Chef Francesco Mazzei is one of the most authentic Italian chefs precursors and has worked in restaurants all over the world. His Southern-Italian heritage can be seen and sampled in in his unique cooking style, which in his own words is “Mamma’s cooking with a chef’s hands”. Read how his story unfolds..

Ciao Francesco, thanks so much for your time today. Tell us about you, what were you like growing up, and what would your family and friends have described you?
A laid-back hands-on South Italian – I was born with a passion for cooking. I’m so lucky to have been born in the most beautiful place in the world, Calabria.

What took you to London and when did you figure out to set your roots here?
Working for the Ciga Hotel in Rome. It’s simple my English wasn’t good enough so they sent me over to the UK for a year to improve my language skills. Then I worked at the Dorchester and that was the turning point in my career, also the best experience of my life as a young chef.

Pennoni N’duja e Burrata at Radici

Speaking of “roots” – your latest venture, Radici has recently seen you running a series of supper clubs with Nina Parker – how did the idea of cooking with Nina come about?
Radici, as you have just mentioned is all about roots. Passing traditions and passion in the kitchen from one to another, like my Mama did. This is what I am with Nina, she was a chef in my kitchen back at L’Anima, this was one of the first jobs in her career and we are reliving those days!

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
It’s about giving the right attitude, keeping your head down and working hard – with this you will have an amazing future.

Where would you take your out-of-town guests for a memorable meal (anywhere in the world).
My mother’s house in the Calabrian mountains (Pollino Montains) – this is where you can have purest South Italian cooking out there.

Where did you get the inspiration for your first cookbook, “Mezzogiorno”?
My book, ‘Mezzogiorno’ is all about Southern Italy, my mother’s cooking, family, heritage. It’s an homage to where I come from.

Describe your favourite culinary journey – from starter to dessert.
Starter : Crudo di pesce from Puglian coast
Pasta : Mama’s Fileja with three meat ragu.
Spit Roast Chicken at Radici
Marsala Zabaione at Sartoria

What are you most excited about right now in the food scene?Every time the season changes, when fresh produces comes around and generally when new food elements are introduced. I am also determined to continue with my passion for spreading the word about food waste and ensuring this is eliminated as much as possible.

Fill in the blank: if I’d weren’t a chef I’d be….
If you read my book you’ll realise I never wanted to be a chef, the good thing was that it was all about being in the right place at the right time with the right people. And I feel very fortunate for that.

Thanks for chatting to me today Francesco. One more question before you go: what does the future hold for you as a chef and entrepreneur?
So many things in the pipeline. I’m a family man – my main focus is my family. That also includes Fiume, Sartoria and Radici.

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