Chef Marco Murenu, Italian Chef de Cuisine at Prego, brings an exclusive gourmet experience from the island of Sardinia, which also happens to be his hometown. During the 10-day celebration of the Flavours of Sardinia, the menu at Prego, The Westin Gurgaon features recipes that are integral to the home kitchens of this exotic island. Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily. Sardinian food is simple, fresh and scrumptious as it uses a lot of organic ingredients. Sardinia is also famous for its Pecorino cheese.
Speaking to Restaurant India, Chef Marco Murenu, Italian Chef de Cuisine at Prego, The Westin Gurgaon, tells how he makes sure that Sardinian food caters to the Indian palate.
Growing up in a farm to becoming Chef De Cuisine - The Journey
My passion for food developed while growing up on a farm in Italy. I grew up eating farm-to-table meals with my large family and that helped shape my opinion on food. My father was a chef himself and an agriculturalist and taught us many lessons. My culinary journey so far is unlike any other five-star hotel chef. I grew up on a farm in a family of chefs and agriculturalists, so a passion for food was naturally in my blood. I worked on the farm with the rest of my family and waited tables at some local restaurants. Once I was an adult I moved to London and started working in kitchens and restaurants. I started as a Pasta Chef and over time graduated to Chef De Partie at Metropolitan by Como Luxury Hotels in Mayfair and later joined Emporio Armani Hotel and Crown Aspinalls Club in the capacity of a Sous Chef. My most recent stint was with Marriott Hotel International Amman, Jordan as Chef De Cuisine.
Food Has The Magic To Create Memories!
Very early in my career, I learnt two things. Firstly, work with fresh produce. A simple dish gets a flavourful facelift when you have fresh ingredients. Secondly, Cook with passion. Food has the magic to create memories. People often regard good food as a part of the celebration. So cook with passion, you never know what you may end up creating.
Ingredients to being a successful chef
Like I said fresh produce is key. Also, it's important for chefs to keep evolving and innovating. Also, I think it's extremely important to connect with guests, interact with them, discuss and respect their food choices. You can learn a lot through just conversation especially in a foreign land. Always have an open mind towards reviews and recommendations. Being a successful chef requires listening to both positive and negative feedback and inviting feedback and considering the results will only guide you forward as a chef and one will continue to grow by taking into account what guests have to say about your creations.
Passion is the salt of your culinary career. You are on the right track if the smell of fresh cut vegetables and the sound of tossing spices into fire excite you. But being a good Chef goes beyond being a good cook. A good Chef has to learn the art of leading an entire team of cooks towards his idea of a good recipe.
About Sardinian Food
Sardinian food is extremely close to me. I have grown up eating it and love sharing it with people wherever I go. Since Sardinia is along the Italian peninsula, seafood is the core ingredient. Some of the delightful items on the menu that will tantalize the taste buds are Carpaccio di salmone alla giardiniera (marinated salmon with giardiniera salad in a light mandarin dressing); Fregola di gamberi (Sardinian couscous with prawns in a bisque), Gnocchetti Sardi alla campidanese a dish comprising little "Sardinian gnocchi', typical pasta from Sardinia in tomato sauce with pork and pecorino cheese; Risotto asparagi e porcini, Pizza ai carcioffi e caciotta affumicata , Pancia di maiale arrosto e vernaccia and the most traditional Sardinian dessert Seadas con miele di acacia- somewhat a pastry, somewhat savoury, it could hold its own as an entree but it's actually a surprising dessert - a crisp, deep-fried pastry filled with oozing cheese and drizzled with warm honey.
The Indian palate is warm and inviting just like the Sardinian cuisine and while we may have toned down a little on red meat we have included some interesting vegetarian options that one must come to try.
The Menu at Prego Restaurant
Italian food has hundreds of reasons that justify its enduring appeal. We have extraordinary raw materials, the ancient knowledge of home cooking and the traditional Mediterranean diet. People of India are fond of good wholesome flavourful food and Prego's menu promises that. One can feast on an assortment of cold starters, fresh pasta, delectable risottos, homemade fresh bread, and delicious hand-tossed pizzas. One can also enjoy bruschetta, antipasti and rich classic sauces like carbonara, puttanesca or pesto. With highlights from both the Old and New World varietals, it features treats for all tastes.
Key to Planning a Successful Menu
The key to restaurant success is having a clear, viable restaurant concept. While that involves many aspects-including locations, marketing plan, and the competitive advantage-the menu is a major player in your restaurant's identity. Objectively one should test all your menu items to achieve the best quality and streamlined production. After a month or so of menu planning, grade your efforts. Gauge how well you went and whether you need to make changes to a few things. The market dynamics could also be one of the factors to consider. Menus are driven by customer demand. People are travelling abroad and experiencing new cuisines and service standards. When they come back home, they expect the same.
This urges chefs to experiment and innovate to showcase their offerings and make them stand apart. With new concepts and cuisines being launched every day, one should always be aware of the latest trends and should adapt accordingly. A menu has to balance focus with variety. The most common mistake restaurants make is to offer a menu with a very broad range of items. It's always best to have smaller menus that are easy to change as per the seasons and availability, rather than having huge long menus.
New ingredient in cuisine/s
As I mentioned, seafood is a vital ingredient of the Sardinian cuisine and what I do is pair it with grains such as barley and couscous which are packed with nutrition. Imagine a warm bowl of couscous in a rich seafood broth. It doesn't get any better than that.
5 Mistakes that Chefpreneurs should avoid
Ignoring the original intention that brought them into this profession - All the long hours, stress and anxiety we endure in the kitchen can make us forget the 'why' in our culinary journey. One should revisit the original intention once in a while - maybe recall your happiness when you cooked your first ever dish. Remember this purest intention of yours, and stick to it. This beef up the motivation and drive to succeed as a chef because it is the best job in the world but is also the hardest job in the world.
Poor sourcing - Fresh produce is key and best used rather than canned and bottled things. Chefs should always realise the difference in the quality of produce. A good chef will never knowingly serve guests anything other than the best produce they can find.
Neglecting Continual Improvement & experimenting - Sometimes in one's comfort zones, one may neglect to seek continual improvement in our crafts. The world of cooking continues to change and evolve every day. Be passionate, be ready for something different every day and always remember that you'll never stop learning. You should never worry about experimenting with cooking, it's one of the biggest pleasures in life.
Enhancing Guest Experience - Try to make the guests feel at home, interact with them to know their likes and dislikes to personalize their meal, free them from any tension and to make them fully embrace the experience.
Ignoring Feedback - Setting aside all of the complications, a chef has a simple task of preparing food for guests to enjoy, always keep an open mind towards feedback and criticism, every complaint is a chance to better oneself.