Gianni Tota: I Want My Dishes to Be Explosion of Emotions on the Palate

gianni tota

The career path of Italian chef Gianni Tota is far from being ordinary. He has participated in opening of many famous restaurants, has been a personal chef of “Inter” football team, has cooked for Anna Wintour – the chief editor of Vogue magazine, and has even become the only one person allowed to cook for Dalai Lama during his stay in Europe. Today Gianni Tota, who currently works in Fabius restaurant in Kyiv, shares with us his professional secrets, future plans and opinion about Ukraine.

Why did you decide to start working in Ukraine? What are your impressions of Kyiv?

I was hired for the first time two years ago by Natalia Kelembet for the opening of a new restaurant with Italian cuisine; I did not know the city of Kyiv, the first impact was negative, but Natalia introduced me to another side of the restaurant, much more fascinating than Italian restaurants.

What is the hardest part in the chef profession in your opinion?

Natalia Kelembet has taught me many things; she is a great expert in this field, she knows culinary culture; then I had other offers and I changed; the hardest part for a chef is to work for investors who do not understand anything about catering, they only think about making money, but if you do not understand the needs of the customers, you can succeed with the restaurant only at the beginning, then it will go into loss.
chef holding plate with food
We already know that risotto is your specialty. Is there any dish you have not brought to absolute perfection yet, so are you still working on it?
Never reach perfection, you can try to redo the pot 100 times and you're never quite satisfied with the result, so, get an inspiration and add or remove an ingredient that makes the dish "bright" and finally you feel satisfied .. .. the feelings I want to convey in my dishes, the paragono to kisses, I want them to be an explosion of emotions on the palate.

You avoid adding salt to your dishes. How do you replace this popular ingredient?

Salt in the kitchen can be the enemy number 1; often people use this ingredient for "salt" and not for "flavor", they are two completely different things; I use a little salt, I try to improve the natural flavor of products with spices and to cook the dish in the right way.
What do you think of Ukrainian cuisine? What can you say about the Italian cuisine? Do you have a favorite Ukrainian dish?
I love Ukrainian cuisine!!!
chef working with his team in kitchen
I think that Ukrainian cuisine is very close to Italian Mediterranean cuisine, we use a lot of vegetables and we make a lot of fresh pasta. My favorite Ukrainian dish is borsch, I eat it at least twice a week.

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How did your experience of collaboration with Dalai Lama influence you? Has anything changed in your vision of the world?

It was certainly the most significant experience of my life; I am an atheist, I have not changed my vision in this regard, I respect all religions, but with him I realize that there is something beyond earthly life; after meeting him, I dedicate a part of my time to the neediest people, we should do it all, it takes very little.

In your opinion, how does globalization influence the gastronomy of the world in general? How do you imagine the food of the future, for example in 20 years?

Catering is a fashion and, as such, changes trends very quickly; television and internet often give a distorted image of the kitchen, sometimes they offer you hallucinatory recipes that put people's health at risk, for example they make you prepare a dessert made of already sweet snacks or recipes with high protein content and carbohydrates that surely make damage to our health, more attention should be given to communication and more awareness.
chef cooking in kitchen
In 20 years I think this wonderful world of catering will be very evolved, there will be more communication in terms of health and people will be much more careful about what they eat.

What are your future plans and professional dreams?

My future is definitely here in Ukraine; I have worked in many countries of the world and I guarantee you that the situation is difficult everywhere, Ukraine is a wonderful country, has a current history and today's young people are the future of this country; there are at least 20 years of growth here, I am sure that in a few years Kyiv will be one of the most important cities in the world, young people do not have to leave this country, the future is here.
My professional dream? Well, I would like to open my business, I have many ideas, I like being with people and doing their culinary desires, but as a good Italian I am passionate and I tell you that the first professional love is never forgotten, Natalia Kelembet is always in my heart, I would love to work with her.
Photos provided by Gianni Tota.

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