Making Italian food abroad? It’s just a matter of passion

Dario Abbate is chef at the Mandarin Oriental in Bodrum, Turkey: we must preserve our roots, while opening ourselves to the world

15-08-2019
Dario Abbate, executive chef at the Mandarin Orie

Dario Abbate, executive chef at the Mandarin Oriental in Bodrum. He’s the one sitting, surrounded by his staff

Dario Abbate is one of those Italian chefs who keeps the Italian flag of our cuisine flying abroad. He’s the executive chef of all the seven restaurants (plus the chef on boatand private party in villa catering service) inside the Mandarin Oriental in Bodrum, Turkey; including L'Assaggio, an Italian restaurant that won the "Best Italian Restaurant in Turkey", "Best seafood restaurant in Turkey " and "Best Mediterranean restaurant in Europe" awards. He sent us these thoughts of his, on the role of a professional like himself, who works in a foreign country, and on the relationship with his origins.

How many times has someone said to me: "Did you go abroad because you no longer liked living in Italy? Of course, abroad there are different work conditions, everything is easy, not like here!». Actually, that’s not true: I loved Italy, my latest experience was in a marvellous castle in Tuscany, transformed into a 5-star resort in the heart of Val d'Orcia, Castello di Velona. Yet I felt something was still missing, that my research was not over.

Restaurant L'Assaggio inside the Mandarin Oriental in Bodrum

Restaurant L'Assaggio inside the Mandarin Oriental in Bodrum

This is what I think: a chef must be in constant evolution. You must know and love your roots, your traditions, but only to take flight and let yourself be enriched, be "contaminated" [in Italian this has a positive meaning], by everything that a new place has to offer: aromas, flavours, sensations.

This is why I first flew to Dubai, where I spent two years as executive chef for the Rezidor group; a fantastic place, where every day you can try out a new restaurant; a vibrating, constantly evolving city, even culinary speaking.

Dario Abbate

Dario Abbate

And then came a new adventure, which is continuing to this day: Turkey, with the Mandarin Oriental. That is to say a new culture, a new language, a new cuisine. Everything is so different and yet so similar to my beloved Sicily.

I walk the streets of Bodrum – a fishermen’s town with white houses and the sea so blue it leaves you breathless. It’s becoming a new luxury tourism destination – and I feel at home: the aromas, the spices, the olive trees, the bright colours of the citrus fruits.

Lunch at L'Assaggio

Lunch at L'Assaggio

One of Abbate’s dishes: Roasted octopus, salted lemon marmalade, olives and potatoes

One of Abbate’s dishes: Roasted octopus, salted lemon marmalade, olives and potatoes

I know I’m very lucky, that Italian chefs abroad are lucky: we’re respected for our culinary tradition, admired for the natural approach with which, thanks to the simple ingredients nature has to offer, we can make marvels; and we’re also positively "envied" because "French chefs have technique, Spanish chefs have creativity, and Italian ones have passion".

Is it always easy? Not at all: your dear ones are far, the language is difficult, the mentality is different, your old friends are not here, and you must find some new friends among colleagues. However, this way, you become a family for one another.

Another picture of Abbate’s restaurant

Another picture of Abbate’s restaurant

Our Italy, so often criticised and denied when we’re far away, is still the final destination where to return. Because that’s where it all began, because it’s only thanks to Italy that we’ve arrived so far, and thanks to the masters who came before us, thanks to the high-quality products that Italy has to offer, thanks to the tradition passed on from our mothers. All these elements have turned us into chefs, many years ago, when chefs were still called cooks.

We should never forget this.                                        

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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