Acclaimed Chef Igor Macchia Talks Italian Cuisine Secrets

There’s nothing quite like that Red Bell Pepper Risotto.

Igor Macchia’s passion for food and creative signature led him to co-own La Credenza, a Michelin Star restaurant in Italy’s San Maurizio Canavese. He has also nourished his love for the Eastern world and its culture by travelling around, associating himself with several big hotels in the region and opening an Italian restaurant in the Grand Victoria Hotel, Taipei. The result is Macchia’s original blending of colours, tastes, textures and shapes.

Where did you learn how to cook?
I graduated from the Giuseppina Colombatto culinary institute in Italy. After that I had some work experiences in Italy and Europe, where I improved my skills. I also have a cousin who was a chef and I started to work with him at the beginning of my career. I am still learning every day because our job is continuously evolving and new techniques are always emerging.

Growing up, did anyone in your family play a part in kick-starting this dream of yours?
It was my father who influenced me in the kitchen. It was great to spend time with him cooking at home. In a certain way, we played together with food instead of toys. I really loved to go with him to local markets, searching for ingredients. My favourite dish of his that I really love is roast beef with mashed potatoes and my mother’s signature dish is Cannelloni alla Bolognaise.

What are your favourite kitchen tools?
The most important kitchen utensils are the telephone and the computer, because with these two tools I can stay in contact with my staff, even when I am working in another place, and I can connect with other chefs. Gruppo Virtuale Cuochi Italiani (GVCI) is a great forum for helping us stay on top of things. 

What are the most important ingredients to you?
I really love Grana Padano cheese and wasabi is something I cannot live without.

And in Italian cooking in general?
In Piemonte, my region in Italy, anchovies are really popular as well as red peppers. Rice, too, is a must for me.

Can you tell us some general ideas people have about Italian food that aren’t true?
There are a lot of wrong ideas all around the world, however I think things have been getting better and better in the last five years. But for sure there is still room for a lot of improvement. A chef’s job is cooking as well as explaining to guests in foreign countries about Italian culture. I think GVCI is doing a great job with this too. I will try to set the most common misconceptions straight:
• We do not only eat pasta and pizza.
• Carbonara does not have cream inside.
• Caesar salad is not Italian.
• We never eat overcooked risotto.
• We do not use garlic in every recipe.

Would you like to share any tips for Italian cooking at home?
Keep it simple, buy fresh ingredients and enjoy cooking with somebody.

Buying the best possible ingredients is one of the most important things a chef can do. What should we watch out for in the supermarket?
As mentioned before, freshness is really important, as is the origin of the ingredients. Do not buy Italian olive oil made in other countries. Make sure to buy exactly what you need for the recipe and do not be scared to spend a bit more for a really high-quality ingredient. With good quality ingredients, food will always taste better!

Is there one dish you are particularly well known for?
Red Bell Pepper Risotto with parsley and anchovies, it’s one of the signature dishes in my restaurant in Italy, a must-try. We use simple, local ingredients to make it, and it tastes great and looks appealing.

Is that from Piemonte? What dishes are the most popular around there?
Risotto is quite popular in our tradition and the ingredients we use are specially made in my region. Piemonte is also well known for white truffles, Vitello Tonnato is quite a popular and traditional starter, and the area is well known for homemade pasta, like agnolotti or tagliolini, which can also be matched with white truffles.

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