How I Got Here: Aldo Zilli

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Aldo Zilli chef interview
The Italian-born chef has opened a string of London restaurants, written over 10 cookbooks and appeared on numerous television programmes.

Why restaurants?
I think it is the ambition of every chef to own their own restaurant and I wanted it badly! I just love to host and entertain people and I love food and cooking so it felt that it was the natural thing to do.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
That to be successful, you not only need to be a good cook, but you need to be good at business too, or at least have a trusted partner that is.

What do you do in your spare time?
Away from the kitchen I like to spend time with my family.  I’m lucky enough to have a bit of land which I find myself spending more and more time in, whether it’s cultivating my vegetables, playing football with my son or doing some outdoor cooking on our fire pit, I really enjoy being outdoors when I can.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
I’d have to say Caprice restaurants as Richard Caring bought my restaurant from me!

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
I wanted to be an actor when I was young, but couldn’t afford to go to drama school

What motivates you?
My kids and my wife. They are all younger than me so that keeps me motivated and young at heart!

Where was your last holiday?
It was a working holiday in Shanghai

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Definitely Carlo Distefano

What keeps you up at night?
Caffeine

Worst business decision?
Opening an all-night pizza restaurant with an associate 25 years ago. We had queues all-round the block but I couldn’t be there 24 hours a day to keep an eye on things.

Best business decision?
Opening Zilli Fish

What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve got a couple of autobiographies on the go

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
The one piece of advice I would give is be prepared to work hard, only a very small percentage of chefs go on to have the glory and fame, the reality is that you need to graft hard in the kitchen.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
A change to the tax and VAT

CV

Born Teramo in Abruzzo, Italy in 1956

Studied at Pescara Catering College

1976 - Moved to England 

1988  - Opened his first restaurant, Signor Zilli. Zilli Green, Zilli Cafe, Zilli Fish and Zilli Bar followed 

2009 - Sets world record for the most times a pancake has been flipped in a minute (117).

2015-16 - Consultancy with Italian chain Firezza

2014 - present - Consultant chef at San Carlo group 

Related topics: People

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