Alexandre Mazzia won the American Express One To Watch 2022 award with his restaurant in Marseille, according to the 50Best. Photo by Matthieu Cellard
«I was a red-haired kid on the beach in Pointe Noire, in the Congo, collecting handfuls of sand in which the countless grains were slipping from my fingers». That beautiful and largely untouched part of African beach is called Côte Sauvage, that is to say “Wild Coast”, in the department of Kouilou, a 108 hour walk (or better a 9-hour drive) from the capital, Kinshasa. It’s far away from everything, at least in our thoughts: a remote paradise. But let’s continue the story: «When the local fishermen moored with their pirogues, I remember they landed with all they had just caught. They would set some improvised barbeques right there and then», in this low and thin slip of land between ocean and forest. The aromas of the fish roasting would spread: sardines, tuna, seabass, prawns and many other species; it was a natural smoking, plus you could taste some spices used for seasoning, including for sure some hot chilli peppers…
Africa was both a life imprinting and an education to taste for this red-haired young man, who spent his first 14 years in the Congo. His family, however, was French, though his great grandfather, Roberto Mazzia – a small artisan who produced pipes – came from Torino and moved to the French Jura when he was still young.
Restaurant AM par Alexandre Mazzia, in Marseille. Located in a calm road near the beaches of Prado, it’s inside a small house with cement walls, wood floors and counters made with centennial oak wood. The name itself plays with the French word for soul, âme, as well as the initials of Alexandre. For him, welcoming guests in his home is giving them a view of his soul. Photo by Matthieu Cellard
Mazzia with Alexander Lee, who gave to his Am the American Express One To Watch 2022 award from the 50Best 2022
And cooking? Apparently, as a teenager, his parents took him to one of Joël Robuchon’s restaurants in Paris. Was that when he fell in love? Indeed, together with his basketball career, Alexandre also studied to become a cook. Over the years, he acquired experience with some big names: Pierre Hermé, Martín Berasategui, Michel Bras, Alain Passard... And most of all with Santi Santamaria, in Spain, the great enemy of Ferran Adrià «but an extraordinary person – Mazzia now recalls. – He thought highly of me. I worked a lot, he encouraged me. His lessons were very important. It was the beginning of my approach to food».
Alexandre Mazzia. Photo by Matthieu Cellard
Alexandre Mazzia is now the result of all this, the son of a diversity. His creative cuisine is «disrespectful of codes», totally personal, devoid of stereotypes, difficult even to illustrate, and impossible to classify. It’s totally personal, original, authentic.
Sometimes he enjoys guiding it into a fertile trinomen: spices, smoke and chilli pepper. He says: «When I taste something, I always want more spices, more smoke, more heat. Then I think and wonder why. The answer is simple: I remember who I am, where I was born, where I lived, what I’ve experienced. I remember the barbecues on the beach in Pointe Noire and my granddad who was a fisherman. And then I feel reassured: I think it’s good to offer what I feel is me, I don’t want to work for something that is not my life. I’m not looking for shortcuts. If anything, I make my experiences, my travels available».
Razor shells with pork jus and beetroot, Satay green sauce, veils of mullet and mussels with passion fruit, leaves of caper with a vinaigrette of burnt heads of mullet, tapioca and plankton
A dessert of Mazzia. This is what he says: «Desserts... nostalgic interpretations of my childhood in Pointe Noire. My banana crushed on a piece of bread with sweet peanuts, which I would eat under a palm tree, facing the Côte Sauvage, has acquired a new dimension. Like the mango you taste each morning, or this papaya quickly cooked on the barbecue»
The dishes are virtuosos of complex harmonies: Smoked eel with chocolate, perhaps his signature dish; Scampi covered in manioca with egg yolk confit and mirin; Satay of burnt mackerel, tapioca, sorbet of wasabi, Rouge Métis; Marinated egg yolk, parsnip with lemon, combawa, corn granita, tarragon… A flood of complex flavours.
AM par Alexandre Mazzia
9 Rue François Rocca - Marseille - France
tel. +33 4 91 248363
Open for lunch and in the evening, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Tasting menu from 245 to 335 euros for lunch, from 335 to 395 euros for dinner
Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose
journalist born in 1974, for many years he has covered politics, mostly, and food in his free time. Today he does exactly the opposite and this makes him very happy. As soon as he can, he dives into travels and good food. Identità Golose's editor in chief
Happy faces yesterday in Valencia: scientist Malena Martinez and cooks Pia Leon and Virgilio Martinez, the 3 pillars of Central, now at the top of the World's 50Best 2023
The Camanini brothers, Giancarlo and Riccardo. Their Lido 84 in Gardone Riviera (Brescia) won the 8th place in the 50 Best. Photo Settimio Benedusi
Mattia Spedicato, from Lecce, and Giulia Caffiero, from Cagliari, respectively restaurant manager and floor manager at Geranium, in Copenhagen, the new Best restaurant in the world according to the World's 50 Best (photos from Gabriele Zanatta)