Welcome to the second of my unsung Chef Profiles and allow me to introduce to you ARTURO GRANATO, Executive Chef at AVISTA Restaurant in the Millennium Hotel, Mayfair.
I was taken to AVISTA for dinner by my daughter as a Father’s Day present and enjoyed a lovely Tasting menu – delicious food, elegantly presented. I asked if it would be possible to speak to the Chef responsible and was astounded when Atruro appeared at our table. Astounded to the extent that my first question was “How old are you?” – he is an astonishingly young–looking man belying his 35 years. Once we had laughed off my amazement, we chatted briefly about the food we had eaten and enjoyed and one or two of the interesting techniques used. I broached the possibility of writing a profile for Arturo and was delighted when he agreed.
We met a couple of days later after a lunch service and started to explore Arturo’s food journey. As he prepared on of AVISITA’s signature dishes in the kitchen we talked about his life…
Born in Nocera Inferiore, south of Naples in Italy, he decided at the tender age of thirteen that he wanted to be a chef when he grew up. His certainty about his future career was most likely driven by the inspiration he received from a cousin who was himself a chef. At the age of 17 he found himself working as a Commis chef in the Michelin starred restaurant, Il Faro di Capo D’Orso preparing vegetables and herbs and cleaning fish bones. Well, everyone has to start somewhere!
While learning his trade working seasonal jobs in a variety of restaurants across Italy, Arturo’s journey has also taken him through a number of iconic fine dining and Michelin-starred restaurants such as Hotel Villa San Lucchese, Restaurant Vecchia Lugana on Lake Garda, Restaurant De Pisis in the Hotel Bauer in Venice before landing his first Head Chef role at Hotel Carlton’s La Cupola restaurant on Venice’s Grand Canal. He learned his trade under the guidance and tutelage of inspiring chefs such as Omar Bernardi and Giovanni Ciresa.
In 2011, Arturo left his homeland and moved to London to further his career working at the two Michelin-starred Greenhouse Restaurant, then as an Executive Sous Chef at AVISTA before becoming Head Chef at L’Etranger, a Two AA Rosette restaurant on the Gloucester Road. In February 2015, Arturo was invited back to AVISTA as Executive Chef and it was here that he achieved his proudest moment in his career when ten months later, under his leadership, AVISTA was awarded its Third AA Rosette.
So how does all of this training and experience in Michelin starred restaurants manifest itself?
Arturo’s philosophy towards food is straightforward – use as of an ingredient as you can and look for integrity with flavours, balance and textures and then apply a modern twist! In his view, fine dining is very dangerous – make a single mistake and you lose everything in a dish!
He changes his menu with the seasons to take into account seasonal produce and it will take anything up to 45 days to design a new menu working with his Sous Chef, Tommaso Formica, and his suppliers. Arturo has worked hard to develop suppliers on whom he can depend – his fish is delivered twice a week off a day boat in Cornwall, lobsters are delivered every day. Cantaloupe melons come from Italy where, in Arturo’s view, they are sweetest. He also has his own meat man and his veg man – as does any self-respecting chef.
Avista can handle between 60 to 65 covers with a typical service of between 20 – 30 covers for lunch and 35 – 45 covers for dinner. Arturo’s typical working day starts around 08:30 when he does his own fish and meat preparation – he doesn’t like to share this work! Then its on the checking the fridges before holding a lunch-time service set-up with his team of eight chefs and nine to ten front of house staff. Arturo oversees an experienced team, his Sous Chef, Tommaso, has been with him for four years – collectively most of the team has been together for over two and a half years. After lunch, time must be spent in the office attending to all of those mundane tasks involved in running a kitchen. Then it’s on to the dinner set-up and service before finishing his day by placing any final orders that may be required. Getting home can be any time from 11:30 p.m. to 01:30 a.m.
All the time we spent together Arturo spoke passionately about food. He likes to eat and drink wine. His spare time is spent in other restaurants checking out new ideas. He travels abroad when he can, always searching for new ideas with food. In talking about the future of food, if anything Arturo believes that we are going back to basics – the science can only go so far. Instead he is seeing a greater focus on fewer but more intense flavours on a plate, more textures being introduced and a relentless search for fine dining perfection.
When you look at the artistry and flavours involved in this young chef’s food, surely it is only a matter of time before the Michelin inspectors come calling.
His favourite restaurant in London holds two Michelin stars …… The Ledbury in Notting Hill. His favourite restaurant in the world boasts three Michelin stars under the leadership of Chef Martin Berasategui …… Lasarte in Barcelona.
Arturo’s goal is ultimately to have his own restaurant…. with his own Michelin Star…. and I for one would be queuing up to have a table on his opening night!
Finally, his last ever meal would be …. his own Beef Fillet Rossini. There’s nothing like a little bit of self-confidence… it would certainly be a delicious way to go!
AVISTA Restaurant, 39 Grosvenor Square, London W1K 2HP
Tel: 0207 596 3399