Two Michelin-starred Italian chefs with a shared passion came together to showcase a menu of the finest contemporary Italian cuisine in a S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna four hands dinner at Bulgari Il Ristorante Luca Fantin in Tokyo last month.
Umberto Bombana, the king of truffles, took leave of 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo in Hong Kong to join fellow compatriot Luca Fantin in the kitchen of his Michelin-starred restaurant in Japan for an exclusive four hands dinner showcasing an Italian-themed menu.
Both chefs have long since paved the way with Michelin stars for Italian cuisine in Asia, in Hong Kong and Japan respectively. Bombana is the only three Michelin starred Italian chef outside of Italy, while Fantin is making waves with his Italian food in Tokyo, yet both acknowledge that the secret to longevity of Italian cuisine abroad is “connecting to tradition.”
We took the opportunity during their shared evening to get their perspective on what it means to wave the flag for Italian food, a long way from home.
How does working in another country shape you as chefs?
Bombana: It means that you represent the culture of your country. In culinary terms, Italy is one of the most important countries in the world. When you are representing all this outside of your country it helps you grow as a chef.
Fantin: Working outside of your country gives you more inspiration and delivers both business and personal growth. Being exposed to new culture, new tradition and a new vision enrich what you are. You never forget your origin, in my case, I always keep my own tradition, Italian tradition, however, being outside of your country broadens your perspective.
What’s the future of Italian cuisine abroad?
Bombana: First of all, Italian cuisine is wonderful and not so expensive. That’s why, it will always be a success for both casual cuisine and fine dining creative cuisine, however, of course, it also depends on the creativity of the individual chef. Italian cuisine also has a lot of products to showcase such as olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cheese, prosciutto and mozzarella, etc. These great products are very well known all over the world and they are a part of our tradition. These basic products will always be successful.
Fantin: The fundamentals of Italian cuisine are great ingredients, preparation and technique. Being away from home, sometimes we see Italian cuisine being falsified, but we focus very much on researching the Italian flavours to represent our cuisine. I believe this is the way to go.
What is sure is that Italian food retains its sense of conviviality and togetherness: “When we have a reunion, we always have a good outcome,” says Bombana.