Chef Alessio Biangini

Chef Alessio Biangini

Italian. To. The. Bone. From motherland to London to Los Angeles to Barcelona, Chef Alessio Biangini lives, breathes, eats and creates Italy’s best on a daily basis. As the current Executive Chef of the famed Cecconi’s Barcelona, he opened three other locations of the brand world wide before landing in Spain summer of 2016. With more multinational destinations on the horizon, we had the pleasure of sitting down with this talented chef to get the inside scoop on how he makes sure he gets nothing but the absolute best in local products and how he succeeds in keeping his kitchen authentic while cooking outside of his native country.


You have set up Cecconi’s kitchens all over the world, do you have a favorite place so far?

“I opened four Cecconi’s around the world and I have worked for five. It’s been ten years now that I’ve been working for the company and they’ve given me a lot of opportunities, I’ve been very lucky. I started in 2007 in London, which at the time was the only Cecconi’s in the world. It was a prime location in Mayfair and a big name in London, the time of the explosion of the Soho House brand really. So, I started in London, worked all of the stations there and ended up as a junior sous chef. After that I became candidate to open the second Cecconi’s location in the world in Los Angeles, as the sous chef, and I did. I spent six years in LA and worked my way up to executive chef after two. It was a busy spot, high volume, high quality and always full of celebrities. In 2015 I decided to move back to Europe to open the restaurant in Istanbul. This was my first opening as the executive chef. Beautiful place, the restaurant is located in a historical building, with a big garden. Just beautiful. I spent a year there, then moved to Berlin to open up shop there. The house in Berlin had already been there for five years when we opened the restaurant and it’s small but cozy, and packed all day. I trained the chef – a friend of mine – and left there to come here to Barcelona where I still am today. My favorite places have been LA and Barcelona so far. They both have amazing weather and amazing lifestyles. I like being in the city where there is a vibrant city life, next to the ocean and the mountains. I like a good quality of life, you know?”

Where did the Mrs. pop into the picture?
“We met in London right before I was about to set sail to the US. She was working as the pastry chef in the same restaurant I was working at and we were doing a lot of events and pop-ups together. The film festival in Cannes, Art Basel in Miami, the Oscars in LA, all before the restaurant actually opened in some of these places. When it was time for me to move to our new location in West Hollywood I asked her to come with as the pastry chef and she did, she came along for the job and we spent six years in LA together. We got married and had two little girls in the process, they’re four and six years old now. Both were born in the US, so they are American and Italian.”

You worked together for six years? How did that go?
“Really well, for the first four years … Then the kids came and it became a little bit more difficult. Things got a little more sensitive, so to say [laughs]. After our second daughter was born we decided it was best if my wife would stay home with the girls. Being far away from home and having no family around made things that much more difficult, so, it worked out much better for everyone this way.”

Born and Raised in?
“I was born and raised in Macerata, Italy. I lived there until I was nineteen and moved to London.”

What do mother and father do?
“My mother works in an electronics shop and my father is an engineer.”

Soooo, where did the chef thing come from?
“I don’t know, I think I was just always really passionate about food. About good food and the good products that grow in Italy. Both my grandmothers were excellent cooks and I remember going to their houses for Sunday lunch and really enjoying it. One of my grandmother’s is from Abruzzo, she has a big orchard with a hundred and twenty three olive trees, she produces her own olive oil and her own wine. Two of my uncles are butchers there too, they cure their own meats, make their own sausages and porchetta. We would all come together on the weekends and my grandmother would make fresh gnocchi for, like, twenty five people. My uncles would be grilling sausages outside and we’d all just eat and drink in the backyard together. In summer everyone always helped picking tomatoes from the field and conserving them for the year. It was like a chain of family members: my aunts would pick the tomatoes, my uncles would press the tomatoes, my other aunts were bottling the sauces and my grandfather was boiling the bottles to conserve them. Everybody was doing something, the entire family. There was just always something going on involving food. In summer it was conserving tomatoes, in September making wine and in November making olive oil. All my cousins and everyone else would always be there to help and I remember so well eating homemade bread straight out of my grandmother’s wood oven with super fresh tomatoes and homemade olive oil. The smell of fresh meats on the grill from my uncles. Fresh eggs from my grandmother’s chickens with which she would make amazing zabaglione for breakfast… Yeah, it wasn’t difficult to figure out I really enjoyed that.”

