Meet The Maestro Of Italian Cuisine: Eats & Treats by Tania Rebello
A passionate leader and culinary genius with more than 20 years of experience in multi Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels across the world, Heros De Agostinis- Executive Sous Chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain oversees all aspects of the culinary operations at the hotel. This jovial chef who is an ardent ambassador of Italian cuisine is determined to take the culinary experience of the hotel to new heights. He demonstrates his exceptional skills as a chef at the hotel’s Italian restaurant- Primavera. It was an exciting and educational experience for me to interview chef Heros while immersing in a journey of flavors through the newly introduced menu items at Primavera.
You have worked for over 20 years in 9 countries. When did you start your career as a chef ?
I began my culinary journey as a 14 year old. I studied a hospitality management school where we were required to do a project. So, during the summer holidays while most children were enjoyed their time off, I chose to be trained by working in the kitchen at starred hotels.
Being a chef was not glamorous in the 1990’s. My family thought that I would get over the urge to be a chef but I was determined and they supported my decision. Therefore, at the age of 18 I graduated from culinary school. After graduating, I worked in different countries to learn more about various cultures and cuisines.
Why did you select this career line? Did anyone inspire you to be a chef ?
During my childhood, I was very fortunate to spend time with both my Italian grandmothers. One of my grandmothers was born in Eritrea, Africa, while the other grandmother was born in Italy.
My grandmother in Africa imparted the knowledge about spices while I learnt about Italian cuisine from my other grandmother. The concept of sharing and eating together with the family was prevalent at my home.
The aroma of food that was being cooked would always fill the home. Being the first grandchild, I was showered with unconditional love and good food. My grandmothers showed their affection towards me through food. Food is an act of love.
Have you utilized any of the recipes that you learnt from your grandmothers in the restaurants that you have worked at?
Well, let us talk about countries in the Middle East. The people here have a different palate because they are used to more spices. Customers are considerate about the food that they eat, as the lifestyle is different as compared to decades ago. They are concerned about how the food is prepared, the ingredients that are used and source of ingredients. We are looking at sustainability and healthy eating. The food that was prepared by my grandmothers was prepared with love without counting calories while using traditional methods of cooking and liberal amount of organic ingredients. Hence, we try to develop the flavors of home by utilizing different techniques to ensure that the food served to our customers is light and healthy yet authentic and delicious.
Can you share some interesting facts about Italian cuisine with our readers?
According to me, Italian cuisine is the most complete cuisine in the world; complete in terms of nutrition. Italian cuisine is not just pasta and pizza like everyone describes it. Italian cuisine has developed over time. Italian cuisine is a guide to the Mediterranean diet because it is rich in all proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. We have a huge variety of products owing to our large ecosystem. We have mountains, seas and lakes that supply us with different types of products that form the Italian cuisine. We have the best fish, game and poultry, the best vegetables, fruits and nuts. For example, the best scampi comes from the Adriatic Sea, you can find excellent chestnuts in the north while kiwis are found in the south. All these products make their way into a variety of Italian dishes.
We discussed that you have worked with several Michelin starred restaurants. How does that compare with working at the Ritz-Carlton ?
I was always curious about American managed hospitality firms. I heard that they are good in training, motivating and helping their staff to grow and the Ritz-Carlton is very famous for that. Therefore, when I got the opportunity to join the team here, I was very keen in learning their management style, as I am already a skilled chef.
Name an ingredient that you must always have in your kitchen.
Olive oil- I always use olive oil for cooking and dressing salads.
Tell us about some of the ingredients that you use in the kitchen which are flown in from other countries.
We do fly in some of the ingredients that we use from Italy. Flour, tomatoes, olive oil, parmigiano cheese, garlic, and celery are a few of these ingredients. We source some of our meat products from France and Australia. I do not believe in importing fish so we locally purchase the best available seafood. We do get good prawns, hamour and seabass in Bahrain.
How do you fulfill the expectations of diners at Primavera?
We use original/authentic Italian ingredients and elevate the flavor of these ingredients to heighten the senses of our guests. 70% of our ingredients are flown in from Italy. The concept is to provide guests with the real Italian experience in a contemporary style. Our mission is to make our customers happy with our food. Whether it is a date for two, a business meal or a family get together, Primavera is the ideal place to indulge in the true flavors of Italy.