Gianluigi Bonelli

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 May, 2011, 12:00am


How would you describe your food? 'My cuisine is really personal, I have techniques that let me work around the world. I like playful, I like surprises. My cuisine is always changing; if you try my food and like it, but then come back two months later, maybe it's no longer like that. My cuisine is evolving - there's creativity, passion, flavour and research. It's a reflection of myself.'

How will the move from the private Kee Club to g.e (Gastronomy Extra/Ordinaire) affect your food? 'Tsim Sha Tsui is less gweilo than Central, so my market will be different. But the creativity and money are still here - and people still want to try new things. This is fine dining, but with a casual touch - it can accommodate anyone. I won't attract the typical mainland diner but, if I get customers from China, I have to adapt to them and they have to adapt to me. I will be flexible. But you don't come here to eat a steak; you come here for an experience.'

How has working at Michelin-starred restaurants such as Don Alfonso 1890, Le Calandre and Ja Navalge in Italy, El Bulli in Spain, The Fat Duck in Britain and WD~50 in New York influenced you? 'Someone told me a long time ago that if you want to be a good chef, you need to learn everything. My father is a butcher so I know meat. I come from the countryside so I know herbs and game. I realised I didn't know about fish, so I went to Don Alfonso 1890 in the centre of the Amalfi Coast. Then I wanted to learn how to make good pasta, so I went to Le Calandre. I learned a lot there. I made risotto every day until it was perfect, I learned about bacalao [salt cod]. One day, the chef said, 'You need to learn desserts.' So, every day after service, I learned to make desserts. But then I needed to learn refinement, so I went to an old chef, a master - Alfredo Chiocchetti, at Ja Navalge - it doesn't exist any more. He would say, 'Bonelli, make a cake', so I'd put a cake together - and the more I could put on it, the happier I was. One day, he said, 'Let's make dessert together.' He took a cake, added some sugar and raspberries, put on ice cream and sent it out. I said, 'There's nothing there!' and he said, 'Why do you need more, why can't it be simple and elegant?' I learned that from him and I now add only what a dish needs.

Then I wanted to learn English so I went to the InterContinental Grand Stanford [in Tsim Sha Tsui], where I learned how to run a bigger kitchen and how to cook food for a hotel. Then I asked myself, 'What's the most modern restaurant in the world?' El Bulli. I did a stage [an unpaid position] because I wanted to learn how to use the siphon - at the time it was new. Then I looked around and decided to go to The Fat Duck - at the time, it was all about liquid nitrogen. I went for free and spent a lot of money but now I understand about liquid nitrogen, sous vide and brining. Then I thought it was time to create for myself, so I went to the Kee Club. After many years, I stabilised my life, put some money in the bank, bought an apartment - step by step. Most chefs would say it's enough, but I still wanted to learn more, so I went to WD~50. It's probably the last stage because [chefs] don't want to take you anymore - not because you're too old but because they think if you're not a chef by now, when will you be one.'

How has your food changed over the years? 'Before, my cuisine was more European, but now it's more Asian. I want to use more tofu and soya beans. I want to use local products, but, if I use tofu, it won't be the same as you'll get in a Chinese restaurant. Molecular is finished, we're going 'green' - I understand that. But I don't believe it has to be only green - a salad doesn't make my dinner. If I take a very good local product and respect that product, but use modern techniques - sous vide, frozen liquid nitrogen, some gelatin, algin - I could make it better.'