Executive Chef of Garibaldi Italian Restaurant and Bar, Giuliano Berta, chats with The Yum List about his profession.
How did you get into the industry?
I was fascinated by science and arts but I couldn't find what I wanted in those specialized schools. In my family my mother is good at cooking and also my brothers, whom are older than me. They used to spend many afternoons in the kitchen. When I was deciding what to do with my life there were lots of activities going on in our house and kitchen and I could see that you could actually combine art and science at the same time as cooking and mixing beverages.
What do you believe makes a great chef?
Different chefs became famous for different reasons. Some have been great in portraying the trend of the time they where living in, while others created the trend. Being a chef is not always only about cooking. Some of them have been great coaches for the restaurant team. Others did a great job as managers or in selling their own personality.
Prior to Kuala Lumpur, you have worked around the world. Tell us about some of your experiences.
I have been in New Castle, England year 2001 and year 2003 in London. While it is the same country, there were so many differences. New Castle is a commercial city on the north-east of England very close to Scotland. There is an Italian community but it`s still small and not so strong like in London where Italians have been immigrating to since the 19th century. In London, the F&B line is very exciting. You can find ingredients from all over the world and the spending power is high so you have the possibility to offer different commercial ranges. In 2009 I moved to Bali in Indonesia - a beautiful and spiritual island. The challenge there was the approach with the local culture, so calm and peaceful compared to the fast and hyperactive Europeans and especially Italians.
How is Kuala Lumpur alike or different to the rest of the world in terms of expectations of a restaurant and knowledge of Italian food?
Since 2010 until today I am still experiencing KL. There are plenty of influences from so many different cultures, with a good average purchasing power. I believe there is the potential for Malaysia to become a destination for F&B tourism.
Where do you source your ingredients? Are you able to get most things locally or do you need to look to overseas to find them?
Most of the ingredients that we are using come from Italy. Some of them from Europe and Australia. Those countries have a history of Italian Immigration and the raw material is getting closer to the product that you can find in Italy.
How heavily does food weigh in when compared with service and ambience with the success of a restaurant?
I believe there should be a strong synergy between all these factors. I won`t use any number for estimate the proportion because every concept has its own balance.
You must have seen a lot of things in your time in this profession. Any 'nameless' stories you might share with The Yum List?
In most of kitchens there is a sort of childish camaraderie. So the staff are used to making stupid jokes during quieter periods. Before I left London, the staff prepared for three days a mixture of fermented fish trimmings, eggs, yeast, flour and other bits. At the end of my last shift we started a kind of war in the kitchen. All the staff gathered around and started throwing that disgusting mixture on me. We spent more than an hour to clean the kitchen from that mess. It sounds weird but in the end, with the proper spirit of cleaning, the entire situation was funny and unforgettable.
What are five ingredients that you must have in your kitchen at all times?
Tomato, parmesan, basil, flour and olive oil at least I can make a pasta :)
When you're at home, what do you eat?
It depends on my mood, but if I have to cook, I`ll do something nice but easy to clean with only three pots.
Chef Giuliano is the Executive Chef at Garibaldi Italian Restaurant and Bar in Bangsar Village. You can see some of his scrumptious recipes via these links: