The Story of an Inspirational Chef: An Interview with Chef Giovanni De Ambrosis

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Giovanni De Ambrosis is an award-winning international culinary professional with an incredible portfolio of global restaurant set-ups. He has been in the Maldives since 2016 based here as the Corporate Chef of Cocoon Maldives and is also the Culinary Director of Taste of Italy.

1. Why did you decide to become a chef? What other back-of-the-house positions have you previously held?

Everything started when I was a child still, 13 years old. I was already sure of what I wanted to do of my life. No a theoric job but practical, because I liked to travel the world. like I did and still am doing. I started to work in a pastry opposite to my house when I was 13 years to help Liliana & Nello, owner of the pastry shop. also, around the same period, a friend of my sister was invited to my house and he was a chef on a private yacht and his story made me very interested in that world.

Like every other chef, I started from doing stages/commis around Italy and Swiss. My first experience as a chef was in 2000 in Bormio (Italy mountain) and my first experience outside EU was in 2001 in a 5-star hotel in Zanzibar that was my introduction to a 5-star resort, I'm still in touch with them. They're amazing people! For me, they're my second family.

2. How did you manage to land a job in the Cocoon Maldives Resort? how do you feel when you got the job?

Alessandro Azzola, owner of Azemar, opened in Zanzibar in 2013 a five-star resort called “Gold”. He called me for the startup, as the collaboration was very good, we became good friends and kept in touch. One year ago, over an aperitif in Milan, we met and he proposed me to help him with the startup of Cocoon, the first design hotel in Maldives. I felt very excited, as it was my first time in Maldives and I was sure we would do a great job together and I could put down all my world experience.

3. Did you go to culinary school? What credentials did you earn through your culinary studies?

Yes, I did from 1991 to 1996 E. Maggia di Stresa in Italy, one of the best in the world, I'm still in touch with them for student education and introduction on the professional world. I have earned many Hospitality credentials and Management including Food Cost and Igien.

4. How many employees report to you? What levels are the employees who are your direct reports?

Around 90 people from F&B and store department and the direct ones are the Executive chef, F&B manager, restaurant manager and store manager. All of them reports to me.

5. Tell me about a difficult situation and how you handled it?

What I really like is to solve the problems and issues, I like to have direct contact with the guests to make them happy. I don't have a difficult situation in my mind, my job for me is like a HOBBY, so I don’t consider anything difficult about it. When the weather is bad in maldives guests become very difficult to manage, so I manage the same kitchen class school... To make them happy and forget the rainy season. Maybe it's a mistake, but I spend all my life to make experience in the work, so there are no difficulties in my life. and when you work with the passion... more than half of the work is done.

6. What do you do to stay updated on new trends? Describe two or three of the most interesting industry trends.

Like I said before I love to travel and I go around finding new trends\concept. Here in Cocoon, I develop live cooking shows, guests love it. It is one of the most popular trends in Italy. The F&B world is changed a lot, chefs now are like stars. It is DANGEROUS for students and youngsters, for them it'snot that easy. Around Facebook, a lot of new trends come up, Which I check constantly on the web and physically around the countries that I visit.

7. How do you ensure that the presentation of each dish is met by all the guests?

Experiences gave me the opportunity to understand guests culture and satisfy their taste. When a chef presents the dish to a guest with a good smile, they're always satisfied. 

8. If you were asked to reduce fat and sodium in a menu, what would you do to maintain the flavour in the quality of the dish?

In the last 7 years, the way of eating changed a lot so I tried to understand which product the industry was offering to the market. For that reason, I have been called to open, Tribeca, a new concept that represents "healthy organic food". I freshly opened “under500” in Dubai a successfully brand, that work on calories concept.

9. What is your favourite cuisine to cook? How many different types of cuisine are you capable of producing?

For sure the Italian and Mediterranean cuisine are the two to reflect my origins. But in the last year, I’m focusing on the new preparation methods and on the healthy food selecting the product on my own. Thanks to my experiences around the world I have learned the African, Asian and South American cuisine. To notice, I like to put a touch of my creativity in recipes, that is my main job during creating a concept.

10. Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?

I am not a fan of Michelin stars chef, they do an amazing job, meeting their kitchen and presentation is a big experience, but we have a different perspective of the culinary world. I like to give the opportunity to all guests to join a new concept and new taste of food.

11. Beside from work, how do you generally spend your free time in the resort?

To be honest I like to spend my all day around the resort to make sure all the operation go on smoothly and talk to guests. Of course, as soon as I can, I love to dive and everything inquire water sports and explore this beautiful island... Cocoon !!!