Mediterraneo’s new Executive Head Chef takes the Mediterraneo restaurants back to his routes in Northern Italy while differentiating each branch with unique menus that reflect the branch’s decor.
A new chef can often mean a new direction for a restaurant and since Chef Giuliano Truddaiu took over the helm of Mediterraneo, he has strived to bring the flavours of his own Northern Italy to this award-winning Nairobi establishment.
A graceful man, Chef Giuliano quietly moves through the Mediterraneo 9West restaurant, checking that everything is running smoothly. Welcoming me to our interview, he smiles and ushers me to a quiet table at back of the restaurant. It is difficult not to be instantly charmed by his natural warmth and friendly smile.
Chef Giuliano’s route to Kenya has been circuitous: prior to working here, he ran his own business in Italy, worked in Qatar and most recently, in Saudi Arabia at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton. It was there that Chef Giuliano made a name for himself by ensuring he never compromised on quality and used only the freshest of ingredients to let his simple yet delicious dishes shine.
Chef Giuliano grew up in the North West region of Italy, Piedmont. After finishing culinary school, he worked all over the peninsula to learn about cooking techniques of each unique area. “In Italy, food is like a religion” says Chef Giuliano describing how each region have their own recipes for different dishes. The Piedmontese are known for their use of meat, cheese and cream while the island of Sardinia, where the other side of his roots lie, is known for fresh seafood, slow cooked lamb and fresh vegetables.
Cooking in Italy is all about good quality ingredients with a focus on making them shine. In Italian cooking, less is more. Chef Giuliano describes the famous Roman amatriciana pasta as a good example of traditional Italian cooking. This simple pasta sauce is composed of three ingredients: diced red onions, diced bacon, and tomato sauce to which a rich and salty pecorino cheese is later sprinkled on. The magic of Italian cooking, he explains, comes from the care with which ingredients for dishes are chosen. Chef Giuliano tells his chefs that if you take care of the ingredients, from sourcing, storing, to cooking, your food will be fantastic. His mission is to create dishes that ‘wow’ the guest with all five senses through plating, flavour, and textures of the dish.
Local produce is proving to be the cornerstone of his new revamped menu and fresh milk is brought in daily to produce delicious in-house mozzarella. To ensure authenticity, however, ingredients such as specialty cheeses, are sourced directly from Italy.
For the future Chef Giuliano plans on reducing the main menu in all Mediterraneos to make the meal selection process for diners easier. The differentiating factor for each branch will be the specials menu. The modern-style 9West branch will have an artistically ‘painted’ plate, Gigiri that has a Tuscany Rococo design, will have a fine dining special menu and lastly, the Junction branch that looks and feels like a typical Italian restaurant, will have authentic Italian food with traditional and ancient recipes. These special menus will have six to eight dishes each.
Throughout our discussion, Chef Giuliano refers to Mediterraneo diners as his “guests”. He says this is part of his culture and that he wants to treat every diner as he would a guest in his own home. As we wrap up our interview, Chef Giuliano stops by a table that requested to see him. The customer is raving about a new dish on the specials menu: the wild berry risotto with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. I can’t help but note that one down for future reference. I look forward to coming back to trying it and the other dishes on Chef Giuliano’s new menu.