Massimo opens his cooking studio in a courtyard house. [Photo provided to Qianlong]
“Look! That pizza can dance!” A three-year-old girl chirped with her finger pointing at the swelling pizza in the oven. The courtyard house deep in hutong becomes alive every weekend when adults and children cook, play and have fun here. They come here to make Italian food like pizza, pasta and cake.
Massimo is a three-star Michelin chef and once worked with five-star hotels like Aman and Hilton and Princess Cruise as executive chef. He settled down in Beijing in 2013 due to work.
Two years ago he decided to quit his job at hotel and start building his own “gourmet food kingdom” – organizing international culinary competitions, participating in Michelin gourmet festivals and preparing for his own Italian restaurant. Besides, there is one more important program, namely, offering cuisine course in hutong together with his wife Helen.
“My friends have been advising me to do it and I also hope to enjoy some free time to be with my family and friends,” said Massimo.
According to Massimo, cooking is a way of life in Italy, love for cooking is synonymous with love for family and when family and friends get together, they often cook together. “Chinese also value family highly and that’s the same as Italians. I hope to create a place like home here,” Massimo said.
In his opinion, the “home” must have both Chinese and Western elements. Thus Massimo chose a traditional Beijing courtyard house and decorated the interior in Western style. “In this way both Chinese and foreign friends will feel intimate and at the same time exotic,” said Massimo.
In his spare time, Massimo especially likes shopping at Sanyuanli Market where he could buy all the ingredients needed for cooking Italian food including authentic Parma ham and cheese from Italy and even fresh basil leaves and rosemary.
“This was unimaginable in Beijing five or six years ago. Great changes have occurred in Beijing in the past few years and I can easily feel it when I shop at the market,” Massimo said with admiration. It also inspired him to create a home for Italian chefs working in China.
Advocated and prepared by Massimo, the Association of Italian Chefs of China was founded in Beijing two months ago and he was elected as the chairman.
“The association has a history of over 200 years in Italy and has 11 branches around the world now. Five or six years ago, the association came to China to made an inspection and found that there were not many Italian chefs, and the Western style food market in China was not mature and it was difficult to buy some ingredients at that time,” said Massimo.
Massimo told the headquarters of the association the great changes he witnessed in China and invited them to come to China again. When they saw what had happened in Beijing they marveled how China could change so greatly in such a few years.
Massimo’s biggest wishes are to offer the most authentic Italian cuisine for people in Beijing, and make more Italians know about China and more authentic Italian food branches come to China.
Now Massimo has been used to the life in Beijing. “My neighbors in hutong are very kind and they often indicate the way for the participants of our cooking studio as it’s a little difficult to find the right way,” he explained.
For Massimo and his wife Beijing has become their home and they hope their baby will be born and grow up here in the future.
Massimo and children, who experience Italian food in his cooking studio. [Photo provided to Qianlong]
Massimo, a three-star Michelin chef who once worked with five-star hotels like Aman and Hilton and Princess Cruise as executive chef. He settled down in Beijing in 2013 due to work. [Photo provided to Qianlong]
The Chinese style windows and Western style interior of Massimo’s cooking studio. [Photo provided to Qianlong]