Off to culinary school then!
“Off to culinary school. Which in Italy you go to from age fourteen to nineteen. It’s high school, so you do have your math and history classes but you’re also learning a real trade at the same time. After the second year you decide what you want to specialize in and I chose the kitchen, becoming a chef.”

What was your first job?
“I started my first job when I was fourteen, really young. I went to school during the week and worked weekends and summers in one of the most famous restaurants in my hometown, restaurant Da Secondo. The executive chef there studied with Gualtiero Marchesi in Milan and is really passionate about the craft, I learned so much from her. Da Secondo is a family owned restaurant with mother doing all the prep work in the downstairs kitchen – making all the sauces, cleaning all the fresh fish, making the Olives Ascolana, all these amazing things – the daughter, Chef Orietta Foresi, is cooking in the main kitchen upstairs, and the son mans the front of the house. It is a very traditional, classic Italian style restaurant and I really enjoyed working there. Especially during the Macerata Opera Festival in summers, when all the famous singers would come in to dine.”

What was the first thing they allowed you to do in the kitchen?
“Wash the dishes and cut the bread [laughs]. After my first summer I already moved up through the ranks though. Starting with the cold appetizers, then the hot appetizers, then the fresh pasta. I stayed with them until I graduated and then I went off to London where my first job was in a small pizzeria, believe it or not. After getting more familiar with the industry I moved myself to the Mayfair area and first worked at Franco’s with Chef Paolo Parlanti for about a year before finding it time for the next step and the opportunity to live somewhere else again. I knew Cecconi’s was hiring and looking to expand outside of London – they were opening Shoreditch House at the time – so, I applied for a job, got hired and the rest is history.”

It’s always been Italian food?
“Always been Italian food.”

What has been the biggest butchery of your country’s food you’ve ever witnessed?
“Well, in the US you see many interesting things … Let’s just say I’d like to meet Mr. Alfredo some day, or whoever invented Alfredo. I have a few questions for him. I just don’t understand, and people are still asking for it!”

You throw them out?
“[Laughing] No, I would never do that. But I do try to educate guests who ask for it. We will always try to find another solution for them, but we will never stray from serving Italian food the way it’s supposed to.”

What do you miss most about Italy?
“Here? Nothing. Living in Spain you don’t miss too much to be quite honest. There is a huge Italian community here, the climate is very similar, the ingredients and mentality are almost the same and I’ve met some really great people here. For example, my olive oil producer is Sicilian and lives just about an hour outside of Barcelona, he actually makes his oil from Sicilian trees that he’s growing in Spain. It’s amazing.”

How does being a chef effect home life?
“Well, you can imagine doing this job you’re not really home a lot. But I try to make the time I do spend with my wife and kids quality time. When we can I take them camping for a couple of days near Tarragona, or we got to beach at the Costa Brava or into the mountains to do some snowboarding. I love spending time in nature on my days off, do some walking and some sports, but I also love visiting my vendors at their farms. Next week I’m taking my kids to our organic vegetable producer who lives next to Tarragona. He grows all our beautiful vegetables there and I even brought him seeds from Italy that he’s growing exclusively for Cecconi’s. Puntarelle, special lettuces from Northern Italy, agretti, things we would otherwise not be able to find here. This guy is really passionate and we get along really well. I love visiting his house in the country and eat, drink and grill some good food together with our families.”

Do the kids eat everything?
“I’m trying. The oldest one is a little more particular than the youngest, but they both know what’s good. The older one is more meat oriented at the moment and loves anything Iberico, the younger one likes more seafood, prawns especially.”

What is your favorite thing to make?
“I love cooking pasta. Any kind – and there are many different kinds. You can do so much with homemade, fresh pasta. You can play with the sauces, the shapes of pasta, the filling, the colors. I love finding fresh ingredients at the market and putting my own spin on them. At the restaurant we make an amazing – famous –  spaghetti with lobster that’s just delicious. And we’re now playing around with fresh cavatelli with black ink and a seafood ragout. Really nice. You can really get the best ingredients here, people are so passionate about producing quality products, its truly amazing. It’s why I love working with them.”

With so much access to beautiful, fresh food, is there even a guilty pleasure?
“Desserts. I can never say no to dessert. When we have our Sunday brunches at the restaurant and I see our pastry chef creating all this goodness for the dessert table … I just cannot control myself. Definitely not when there are profiteroles around. Those are my absolute favorite ever since I was little. Classics, really well made, those are always the best.”

