My cooking principle is to create something simple. I call it MOF MOF – minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour.
It takes me one or two years to write a book. I hate computers. I write longhand and do all the research myself. It’s my material. I didn’t reinvent water, but I don’t copy other recipes either.
I like every ethnic cuisine that is true to the origin and cultural aspect. I like Chinese food, and dim sum for lunch.
Many restaurateurs make combinations of tastes and flavours that do not go together just for the sake of writing it down on paper. The cuisine of fusion is done by people with no imagination.
I am not fond of mock-up Italian food. The River Café serves good food, but it is not Italian. I wouldn’t know who does 100 per cent Italian food in London.
The ideas of Carluccio’s was very simple. It reflects what I expect from a restaurant. It serves good food with good service at good prices. Many people are trying to copy the Carluccio’s philosophy.
My name is still there at Carluccio’s. I have a particular interest in the business. I check the food. It’s good for people to know that I’m there.
To be a successful restaurateur you have to know the habits of people and make them happy, but without being servile.
I am proud of my restaurants and that many chefs who worked there have started their own businesses. I have kept maintaining my quality and not just gone down the commercial route. I am proud that all of that didn’t go to my head. I am also proud that I have enthused a lot of people to cook Italian food.
In general I am not fond of chefs with big names.
I like to create things and use my brain in various departments. Food is the biggest department but I also like carvings, sculpting and painting.
When I came here in 1975 the little trattorias were offering spaghetti Bolognese, caramelised oranges, chicken supreme and prawn cocktail and avocados. It has changed a lot since then.
I like all food, providing it is good quality. The only thing I don’t like is putrefied shark. It is the most revolting thing I have ever tried.
My favourite dishes are simple. Maybe a spaghetti with tomato and basil or a risotto with truffles. The simpler the better.
My guru was Pellegrino Artusi who wrote a book in the direction that I see food. I also like Raymond Blanc – he’s a self taught man and I know he loves simple cooking.
The only criticism I have of Gordon Ramsay is that he is not humble enough. I am a cook, not a chef. A cook loves food; a chef learns a trade. A cook cooks for love and for passion. If you ask a chef whether they cook at home, they say “no”.
I am incorrigible.
Last year was my annus horribilis. When my Neal Street restaurant closed in 2006 it made me depressed. But I am now very happy.