Luca Di Pietro, Italian Chef de Cuisine at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, started his career with an accounting diploma and found his way over crossing different countries and kitchens to the classic Italian cuisine in Singapore. We got interviewed him.

Why did you become a chef?

When I was child I watch my grand mom to cook, to put a lot of passion on it. Sometimes she woke up in the heart of the night for to start to prepare the food for some event as Christmas or Easter. She gave to me the interest and made me feel respect for the food.

Back to the time when you learned to become a chef. Which cooking school in Italy did you visit?

Actually, my first school was Accounting and, actually, I start to do that job in Torino. After that I went to help one of my friend who needed a hand in his Pizzeria and I suddenly I felt in Love with that job. During that time II went to the Culinary School LE MIDI’ In Torino, with evening courses and received my the second diploma.

Chef de Cuisine in Singapore

Quite at the beginning of your carer you did run your own restaurant. This dream of an own restaurant is normally fulfilled later. How did it come that you started this way?

A friend of my mom saw me in the kitchen and proposed to open my own business. Just a simple Pizzeria-Trattoria, with a small menu. It was a great experience but, correct, I didn’t have the right experience to do that I was quite young and could run it quite successfully at the end. The most I learned from that time and experience is “Responsibility”!

Later you worked as a pre-opening chef consult in Los Angeles. Nowadays there are lots of offers/ request for such jobs in Asia. What are the pro and cons of being a pre-opening consult?

Yes, after a few years’ experience in my own little restaurant and the time at a first 5 Star Hotel in Roma, I received this proposal work as a pre-opening manager for an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles – Long Beach, named VINO & CUCINA. For me; California was a “dream name”. It was my first job oversea and it was just at the right time. The economical crisis in Italy just started at this time. It was hard time because of my poor English, the products, different measures and different mentality, but also great for me to open my mind, discover new cultures, collaborate with other US Chefs. So, it became and it was my really first great success in my career.

Chef de Cuisine – a long way

In 2008 you moved to Singapore as Chef de Cuisine in Five Stars Hotel. What was your learning from working in such a big and international hotel kitchen in Asia?

After 1 week in Asia I decided already to stay here forever. Asia in general has something either you do not like you your fall in love with. For me; luckily the second applied😊. At International 5 stars hotels such as The Starwood, Hyatt and now Shangri-la I; found the professionality, innovation, trainings and the chance to learn more and grow! At such big and modern companies it is not the WORK, which is is the center, it is all about the PEOPLE!

In 2018 your way brought you to Vietnam, where you worked as Executive Chef. What was your first impression of the Vietnamese kitchen?

The impact with Vietnam is strong, the chaos in the streets of Saigon reflect the behaviour of the population in there. About food: I LOVE PHO!!

From 2012 until 2017 you worked in Thailand (Phuket and Bangkok). From the working point of view as a chef; did it make any difference to work at the beach or in the Mega City?

Ooh Thailand is my favourite country in Asia: the atmosphere, the culture, the landscapes, kidnaped my soul! The biggest difference of small beach places and mega city in Thailand are the people. In Phuket it was very hard to change or improve a working place where employees work already 20-25 years. They consider the hotel as their home and see you as a stranger. It takes lots of time to gain their trust and create a strong team work. Bangkok is more modern, and the people are more keen to work with foreigners.

Working in Bangkok: did you have time to get along with all the local food trends and new restaurants?

Bangkok offers a amazing range of restaurants and Hotels. Yes; I went to try a lot and I need to say, that the quality of food and service I found in Bangkok have been the best I found in all Asia so far.

During your time in Thailand did you start to cook as well locally?

No, I prefer to eat it😊

Did you try to find similarities between the Thai and Italian kitchen?

Not yet, as both are really different culinary cultures, but actually that is a good idea!

You moved back to Singapore to work as Italian Chef de Cuisine at the Shangri La Hotel. Are the Italian menus more the classic ones or do you have space for the new dishes/ Interpretations?

The Italian food we create at the Shangri-la Singapore at THE WATERFALL RESTAURANT is a Traditional Mediterranean food, Authentic with a touch of modern decorations! And that is what our guests are looking for and appreciate that a lot. We are almost fully booked every day with mainly regular customers. Our ingredients are always fresh and we grow our own aromatic plants s Rosemary, Thime, Basil and other of our products come fresh from Italy!

All over the places seasonal and local become the big topic. Seasonal is not the issue in Singapore. Is local supply of ingredients a difficulty?

We can find almost everything in Singapore, anyway we import the most of products from Italy and we try to follow the seasons and the rest we grow by our self.

The gastronomic scene in Singapore is changing very fast. What are the latest trends?

Correct, Singapore change so fast, the trendiest now? Maybe Tapas and Easy Food.. and sure a good wine. But the food we do in The Waterfall Restaurant is an Evergreen!

Would it work out to open a small, high quality and by the chef owned Italian restaurant in Singapore?

Mmh, I am not sure if this is the right moment to open a restaurant in Singapore. The city is over-full of restaurants, the prices to rent-sales are incredible high and the people are only concentrate in few points of the city. Anyway, it is also not my intention right now.

Thank you Luca that was very interesting.