He talks rapidly as his mind runs for ideas, but when it comes to wooing, it is all about balance and harmony. Meet Maurizio Raselli, the good looking, cheerful chef de cuisine at La Piazza in New Delhi’s Hyatt Regency.
So, what describes his cooking style? “My style is all about reliving my childhood, helping my grandmother cook. We were a big family living on a farm at Piedmont in the north of Italy. I would run to pick up fresh things from the farm and just hang around with my grandmother. Watching her and playing around with everything in her kitchen, I developed my passion for cooking. The style till date remains the same: simple, fresh, flavourful. No fuss, no messing up, and no overdoing with the ingredients,” Raselli says.
Raselli admits to being slightly crazy as a child. “No one in my family ever dreamt of becoming a chef and there I was dying to be one. At that time they’d scream in wonder, ‘You want to be chef?’ and I would whisper, ‘Yes’, and today I am here with my simple country cooking, never allowing one flavour to dominate another,” he says.
In India for the first time, Raselli can barely contain his excitment. “This country is so fascinating. You need to have several lives to unravel all of it,” he says with a smile. “I draw a lot of my culinary inspirations from the roots of the place I come from and that is how I weave culture, history and food together,” he adds.
One of the highlights of his arrival at Hyatt is his eagerness to introduce some landmark dishes that are unique to his native Piedmont. He has his own coded names for each of his signature dishes. The first one he calls, Pretty Sexy. It is Insalata tiepida di melanzane, prosciutto di Parma, composta di fichi e melograno. For the uninitiated that is warm eggplant salad, Parma ham, figs compote and pomegranate seeds. In his words, “It’s a wow starter. Nice presentation, good for dinner, romantic tables. Essentially a female dish... yes, pretty sexy.”
Then there is his signature risotto which he makes using Carnaroli rice. It is Asparagi e zafferano, arance fresche, ie green asparagus, saffron and orange segment risotto. “Carnaroli is a rice variety from Piedmont, actually the best one to make risotto with,” Raselli says. The chef goes on to throw more light on rice and tells that there are many qualities of rice, and the difference lies in the shape of the grain and the quantity of starch in it. Less starch, good for cold dishes like salads. More starch (extra starch, like Carnaroli) make them perfect for risotto.
A compulsive reader, when the chef is not cooking, he can be found in his comfort zone, reading with a glass of wine.
What is truly remarkable about Raselli is his ability to learn from people around him. He considers himself previleged to have been a student of esteemed chefs like Giorgio Locatelli, Mattia Camorani and Salvatore Di Carlo in London and Scotland. But at the end of the day the real learning comes from, what his teammates and diners tell him.
While his talent is based on true, honest and tasty Italian food, what defines his work philosophy is harmony. Harmony between flavours, his team and the guest. “I am very sensitive to the right vibes around me so creating harmony in my working zone is very very essential for me. It not only brings in happiness but also keeps me grounded,” he adds.
“You create something with your own hands, add a dash of your heart and when you see a satisfied diner relishing it, the feeling goes to your soul,” the chef signs off.