What advice would you give a starting chef?
“Work hard, do everything the chef says and give one hundred percent of yourself in the first year, because after your first year you will know if you like the job or not. But also know that you need to build character, you have to make mistakes in order to grow and you have to always keep your eyes open to the people around you. It’s so important to understand that everyone has different qualities and you have to truly appreciate the potential of everyone around you, because only when you understand each other’s strength’s is when you can build a really good team and building a good team is incredibly important. It’s the team around you that is going to bring you your success.”

Do you think you’ll want to open your own place someday?
“It was always a dream, but nowadays I don’t think it’s that easy. You need a good investor, especially in the big cities where competition is so strong. You need a good partner and you need good marketing, it’s not an easy thing to do. Right now, I am very happy where I am and the company I’m working for gives me a lot of opportunity. I’m not stagnant, I’m moving around and I still have a lot more growing to do, more places to go. This summer we’re opening Cecconi’s in Amsterdam for example and there’s more to come after that, more responsibilities to be gathered and more fun to be had. I mean, it’s a fun job I have. I’m making beautiful food and I’m traveling all over Europe to work with some amazing people while I’m at it. I can’t complain, I’m really happy right now.”

Try one of Chef Alessio Biangini’s favorite pasta’s to make! The recipe for the famous, classic Spaghetti Lobster can be found right below. And to see some of Alessio’s delicacies we had the pleasure of indulging in while chatting with this amazing chef, make sure to check out the March highlights on our Instagram feed!


SPAGHETTI LOBSTER

Italian. To. The. Bone. From motherland to London to Los Angeles to Barcelona, Chef Alessio Biangini lives, breathes, eats and creates Italy's best on a daily basis. As the current Executive Chef...
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat

Ingredients

  • 2 live Maine lobsters
  • 1 Fresno chilli (or sweet chili if unavailable), finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 300g heirloom cherry tomatoes, quartered.
  • 30ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 ml lobster bisque
  • 100ml tomato sauce
  • 350g spaghetti
  • 16 basil leaves
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

For the bisque:
  • Heads and shells from the lobsters
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced into 2cm pieces
  • 1 stick celery, diced into 2cm pieces
  • 2 carrots, diced into 2cm pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp cognac
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • Generous pinch saffron threads
  • Court bouillon from poaching the lobsters

Instructions

Stun the lobsters to unconsciousness by placing them in the freezer for 30 minutes. When they are unresponsive, remove and place them on a board. Using a metal skewer, push the point down firmly and quickly through the cross marks on the centre of the lobsters’ backs, where the head and the body meet. Wash and break down the lobsters: separate the heads from the claws and tails, reserving the heads for the bisque. Poach the lobster meat in enough court-bouillon (water, with a little salt and lemon juice: for every 4.5 liters you need juice from a quarter of lemon and 0.25 oz salt) to cover, and simmer for 6 minutes. Strain, reserving the poaching liquid. Carefully remove the meat from the shells, keeping the claw meat as intact as possible and reserve. Discard the thread-like intestines.

To make the bisque, preheat the oven to 200C/390F. Place the shells and the heads on a tray with some olive oil and roast for about 15-20 minutes until they turn golden brown on the inside and nice and red on the outside. Meanwhile, sauté the diced onion, celery and carrots in the extra virgin olive oil for 6 minutes. Next, add the garlic and the roasted shells and heads and cook for two minutes, then add the cognac, let it bubble for a couple of minutes and add the tomato paste. Finally, add the saffron to the pan and immediately cover the contents with the court-bouillon the lobster meat was poached in, and top up with a little water, as necessary. Simmer for one hour, allowing the bisque to reduce. Strain the contents of the pan through a fine sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to get out all the flavor. Set aside. (Any leftovers can be frozen).

Sauté the chilli, garlic and cherry tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil. Add the lobster meat to the pan. Sauté briefly, then add 200ml of the strained bisque. Adjust the thickness of the bisque with tomato sauce as needed. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Meanwhile in heavily salted, boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Add the spaghetti to the lobster pan and cook for one minute longer. Add the basil to the lobster sauce and toss to emulsify. The sauce should coat the spaghetti nicely; add a little more extra virgin olive oil if necessary. Using tongs, plate up the spaghetti first, then top with the remaining sauce, making sure to place the claw meat on top.

Buon Appetito!
Chef Alessio Biangini 

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