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Adventures of Italian cook in Russia: interview with Uilliam Lamberti

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Dad and a husband who can cook is a dream, and dad and a husband who adores it and does it better than anyone is a miracle! The hero of our today’s interview is exactly this kind of person – wonderful restaurateur, chef and dad Uilliam Lamberti.

– I have read that already at the age of 13 you knew that you wanted to be a cook and your father even sent you to some Chinese restaurant for practice, is that true? Tell us more, how has your affair with kitchen and cooking started?

– Yes, that is true. At twelve I knew exactly what I wanted to do, that’s why my dad sent me to work at Chinese restaurant. That’s a classical story: when I was a child, my mom, grandma and aunt cooked well and a lot. I remember those festive family dinners, those scents, those tastes from childhood – they are still in my heart. I liked to cook back then, later it became my job, I enjoy giving emotions and love to people.

– Where did you study? Where did you work at first?

– I studied in Italy, than moved to France, and after that studied a little bit in different parts of the world. Indeed, my first job was that practice at Chinese restaurant. In 1993 I started working in Italy for Gualtiero Marchesi at Enoteca Pinchiorri restaurant that had 3 Michelin stars.

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– Have you ever betrayed your calling? Haven’t you thought of changing the field?

– I thought about it more than once but I understood that I couldn’t do anything else (laughing). I can’t even replace a lightbulb. For me to betray my calling is like to betray the beloved woman.

– So how did you come to Moscow? Weren’t you afraid of the prospect of working in a city where restaurant culture was virtually non-existent?

– I came to Moscow in 1996. I came here with the chef Marchesi to make a menu for “Eldorado” restaurant at Polyanka, and it happened so that I stayed in Moscow. It was really scary at first – it was a different time, different mentality, different approach towards cooking, speaking of technical part in particular, there were a lot of difficulties. But you know, it happens – sometimes you love something, but you don’t know why. That’s what happened with Moscow.

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– If you hadn’t met your wife, would you have left Moscow? Tell about your family, please.

– I guess I would have after all. My wife is a housewife, she is busy with children. It was her decision – to devote more time to parenting, that’s why she left her job. She had worked at the sphere of fashion. I respect this decision a lot. My elder daughter Nastya is involved in a great amount of activities:  she is a member of “Neposedy” group  – she dances and sings. She wants to become a singer. She is very talented. And Michele is into aikido, he plays football and he comes to me every morning with plastic omelette and says “Dad, I’ve made you breakfast already”. He wants to become a cook.

– Are Nastya and Michele bilingual? Do you speak Italian to them?

– Unfortunately, they speak very little Italian. But they study other foreign languages, they like English especially.

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– Do you organize cooking master-classes for your children? Do you ever cook at home?

– We don’t do cooking master-classes, but I make my best to cook at home, although I don’t always have time for it. We enjoy going to restaurants together.

– Which one of your projects are you proud of the most? Perhaps it was more difficult than others to handle or it has unusual conception?

– For me all my restaurants are just like children, that’s why it is impossible to choose the favorite one.

– How do you manage to combine your jobs as a chef and a restaurateur?

– It is quite difficult and requires a lot of experience.  But the most important thing is to have a god team.

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– Which restaurants are missing in Moscow?

– There are a lot of new and interesting projects  in Moscow now. Restaurant fashion changes here really fast, as well as people’s taste. To my mind, “classical” restaurants are missing a little bit today.

– Can you name a couple of the best places in Moscow and in your native town in Italy?

– I respect Arkadiy Novikov very much, not only because I worked with him, but also because I learnt a lot from him. It is a person who always stands for high quality and purity.   My wife, my children and I often go to “Vysota 5642”, we enjoy Georgian cuisine, everything is very good there.  Actually as I grow older I tend to like Russian and Eastern food more and more.

And Italy has a lot of tasty home restaurants, you cannot name them all.

– What are your children’s favorite dishes?

– The favorite food of my children is Nutella. I argue with them about it every time. (laughing).

– Are there any dishes that you will not ever cook?

– Actually there is no such dish. But in one of the restaurants I worked at in Italy, they served dried cod (Bacalhau). We would start cooking it at 7 A.M., and it took several hours. You cannot imagine how awful was its smell all around at the kitchen! I will remember it forever.

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– If your son ever decides to follow your steps, where will you send him for studying?

– My younger son Michele is 5 years old now, and he already says that he wants to be a cook and to be even better than his dad (laughing). I want him to understand, what is good and what is bad, that is why I would send him to different places for studying. Not only in those where he can adopt cooking skills from talented chefs,  but also in those, where he will see what not to do.

– Do you have a professional dream? And a dad’s one?

– Actually, I’m already living my dream. I want to continue working and to do so beautifully and with a taste every day, not only for myself, but also for others. I’m not sure if I want my children to follow my steps, because I know exactly how difficult this is, but I will never make decision for  them and make them do something they don’t want to do. My father has always been against this job and resisted. But when he understood that it was my calling, he said: “If you are really going to do it, do it well and till the end”.