Chef Augusto Tombolato was born in province of Varese, Lombardia, and his brilliant career began in 1975 as commis de cuisine for Costa Cruises during summer while he was still studying at Varese Hospitality School. After graduation he immedately started working at the highest level at some of Italy's most famous and prestigious hotel restaurants. He has also enriched his knowledge and experience with several stints abroad which include Japan, Kenya, Korea, Russia and Dubai.
1 When did your passion to be a Chef begin?
From my mother. She was a very good cook. I lived on a farm where we were produced everything ourselves: cheese, butter, salami and vegetables. My mother taught me how to choose fresh and seasonal products as we had them right at home. She did cook well and every Saturday she made cod with polenta, as good Venetians always do!
2 What were your first experiences in the kitchen?
I was the youngest of a family of four brothers and was typically a bit spoilt at home. I was the only interested in cooking and already at 6 years old I was helping my mother in the kitchen. After three years at hotel school I started working dishes at the Cipriani. There were not many but they were all artfully prepared with the freshest ingredients, such as freshly caught fish. The customers fell inl ove with the authenticity of the cuisine. Then I moved to Milan and a small restaurant which prepared specialities from Trentino. From here I returned to Venice to work at the Hotel Gritti Palace. The back to Milan to the Principe di Savoia and then the Gallia. I have also traveled the world attneding the best Food Exhibitions in such countries as Japan, Kenya but also the city of Seoul as chef for both AC Milan and Juventus. Now I have been at the Westin Palace for about 20 years and my brigata consists of around 12 chefs and two bakers.
3 A dish closest to your heart?
What I would consider as my most typical dish is homemade pasta such as gnocchi which I always prepare with ingredients in season. I keep the dish simple or might use pumpkin or spinach combined with rich sauces such as Bolognese or pesto. I also like filled pastas and excellent risotti such as our own Milanese with the oxtail.
4 What ingredients do you prefer to use?
My preferred ingredients change as the seasons change, I like to maintain a respect for the raw material and the natural cycle. During the autumn, I like to cook with pumpkins, mushrooms, cabbage and in winter prefer to make wonderful dishes with artichokes, potatoes and onions. Spring means green vegetables such as peas and rucolette. During summer ; eggplant with peppers ...!
5 In what direction is Italian cuisine heading
Italians have an innate culture for food, but innovation has provided a great strength which has also served us well. For example it used to take twice as much time to prepare anything as the equipment available was not so advanced. It helps us alot today although I think the most important thing is to make the customer feel as if he was eating at home. We must not lose the dishes our historical memory. It is also very important to understand current trends and how people's habits and the needs of a client are evolving. For example, many people have decided to become vegan or vegetarian. With this in mind I have created a course to help understand the potential of these special diets and to create new dishes.
6 Share with us a secret of the Chef?
For me it is crucial to understand the needs of the customer and make him or her feel like he was dinig at home. This concept is even more important as we are of course in the restaurant of a hotel! So any of the dishes served must must have an unexpected flavor and make the customer happy. I would the experience to evoke a memory that would remind them of happy times at home.
7 One dish which sums up the territory?
For the region of Lombardia I would have to say the famous Milanese risotto with oxtail for which we receive many requests even during the summer months. But also the classic cotoletta alla milanese, panettone and homemade dolci prepared with apples and pears.
The restaurant is located in the Westin Palace Milan Hotel and is open every day for Breakfast (7:00 AM - 10:30 AM), Lunch (12:30 PM - 3.00 PM) & Dinner (7:30 PM - 11.00 PM).
Westin Palace Milan
Piazza della Repubblica, 20, 20124 Milano
Tel. +39 02 63364001