It’s no secret that Spasso Milano is one of our favourite Italian restaurants in KL and the Chef, Chef Felice Martinelli (or Felix, as he likes to be called) heads the kitchen there. Over the course of dining at Spasso, we have found Chef Felice a really cool and friendly guy who has a wealth of knowledge to share.. so here is our interview with him, today’s distinguished Chef in the Spotlight.
1. Chef Felix, we love your food here. That’s why we keep coming back. Did you know back then ,you could cook so well?
I never did!!! It was natural as I grew up in the kitchen of a restaurant owned by my family, and since the age of 14, I naturally ended up working for my family, to be exact, my father, who was the Head Chef. While working with my father, I realized that food became my passion, and creating dishes that put a smile on peoples faces was something that I enjoyed. My father also encouraged me to continue, as he believed that I was able to put few dish creations that were then sold in our restaurants. Most importantly, I have enjoyed, and still enjoy being in the kitchen, making and developing dishes that are my own signature.
2.Tell us a juicy secret about yourself.
If NO ONE knows, I also do not know. My life is an open book and all my friends know what I do and what I think.
3. Heading a kitchen can get pretty crazy at times.. tell us, how do you let off steam?
This depends on budget. Typically, I would spend quiet time at home with my wife, watching movies or even enjoying good Thai food. However, a holiday away from everything is always good to freshen up and recharge oneself.
4. Do you have any hobbies?
I learnt fruit carving while I lived in Thailand. This is something I enjoy a lot as it gives me pleasure to look at the fruit or vegetables that have been transformed into beautiful flowers. Painting is another hobby of mine as it calms me down, and creating a master piece by utilizing different color mixtures and combinations pleases me.
5. What brought you to Malaysia?
After spending 6 years in Maldives, I needed to be back in a competitive city where my creation of dishes can be judged and enjoyed by many.
6. What is your favourite Malaysian dish?
I have not had that many local cuisine experiences as yet, but I do enjoy Ipoh Kuay Teow, as the texture of the noodles is very similar to the homemade pasta we have in Spasso.
7. What is your proudest achievement?
The biggest achievement I would mention is that I survived under my father who was a perfectionist when it came to Classical Italian Cuisine. Though it was a family business, we worked just like any other employee, and we were under strict guidance of my father whom had 30 years experience in the kitchen before I even stepped into the kitchen. I believe the best part of my knowledge in cuisine came from him and I am proud of the tradition of Martinelli Family.
8. Who is your favourite Cook/Chef and why?
Obviously, my “Father” however I do respect what Chef Gualtiero Marchesi has achieved for the Italian cuisine as a whole. I believe he is known as one of the most influential chefs in Italy, if not the world.
9. What is your favourite travel destination for food?
Provence, France will be the one, as they are well known for aromatic herbs and creating dishes utilizing the combination of fresh herbs. I also enjoy Thailand as Thai cuisine is one of my favorites for its use of spices and citrus in cooking.
10. If you could live one place in this world where would it be and why?
At this moment I can tell you I would like to live in Thailand for its cuisine and friendly people.
11. What annoys you?
“non-sense”. I am a straight forward person, who does not like to beat around the bush. What I dislike the most are people who spend hours of my time for a conversation which could have ended in 5 minutes. You could say ‘Politicans’.
12. Can you name a cook book that has inspired you?
No, I do not read books to get inspired but it comes from working with people. Even my staff inspire me sometimes by doing mistakes that can turn into great dishes.
13. What was your biggest catastrophe in the kitchen?
None so far. There is no such thing as catastrophe as there will always be a solution.
14. Do you have any advice for budding cooks/aspiring chefs?
Keep your head down and always be ready to learn. There is no such thing as “I know everything”. Listen to your seniors for their experience and knowledge, and never be afraid of exploring new ideas.
15. What is your favourite recipe?
It would be “Risotto alla Milanese” accompanied by a “Grilled Beef Fillet with Aromatic Herbs”. Both preparations are very easy, and the final taste is wonderful. For the risotto you have just to lightly fry a bit of chopped yellow onion with a spoonful of good butter, until it turns a golden colour. After that you have to add the rice ,”Carnaroli or Arborio”, and lightly roast it. De-glaze with a generous sprinkle of Italian White Wine and pan-fry until evaporated. After that, add a ladle of vegetable stock and keep stirring till the risotto starts to get creamy; add a bit more stock and follow the same technique until the rice is cooked. Turn off the fire, and only in that time, add a generous spoon of grated Parmesan Cheese and a bit of cold butter for make your risotto creamier ,”mantecare”.
For the beef, you need a nice piece of Tenderloin 200/250 gr “Filetto”, you have to cut the filetto into slices 1cm thick but without cutting the bottom. After that you have to keep between each beef slice a bit of garlic, 1 leaf of fresh sage, a few leaves of fresh rosemary, salt & pepper, and sprinkle it with a nice olive oil and keep aside for a while for it to marinate (you can arrange it before start to cook risotto). Once the risotto is ready you can grill your filetto to your preference. Arrange the risotto in a serving dish with the grilled filetto, sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese and “Buon Appetito”.
16. What do you think of the food industry in Malaysia?
There are too many restaurants claiming to be authentic, and I feel they are just a copycat of what the cuisine actually represents. Moreover, they are over-priced for what they are. I believe authenticity and originality of the dishes are important, so as to experience real dishes that you would experience when you are in the country.
All photos courtesy of Spasso MilanoAdd: Spasso Milano, 347, Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur tel: 603 4252 7088, 603 42527089 Google Maps Directions : On Jalan Ampang, heading towards Gleneagles hospital, pass the Great Eastern Mall on your right. Around 500 meters along, you will see Nihon Club (stand alone bungalow) on the same side as the GE Mall. Spasso Milano is located on the 1st floor of this building.