Talks to Top 25 Restaurants
Italian chef David Tamburini is the head chef at La Scala Bangkok. During the last fifteen years he worked in the high gastronomy and got his Michelin stars in two restaurants that he worked for in Italy. His style of cooking is refined with attention to details and high aspiration. He confirmed this by saying: “I try to serve the guests at my best. This is the meaning of Michelin star for me. I want to challenge myself the best I can and serve the guests the best I can. The Michelin star maybe the result of this attitude but it is not the ultimate goal of my work”.
What got you started cooking?
It was indeed an unusual approach to cooking. It all started with my interest in natural ingredients and logically I became fascinated in vegetarian food. Obviously, I moved on but vegetable has never become a side dishfor me. Today I see vegetable as equally important as meat or fish. Vegetables allow you to play with the seasonal flavours of spring, summer, autumn and winter.
What is your cooking philosophy?
I use the word “natural” on the testing menu I am presenting but, honestly, there is more to that. “Natural” is expressing the authentic way of cooking I’m following: Cook what you like, give your best and express yourself. It is true you have to please the guests but the most important thing is you have to love what you do, and the guests would also like it because they appreciate that it is authentic what I am doing and the natural way of preparing food.
What makes the Italian way of cooking different from the French cuisine?
For me the Italian kitchen is a way of cooking and the special feeling for ingredients. As an Italian chef it is simplicity, natural taste, beauty what I want to do. The completely different from the French cuisine is characterized by sometimes sophisticated techniques. In contrast, the Italian “cucina” is basically very simple. The difference can mainly be found in the way of cooking and the ingredients. If I say “cooking from the heart” it may sound romantic. But that’s what the Italian way of cooking is about. The origin of Italian cooking is the home, whilst the French cuisine was continuously refined at the royal court. In cooking techniques, the French are the world master. But in Italy it is home and regional cooking, regional variety, traditions, sometimes differing from family to family, and the authenticity, which is counting. The techniques may be different from region to region but they do not play that important role like in France.
What dish is your personal highlight?
You will not be surprised when I choose a pasta dish: “Linguine e limone e scampi”. Most people and, of course all Italians, know that the pasta culture is very important for the Italian “cucina”. The challenge for a chef is to make pasta dishes different and individual whilst keeping its traditional flavor and charm. In this case of my preferred linguine, I managed to make it a completely new dish, with a new philosophy but, at the same time, so simple like the traditional Italian “cucina”.
What makes La Scala different from other Italian restaurants in Bangkok?
The kind of restaurant we want to do is different and I’m struggling whether the word “contemporary” is the right word for describing our concept. Let me describe it like this: If today you would go in Italy to a fine dining place like La Scala, you would find that the preparations are different. Of course, their Carbonara or Lasagna will be amazing, but their preparations would no longer represent our reality. In contrast to this, we at La Scala like to represent the real Italy to our guests and not a cliché of what is commonly perceived to be Italian “cucina”. Yes, of course this is a challenge but it is my ambition to safeguard the Italian kitchen’s identity and express myself in my cooking that way.
What brought you to Thailand?
It was by accident. Actually, I was contacted by the well-known Sukothai Hotel in Bangkok. They needed an Italian chef. Although I knew that the hotel was going to close for renovation, I was working in their old kitchen for about 6 months. During the time of renovation, I was working hard and developed a new attractive menu. I am very happy and also grateful that the Sukothai Hotel gave the opportunity to develop their hotel restaurant offer during that period of change.
What do you think about the Bangkok dining scene?
Frankly speaking, it is amazing, in particular the variety of offers and the level of quality. There are many good restaurants in Bangkok, some of them at very high professional level. In my view the average level is better than in many other Asian cities.
What is your favorite restaurant in Bangkok?
I am Italian so it might sound a bit traditional what I am saying but when I am off duty and want to relax I like to have classic Italian food. My favourite place I like to go to a cozy place in the Sathorn area called “IL Bolongnese”. I love that place. They did an amazing job in creating an atmosphere like in Italy. It is like going back home for a couple hours.
SARA WONG, FOOD EDITOR & CULINARY CRITIC
Sara Wong is a special writer and culinary critic for Top25Restaurants.com