Italian chef Antonio Carluccio, 76, is known as the godfather of Italian gastronomy, with a career stretching back more than 50 years. His Carluccio’s chain was sold to the Dubai-based Landmark Group in 2010 and has more than 70 outlets around the world
I come to Dubai two or three times a year. It is a remarkable city and I am always impressed by what human beings can do when they have the means.
In Dubai there is a good variety of restaurants. I often find that people outside Italy are sometimes more Italian than the people in my country; they see me as presenting a real taste of home.
My biggest inspiration was my mother. I received my food education from her. From the age of six, I was always watching and listening. She would produce one speciality after another, but would be very modest and say, “Today, it didn’t work”, yet it would be fantastic.
I did not have a formal education in food. I was a student in Vienna and cooked through necessity. I wanted to have my mother’s food. As a student, I could not afford any restaurants. I experimented on my friends, who were very patient and gave me the incentive to make it better.
After 50 years of cooking, I believe I have made a difference. I adopted a system of cooking real Italian food and created a motto for my type of cuisine, which is “mof mof” – minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour.
Every region in Italy has its own food that is totally different. I was born in the south but moved north when I was seven months old to Piedmont, the region where truffles grow. We would go mushroom picking on Sundays, which was fantastic.
When you love food and you are passionate about it, you put a little more effort into it. I saw that food was a wonderful form of communication. Everybody has to eat.
Communication is my passion. I would have liked to have been an anthropologist. I learned five languages for that reason – Italian, English, German, Spanish and French – so I could communicate with anyone. You can relate to even more people through food.
My advice is to live life as fully as possible. Enjoy everything it has to offer. Be content and happy and from time to time, do a stock-taking check. If you are not happy, replace what is missing or change something. I am still a consultant for Carluccio’s, which now has 72 restaurants and is expanding to Turkey.
I am watching to see which direction it takes. I hope it does not fall into the trap of producing a lot of food and having hundreds of branches. So far, so good.
The philosophy of Carluccio’s was to have a restaurant with very good, simple food and a nice ambience that was not over the top. The Landmark Group bought the entire lot three years ago and is continuing our philosophy. It was a nice Christmas present when it was bought.
If I had to pick my favourite dish it would be spaghettini with fresh tomato sauce and basil. It is very simple, but the combination of those three ingredients is unbelievable. There are 600 shapes of pasta to choose from, and each one is accompanied by different sauces.
I am not a businessman, I am a creator. I like money, but I do not worship it like a god. I believe in only having enough to live well.