Luigi Ferraro, chef from Calabria at the Four Seasons in Doha, tells his story

After a long lockdown, the famous resort re-opens in Qatar. An Italian is overseeing its 10 restaurants

20-07-2020
Luigi Ferraro, since January 2020 executive sous c

Luigi Ferraro, since January 2020 executive sous chef at the Four Seasons Hotel di Doha

I was born in Calabria in 1979 and it’s been 25 years since my first day in the kitchen. I remember clearly when I helped my mother prepare lunch. In 1996 I enrolled in Castrovillari’s catering school and then acquired some experience in Calabria, Tuscany, and Sardinia. In my first brigade, at the Sybaris Hotel, on the Ionian Coast, I had two great teachers: Fabrizio Gaviano and Vittorio Accardo. Working with them was unforgettable.

While still a kid I left for my first international experience, at the Coral Bay Hotel in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. I had no experience and no language skills but I wanted to test myself and I knew I had to make it in one way or the other. I realised I loved exploring the world through different, curious eyes and with an open mind. So I acquired experience in a long series of restaurants and luxury hotels in Stuttgart, London, Paris, George Town, Bangkok, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, New York, Delhi, Bangalore, Mauritius, Muscat, Bahrain and now Doha.

IN DOHA. I’m now the executive sous chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha, Qatar. With executive chef Ahmad Sleiman – originally from Lebanon but raised in America and with an almost 30-year-long international experience in the Four Seasons family – we look after 10 restaurants and the banquet hall. The kitchen brigade is made of 105 cooks, from all around the world, and in the various restaurants you can taste Arab, Italian, French, Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Indian dishes. I’m the only Italian in the kitchen, and then there’s a woman working in the front office and a waiter. Italians are much appreciated and respected by the entire staff, as well as by the people of Qatar and by Arabs. I’m proud of this because perhaps we’re a country with many internal problems, but abroad people have a good opinion of us.

The Four Seasons Hotel in Doha

The Four Seasons Hotel in Doha

Elements Restaurant

Elements Restaurant

The Study Bar

The Study Bar

Every day in the kitchen is different, stimulating, interesting. You never get bored but at the same time it’s a complicated job, and it requires lots of attention and responsibility. I must be capable of managing multiple fields: administration and all that goes with food & beverage; contacts with clients; supervising all the kitchens, knowing all the dishes in the menus of the different outlets, as well as the cooking procedures; coordinating the tasks of the different cooks, so as to get the most from their work, but without wearing them out or stressing them; managing purchases while respecting the budget; guaranteeing that clients always get the highest quality; reducing waste to a minimum and much, much more.

THE DISHES. I like to offer a simple and creative cuisine. On top of taste and pairings, I like to take care of the aesthetics. I have some signature dishes, adapted based on where I live, to satisfy the needs of local and non-local clients. To me cooking is a journey that puts together intense memories, flavours, aromas, that take me back to moments I’ve experienced, naturally and spontaneously. Over the years I’ve learnt to really understand the different types of guests, thanks to the various countries where I’ve lived, and this is a quality my clients particularly appreciate. I like being available and friendly.


Scallops, saffron, potatoes and black olives 

Scallops, saffron, potatoes and black olives 

Ravioli, peas, balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano

Ravioli, peas, balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano

Risotto, saffron, lamb and asparagus 

Risotto, saffron, lamb and asparagus 

Ferraro also wrote a book, with photos by Riccardo Marcialis

Ferraro also wrote a book, with photos by Riccardo Marcialis

THE LOCKDOWN. I arrived in Doha in January, to work at the re-opening of the hotel, expected in March 2020, since the resort had been close to renovate the rooms and the restaurants. But then we had to cancel everything because of the pandemic and a very long lockdown started. Here in Qatar everything is still closed, but luckily on the 1st July the doors of the Four Season Hotel re-opened. They blocked inbound flights, shops, restaurants, schools, beaches and parks. But it was not like everyone had to stay at home: people could still go out, do some physical activity... In general people here follow the rules and do all they need. Restaurants received the immediate support of the government: after the second week they started sending financial support and this for three months since the beginning of the lockdown. This was the action of a present state, which looks after its people and its economy. Luckily, since the 1st of July the Four Seasonsre-opened its doors.

THE FUTURE. At the moment, I don’t think I will go back to Italy. I’m doing great abroad because I can work in places where meritocracy rules. I’m lucky because my wife supports me and has been following me for years and we want to give our children a future and an international education. To my young colleagues I’d say there’s always something to learn: this profession requires time, patience, sacrifices, passion and strong organisational skills. And you need to be ready to work hard: the work in the kitchen is hectic, you have to stand for many hours; most of the time you’re exposed temperature changes, vapour, smoke, smells, cuts, and burns... My advice is to always stay humble. It’s crucial.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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