Why did you decide to open a Macau branch of your Italian restaurant? "My Macau restaurant has been in the Grand Lisboa for eight years. I've cooked 31 gala dinners there and each time [I create] dishes, so that's nearly 300 new dishes. I like this hotel because it is one of the few places in the world which is concerned about importing the best ingredients, from Japan, New Zealand and China, but especially from Italy, where I have my own olive oil, pasta, coffee, tomatoes and vinaigrette."
You grow your own food? "I have a wonderful farm in Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi [in Naples]. We grow olives to make our own oil, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, courgettes, lettuce, herbs like thyme and rosemary, onions, potatoes, lemons, figs, peaches, plums, cherries and apricots. We also raise cows, and chickens for fresh eggs for breakfast and cakes. Our food is organic: we don't use any chemicals, we compost cow manure, vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grounds and ash for about a year to fertilise our soil."
You and your wife, Livia, have been married for 46 years. How did you meet? "We lived in the same town and went to the same school. Our families knew each other. She works very hard - she is the first to get up and the last to go to sleep. I think it was destiny for us to be together. Whenever I suggest something, she always agrees with me. My grandfather's mother started the [boutique] hotel, and now I am the fourth generation, my sons the fifth."
Did you expect your sons to carry on the family business? "Mario studied in Switzerland and speaks five languages and works front of house. Ernesto has a doctorate in economics. One day Ernesto came home and said, 'Papi, I want your job.' I am happy - they can do better than me because they are the new generation. In October, I received a lifetime achievement award for my contribution to culinary arts from one of the top Italian newspapers, but I think it's too early for me. I think I should get it in 10 years. I'm not young, but my mind is still in my 20s. I always want to learn something new."
When did you start to cook? "I was very young, following my grandfather and father. In a hotel-restaurant family business, it is normal for the children to help out. I enjoyed being with my grandfather. We didn't make phone calls to get our food - he grew all the ingredients, [and raised] the chickens, cows and pigs. I got interested that way."
Why are organic ingredients so important to you? "I only eat grass-fed meat. We must eat less meat and more vegetables, fruit and pasta. In the past 10 years my guests have developed so many food allergies. In China, food allergies haven't arrived yet, but in Europe and the United States they are there. It will come to China. I have observed this for 40 years. In the next 10 years how will this change? People will want to buy only food that they know how it was grown."
How do you deal with customers with food allergies? "In a high-class restaurant there are so many dishes on the menu and it's difficult to describe all the ingredients. When we have customers with allergies we do our best to accommodate them - it is our job as professionals to know where the food came from. Our restaurant is full every day because customers trust us and the quality of our food."
How do you keep healthy? "Every morning I have Japanese green tea and add a bit of honey from my farm. Then I have a seasonal fruit and a strong espresso. For lunch, we have dried beans, lentils and cheese with pasta. I will eat white meat every day, but red meat once every two weeks. At night, I have some fish with vegetables, anchovies or tuna. In the afternoon, we have coffee with fruit. From May to November, I eat lots of tomatoes - I get a lot of energy from tomatoes and fresh fruit."
What do you like to do when you're not cooking? "I like to paint nature, but I'm very bad at it. I'm not experienced. Sometimes I go hunting in Scotland with my dogs for about five days. I shoot pheasant, woodcock, rabbit. In Mongolia, I go near the border with Russia and shoot black pheasant that have red eyes, they only eat nuts and berries so they are very tasty. I usually sauté woodcock with grapes and foie gras and some herbs and wine."