Marco Liguori – Chef at Italian restaurant Mascalzone in Houston
Marco Liguori is Chef at Italian restaurant Mascalzone in Houston, USA. We chat to him about keeping it simple in the kitchen, how fresh ingredients are always the best, and the Houston dining scene.
How were you first inspired to become a chef?
Simply because I have always loved food, I always enjoyed cooking and preparing food at home when I was growing up, so it was natural for me when I left to school to train as a chef.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned through being a chef?
Being a chef is a lot like being an artist. The work of an inventive and dedicated chef is every bit the same as painting a portrait or sculpting a statue.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Keep – it – simple. There are so many great tasting ingredients out there, sometimes you need only three or four combined together to really set up a great tasting plate.
Mascalzone serves Italian favourites; how do you balance offering standard, beloved dishes with keeping things a little exciting?
I am fortunate at Mascalzone because alongside the everyday menu, we have a specials menu. Then we run a catering service, so we have a catering menu that we tailor for the needs of each event.
Along with that we run regular wine and food pairing events at the restaurant, so we have to be very thoughtful about what dishes we prepare to go with the wines.
In short we are always preparing new dishes and trying to think of new recipes – the fun and exciting part is when we get a really great response from our clientele for all the new dishes that we are trying.
Have you seen Italian food change over the years in Houston?
When I first came to Houston there wasn’t such a great choice of different food restaurants. Over the last 10 years or so, this has all changed and it seems that there has been a real hunger among locals to try out new cuisines.
This has been reflected in an increase of new restaurants opening and the popularity of the events that we have set up. It’s great as it shows that Houstonians are very adventurous, but it also means that we have to keep working extra hard as the level of competition is very high.
If there was one ingredient you couldn’t cook without, what would it be?
There isn’t one stand-alone ingredient that I couldn’t do without. In my opinion it’s best to always go for fresh ingredients and always avoid using weaker substitutes when it comes to preparing the right meal.
Once you have that organised then the next ingredient would be teamwork. This is essential in the kitchen. At Mascalzone the kitchen team is a bit like a family. If one person is missing from the chain or doesn’t work together with the others, it can upset the service dramatically.
Recipe for Linguine Salsiccia E Broccoli by Chef Marco Ligouri from Mascalzone Italian restaurant in Houston, USA.
This is a first course pasta dish. I chose it because it illustrates exactly how it’s possible to cook a great tasting meal with just a few simple ingredients. In this one, the Italian sausage and the broccoli break up and combine together really well to make a great tasting accompaniment to the pasta, especially when sprinkled with fresh parmesan.
- 6 Teaspoons of olive oil
- Italian sausage
- 3 cloves of garlic
Boil the broccoli until it starts to soften.
Press the garlic and fry in the oil.
Chop the sausage into small pieces and add to the garlic.
Once the sausage has started to brown, add the broccoli to the pan.
Sprinkle with slices of fresh chilli.
Cook the linguine and then add to the pan.