’s all about if you have good skill, good background, good experience in working with local people, good capacity in understanding the market, and especially and the important thing is for you to have a right business mind set. If you don’t have this last one, but only think to be good in cooking, then I’d better stay , keep working for your employer.
Bruno Ferrari, thank you for your time.