A Culinary Journey from Lucca to Los Angeles

Matteo Morbini is a culinary prodigy hailing from the charming town of Lucca, Italy. His journey has taken him from the cobblestone streets of his hometown to the bustling kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants around the world.

With a passion for blending diverse flavors and innovative techniques, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Matteo exclusively for a one-on-one conversation about his love of cooking, upcoming ventures in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and why our region overall holds a special place in his culinary journey…

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Let’s start at the beginning. How did your passion for cooking first emerge, and what led you to pursue a career in the culinary world?

**Matteo Morbini: My journey in the culinary world began right after high school in Florence. I decided to invest my life in cooking, enrolling in a cooking course while juggling jobs in a nearby butcher shop and babysitting. Those two jobs not only funded my cooking education but also provided for my accommodation during that period.

That’s quite a unique start. Tell us about your early experiences in Michelin-starred restaurants, particularly in London with Alyn Williams and Gordon Ramsay.

Working in Michelin-starred restaurants was an eye-opener. The kitchen environment was intense, with strict discipline and long hours. I wasn’t even paid in the beginning, but that hardship made me realize how much I loved the job. Gordon Ramsay’s and Alyn Williams’s kitchen provided me with not just culinary education but also instilled a strong sense of discipline and attention to detail.

Moving on to your time in Australia, how did working with Chef Peter Gilmore at the Quay in Sydney influence your culinary perspective?

Chef Peter Gilmore introduced me to a new approach to the plant kingdom, emphasizing biodiversity and harmony between nature and human hands. The experience also included a fascination with Asian influences, particularly Japanese techniques and flavors. It was in Japan that I felt in love with an environment guided by serenity and a slow, efficient organization.

After your international experiences, what prompted you to return to Italy?

I was offered the opportunity to become a teacher at a prestigious gastronomic university in Florence, Lorenzo De Medici. Plus, the idea of being close to my family and friends ignited a profound sense of excitement within me. Therefore, I accepted this enriching role and started teaching “Current Trends in Italian cuisine” while delving into restaurant consulting in both Lucca and Florence.

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How did your role in offering culinary counseling lead to the significant decision of becoming a co-owner of a specific restaurant in Lucca?

In a surprising turn of events, my involvement in providing culinary counseling to various restaurants led me to a profound connection with one specific establishment. Captivated by its ethos and future partners, I made the momentous decision to become a co-owner. This choice was driven not only by business considerations but also by a genuine affection for a person of paramount importance in my life, someone deeply immersed in the world of art. It became an opportunity for us to seamlessly blend our worlds—culinary expertise intertwining with artistic flair.

Could you shed light on the impact and challenges faced during the COVID-19 period?

Despite the challenges posed by inaugurating our establishment during the relentless pandemic, the journey proved to be exceptionally rewarding. The venture became a harmonious fusion of my culinary passion with the artistic inclinations of my partner, creating a unique setting that resonated with both our visions. The challenges of the pandemic only strengthened our resolve, prompting us to adapt and innovate in ways we never anticipated.

Your recognition in the Emerging Chef under 30 competition and awards from various guides have certainly added to your visibility. Tell us about this phase of your career.

Engaging in the Emerging Chef under 30 competition proved to be a challenging yet incredibly fulfilling experience. The journey from the initial rounds to making it to the final and ultimately being acknowledged as the best chef in central Italy was undoubtedly a source of immense pride. Beyond the accolades and culinary achievements, the most significant lesson I derived from this competition was the invaluable enrichment of connecting with extraordinary individuals. It went beyond the professional realm, transcending the boundaries of a typical competition.

Your culinary horizons have expanded to international locations. Can you share some highlights, particularly your collaboration with Tom Colicchio’s restaurant in New York?

Collaborating with Tom Colicchio’s renowned restaurant in New York was a privilege. I always admired him, and working alongside him to realize such a unique experience was a significant life accomplishment for me. The success of the NYC Pop Up event opened doors for me to extend my culinary presence to locations like Hong Kong, London, and Amsterdam.

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Now, you have set your sights on Los Angeles for a collaboration with Nancy Silverton before opening your upcoming restaurant in San Francisco. What inspired you to choose these cities?

Los Angeles holds a special place in my culinary journey, marked by marvelous collaborations and experiences. My journey in LA began with an incredible opportunity to collaborate with an extraordinary woman, Mary Ta, who introduced me to Nobu and sparked my fascination for the city. During my time there, I had the privilege of getting to know another remarkable woman, Nancy Silverton, whose restaurant left an indelible mark on me. Our connection went beyond culinary appreciation, leading to an exciting collaboration to bring the essence of Tuscany to Los Angeles. As for San Francisco, the city’s energy, diverse community, and culinary richness inspired me to open my upcoming restaurant, reflecting my culinary journey—a fusion of diverse flavors, innovative techniques, and a celebration of various cultures.

Thank you, Matteo, for sharing your inspiring journey and upcoming ventures with us. We wish you continued success in your culinary endeavors.

Grazie mille. It’s been a pleasure.

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