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Chef’s Table visits the Italian Embassy

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Passport in hand, we entered the Italian Embassy in Grosvenor Square London. Moments later, after being shown the main dining room, the wine cellar (the WW2 Air Raid shelter) and the kitchen, we find ourselves, espresso in hand, sitting with Chef Danilo Cortellini.

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If Danilo looks familiar you may recognise him from the recent BBC MasterChef programme where he made it through to finals week, but more of that later.

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Danilo grew up in a small region of central Italy near the village of Civitella del Tronto, a town and comune in the Province of Teramo, within the Abruzzo region of central Italy. It is located in the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. He paints an idyllic picture of living between the mountains and the coast where his family’s property had a few Chestnut Trees. He attended a local school and during the holidays worked in coastal restaurants and hotels. Cooking was a large part of family life and Danilo has fond memories of the fruit and vegetables grown on the family’s land being used in all the dishes prepared. After finishing an intensive course at a regional catering college he travelled to Verona to work in a restaurant then called The Three Crowns owned by the famous pasta maker Giovanni Rana  situated on one of the main squares in Verona.

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The glass front to the restaurant kitchen became a tourist attraction with international visitors standing by the windows to watch the young Danilo making pasta.

Looking to increase his knowledge, Danilo moved to Imola and joined the kitchen at the 2 Star San Domenico restaurant.  It’s impressive wine cellar gave him the chance to learn more about local Italian wines and some of the best from around the world.

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After just a few months he was given the opportunity to be Chef de Partie of this two Michelin star kitchen where he remained for the next two years. He feels that during his time at San Domenico he was treated as part on the “family” in the kitchen and this has stayed with him.

Danilo says he found it hard to move on from San Domenico however he wanted to expand his knowledge further so moved to another 2 Star restaurant  Perbellini, this time, wishing to hone his pastry skills making everything from Panettone to very refined pastries for the dining room.

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In 2010, Danilo along with his girlfriend, made the move to London both joining the team at a small Italian restaurant near Green Park, London (part of the Dolada group) where he took the role of Sous Chef. After one year having taken some of the “hard knocks” London can deliver, he was determined to get to grips with the London restaurant industry and to find out “what i need to do” to succeed. He moved to the Allan Ducasse restaurant at The Dorchester

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Whilst only a brief engagement at the Dorchester, this experience reinvigorated him and he acknowledges that the hard work and discipline of working along side the Head Chef of this renowned french kitchen helped this Italian chef. At the end of 2011 he joined the team at Zafferano and it was whilst here he was approached to take on the Chefs position at the Italian Embassy in London.

In March 2012 he was offered the position of Head Chef at the Italian Embassy in London, a role which he still holds and gives him great pride and satisfaction, with the opportunity to cook for some of the most influential people in London and Europe. At the Embassy, he looks after the Ambassador and his family together with all of the banqueting and private dinners for visiting dignitaries, heads of state and royal families from across Europe.  Danilo explained that anyone visiting the Embassy is a guest not only of the Embassy, but of Italy and he prides himself on treating each one as a guest, and not a customer.

Watch Danilo’s video HERE Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 17.27.24

This is my second Ambassador I have worked for he told us. When he arrived we discussed  a lot of detail of what would be required and first and foremost it would be to meet the needs of the Embassy. However,  the Ambassador supported the idea for me to set up my own company to not only service the Embassy but also corporate events and private dining. At the end of 2014 he opened  Danilo Cortellini Catering Service

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So, Chef, tell us about how MasterChef came about. I wanted to challenge myself so sent in an application, not expecting to be contacted. But they called and it was an amazing experience, a lot of pressure but very rewarding. I learnt a lot about myself and how and what I wanted to cook.

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Now chef, as we always do, we would like to ask you about the restaurants that are your ‘favourite tables’

Sushi Say (recently changed ownership and now called Sushi Masa) is one of my favourite places. We lived nearby and the husband and wife who ran the restaurant, and have done for years, became like friends. Everything feels authentic and the sushi is delicious. I really hope the new owners who have taken over when the original owners retired can maintain the high quality.

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I also, as often as I can, return to Italy to visit San Domenico.  I still love the food there. But recently I also visited the restaurant of a chef I have known for many years. It’s in the coastal town I used to visit and work in before coming to the UK. Ristorante Bistro 900 is in Giulianova run by chef Enzo Di Pasquale. This place reminds me of cooking at home with my family, using the best and freshest ingredients found locally.

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Can I also mention Pierre Koffmann, his pigs trotter dish is just amazing…thought you should know

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Reviewer: Danilo Cortellini
Address: Italian Embassy
One comments on “Chef’s Table visits the Italian Embassy
  1. Pingback: Dining with the Masterchefs - Favourite Tables

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