Heinz Beck is one of Europe’s most respected chefs and has been heralded as a leader in Italian and Mediterranean culinary tradition. His restaurant, La Pergola in Rome, has gained three Michelin stars. It’s a pretty amazing place, the only restaurant with three Michelin stars in Rome, has a cellar with 53,000 bottles in it, as well as a water menu featuring over 25 different waters to match with dinner.
Chef Beck will be in Sydney in November to host an exclusive dinner at Caffe Sicilia in Surry Hills and I got the chance to have a chat with him ahead of his visit.
How does your German heritage and Italian training translate onto the plate? When I arrived in Italy I was not well versed in Italian cuisine but I spent much time studying the intricacies of traditional Italian cuisine in the city’s best local trattorias. I developed my own idea of Italian food: dishes dedicated to people who live in Rome. I describe my cuisine as light Mediterranean flavours, I use modern techniques to make my plates more healthy without sacrificing flavour.
You are dedicated to providing not only fine dining but a healthy experience. Is this difficult to maintain? I have been advocating healthy eating for over 10 years, so I find it very simple just keep to fresh ingredients. The basis of excellent cuisine should be only these high quality fresh ingredients. Fruits and vegetables should be ripe, and perfect consistency, then you don’t need to over do it on the extras.
It took some time to gain three Michelin stars – how did it feel to finally achieve that at La Pergola? I have paid my dues to get those stars – I slogged so hard for so many years before getting to where I am today.
When I received the 3-Michelin for La Pergola, it was broadcast live on TV in Europe. I was in the kitchen with my team and all the staff were jumping with excitement and we celebrated with champagne. I am very pleased and proud of this achievement.
How much time do you spend time ‘on the pans’? Do you find the business of food – events, media and your other restaurants Apsleys and Cafe Les Paillotes – have taken you away from actually cooking? I spend most of my time at La Pergola. However I still ensure to visit Apsleys regularly. It was a big commitment for me to open a second restaurant and it is important for me to do it well.
You are in Australia for a dinner series with Caffe Sicilia and will leave four dishes on the menu for December as a legacy. Can you give us a sneak peek into what guests can expect on the evening? I want to show guests a very modern, healthy but tasty way of eating Sicilian food. I will recreate my signature dishes from La Pergola but also use Caffe Sicilia and Sicilian cuisine as inspiration. Guests will get to experience the ultimate dining food affair – I put a lot of effort into every dish and these recipes will reflect that.
This is your first trip to Australia – what are you looking forward to doing while you are here? I am looking forward to working with the Australian fresh produce, and trying kangaroo. I like exploring new frontiers as it inspires me and rejuvenates my cooking juices. I am also looking for cooking at Caffe Sicilia – my wife is Sicilian so I have a real passion for Sicilian cuisine.
What is your favourite dish to cook when you are not working – just to eat at home? On my nights off I enjoy eating fresh pasta at home, such as spaghetti with clams – I love pasta cooked in any possible way. For a treat, I love Arancini Siciliani, traditional Sicilian street food that consists of a ball of saffron rice filled with Bolognese sauce and fried in crispy breadcrumbs.
Chef Beck will be collaborating with the Caffe Sicilia team for an 8-course dinner (with matching wines) on 28th of November, 29 of November and 1 December for $350 per person. Four of Chef Beck’s dishes on the Sicilian-inspired menu will be added to the Caffe Sicilia menu in December as a legacy of his visit. Tickets can be purchased here.
02 9699 8787
628 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Australia