Food & Drink (godiamoci la vita)

Zvia Talks to Romans: Marco, Chef

A man and his zucca

Marco is a seasoned Roman chef, mostly working in the kitchen of Queen Energy, (right near the Barberini metro), and I talked to him. 

Name: Marco Morello
Age: 28
Where are you from? I’m from Rome, but my family is from the South of Italy: dad from Sicily, mom from Naples.
Which was the last restaurant in which you ate? Caffè Propaganda.
Which was the last pub you drank at? Abbey Theatre Irish Pub.
How long have you been a chef for? I started when I was 17, attending high school during the day, working during the night.
When did you know you wanted to become a chef? My dream has always been to own a restaurant. I realized the way to make that dream come true was to work where everything gets started…the kitchen.
Which cuisines do you cook? I cook a mix of cuisines. I’ve worked with oriental, French, American, Italian, Roman, and fusion cuisines. I take away something from all of them.
Do you have a favorite Italian regional cuisine?
 Yes, Sicilian cuisine in particular.
Do you have a favorite cuisine? To be honest, once I was sure like every good Italian, that Italian cuisine was the best, now I think that every country has something special. If I have to choose, I will say French, Italian and Thai cuisine. (How brave of Marco!)
Is there any cuisine that you would like to learn? Yes, African cuisines.
What does every cook need in his/her kitchen? The essentials: Salt, pepper, olive oil (extra virgin), spices, fresh herbs.
Finish this sentence: ‘The bigger the knife the…the smaller the food will be cut!
Is there any food you cannot tolerate?
Liver and other innards of the animal.
Is there any American dish that you find completely unappetizing? Nothing in particular. For me, the fact Americans don’t have a culture of cuisine particularized, like it is in Europe, is unappetizing.
Is there any Italian dish that you find completely unappetizing? La trippa and liver.
If you could open and run your own restaurant, how would it be? It would be a wine bar, with a good choice of wines, drinks, and a daily/seasonal menu à la carte. One can eat at the bar too, so not too many tables. Of course, high quality food, good music, and a design that is elegant but colored, like Spanish kind of designs. Think Barcelona.
What do you think about the trends to eat all organic, bio, and local foods?
 I Agree! I cook for an organic bistro, and I’m certain that it is important to pay attention to the provenience of food. More than it being bio/organic, it should be local.
Do you think that people should eat less meat?  Just because is not healthy eat too much meat, yes. I personally think we are hunters and meat is part of our diet. I also cook for vegans and vegetarians, so I respect their point of view, but my philosophy is eat everything, with attention yes, but everything.
Where have you worked in Rome?
Long story! I started in a ‘forno’ making bread when I was a child. Then in a couple of ‘trattorie’ in Testaccio, then at Monte dei Cocci, a brewery and restaurant. Stints in a lot of restaurants down town, and I also do catering, private dinners, and cooking classes.
Where do you work now? For Queen Energy, for Refood Rome Catering & Banqueting, for Cuochincasa, for the Italian Genius Academy, and for RadioSapienza.
Describe the chef/cooking scene in Rome:
Better than in the past. We have a bunch of good names now, but we are not so appreciated by Romans. They think roman cuisine is the best, and that it is impossible to live without pasta or pizza, but we clearly offer more.
Describe the chef/cooking scene in Italy: In the south, it’s the same as it is in Rome. In the north, there is a better culture of food and drink: high quality cuisine is appreciated and respected more, as is the position of the chef.
Is there anything you would change about the chef/cooking scene in Rome/Italy? Yes! Cuisine is a tradition of our culture, a kind of art, and we need to present it with more quality and elegance. We need less people that think they know everything about cooking/opening restaurants just because they eat every day and have a kitchen in their apartments. It’s a business, with rules, and you need experience.
Do you have any words for aspiring chefs, or cooking enthusiasts? Continue to dream, to invent, and to have fun with cooking! But if you decide to work as a chef, be ready to understand that it is not easy. It is one of the most difficult jobs that you can do, physically! Fires, blades, freezers, all in 10 seconds, working during the night, over the weekend, Christmas, NYE… Forget about trips or weekends out with friends, for at least the first 10 years. The kitchen is a world of “assoluti” (absolutes) with heavy competition.

Thanks Marco! Well there you have it… I think I’ll stick to being the customer! 

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