Ask chef Denis Lucchi why he loves Italian food, and he’ll tell you it’s because of his Italian blood and pride. ‘We believe Italian cuisine is the best!’ he laughs. Passionate about experimenting with ingredients, Lucchi started at a young age and worked his way up with a whole lot of creativity and determination. The secret behind his heart-warming food? It’s to ‘always cook from the heart – like you are cooking for your loved ones.’
What sparked off your interest in cooking?
Whether I was in school, during the weekends or working at the hotels and restaurants during summer, I would grab every opportunity to learn and practice. While waiting tables in a restaurant during one summer vacation, I instantly fell in love with the magic brewing in the kitchen – the aroma from the cooking pots, the vibrant colours of the fresh ingredients and the endless energy of the kitchen staff. I was only 14 then!
Describe your cooking style.
I believe in bringing out the true flavours of the ingredients; I like to keep my techniques simple, tasty and clean. I demand very highly of myself, as cooking is not simply a job, but my passion and love. At the end of the day, I always think of ways to improve the cuisine - be it the preparation, cooking or even the presentation – so that I can serve good food to people.
Stew with oxtail and Borettane onion, slow-cooked short ribs with polenta and caper and lamb with artichoke. These dishes never fail me!
Name 3 ingredients you absolutely love.
Most definitely EVO (extra virgin olive oil), tomato and parmesan cheese. I’m Italian that way!
How often do you experiment with food to create new dishes?
Whenever I have a spark for a new creation, it can come from everywhere, and rather randomly too – a trip, a dinner, a book, a life experience… Once the idea strikes, I’ll keep trying and experimenting until I am satisfied with the new creation.
Any memorable kitchen incidents?
Wow, hmmmm… A LOT, especially in school, when we were just learning the ropes. There was a time when my friend threw a wet potato in a pot of hot oil. I will remember this incident forever, because the oil splattered out of the pot, caught fire and nearly burned down half of the school’s kitchen. Talk about the hazards in the kitchen!
What do you think is the hardest cuisine to master?
I would say French and Japanese. They have a long history of traditional recipes and also require strong foundation in preparation techniques.
Favourite places to eat in Singapore?
Food courts in general for supper, as Singapore has a really unique blend of tastes and flavours – there’s so much to choose from! Other than that, [I like] nice restaurants for dinners on my days off. It’s nice to have a change of palette and cuisine sometimes! I don’t really have a particular favorite because I like to try new things. I always try everything that people offer to me, even if I don’t like it, so that I don’t miss something. You never know what you might stumble upon!
If you had to plan out your last meal, what would it be?
Definitely my favourite dish – polenta, spiedo and red wine with my family and friends (laughs). I am very true to my roots!
Any tips for amateurs who aspire to become professional chefs?
Always learn things from the ‘bottom up’ and lay the strong foundation first. Eventually, when you are better at what you are doing, you can go ‘steal’ the chef’s job and be a better one (laughs)! But really, always be curious and attentive every step of the way.