Executive Chef at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Cladys Magagna is a busy man, with seven restaurants, a large banqueting operation and over 100 staff to oversee. So what is lurking in his fridge at home to refresh him after service?
Born in Piedmont, halfway between Turin and Milan, Chef Cladys Magagna still relishes the food of his native region, his eyes glazing over as we talk of truffles. Aged 20, he enrolled into culinary school and then worked in the Botticella Restaurant in northern Italy. From there, he ventured abroad to Vienna.
“We lived near a lake so there was always lots of fish,” he recalls. “My mother worked part-time so spent hours in the kitchen and I used to love watching her and then cooking came naturally to me. We had our own vegetable garden, grew our own herbs, produced our own EVOO, got chickens and rabbits from my grandfather.”
After Vienna, he had the chance to move to New York City as there was a great buzz about the city that he wanted to be a part of. However, his career took a sideways shift as he became both manager and teacher at the Italian Culinary Institute, as well as ovewrseeing Italian Cooking & Living and The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana.
However, he never forgot his roots. “A good Italian chef is really about regional cuisine and good authentic food. The problem with taking Italian regional cuisine into the fine dining arena is that people expect more ingredients to upgrade the food. But it doesn’t always need truffles or whatever – just quality, simplicity and presentation. I’m still an Italian – simple food with EVOO and sea salt! I believe that food lovers like to find a restaurant with good food, great ingredients and personal service. It’s that simple.”
But what does he have in his fridge?
In my fridge
* Anchovies – the first three items are a perfect trio with which you can do a very nice pasta sauce as well as a tasting salad, plus they’re great for appetisers. Make sure to buy a good quality of Italian anchovies…
* Kalamata olives
* Garlic – this is my ‘any illness medicine’! When I am sick with a cough, flu, stomach pain and fever for instance, I swallow three to six garlic cloves before I go to sleep and the next day I feel much better – the only thing is that my wife will sleep in the other room!
* Tomatoes – when I worked in Mexico, the chefs placed a piece of tomato slice on their skin when they burned themselves and it honestly works much better than any cream on the planet! I normally buy heirloom tomatoes at Waitrose – really sweet and perfect for a salad or a nice tomato sauce.
* Fresh parsley
* White onion
* Chicken stock cube
* Parmigiano Reggiano – the king of my fridge but don’t confuse it with Grana Padano, which is also good, but less rich. I consider it a crime buying already grated Parmesan – it’s awful.
* Lychee juice – one day I used this to make a risotto and it turned out to be a masterpiece, so since then it’s has become part of my food shopping.
* Turkey breast
“The queen of the kitchen is extra virgin olive oil, but never keep it in the fridge! With its six thousand years of history, I can almost cry if I try an amazing extra virgin olive oil! Make sure you keep it away from the heat and always store it in a dark place. Pour it everywhere – it’s that simple! EVOO was the reason I became a chef!”
Where and how to shop
* I tend to shop at Waitrose and Abela.
* Shop early for selection and shop late for deals.
* Do some research on what’s in season in your area for better price and quality of product.
* Make a quick loop around the entire market before buying anything.