Meeting with Stefano de Geronimo, a Chef with an innate creativity
Modest, sincere, talkative, kindly, this is how Stefano de Geronimo, the Executive Sous Chef of Prego Restaurant in the prestigious Westin Hotel of Shanghai, whom Fabbri has the pleasure of interviewing, presents himself.
The relationship between Chef Stefano and our company is not nearly new, but strengthened in years. Different have been the Fabbri events in the Westin, several the recipes elaborated by Stefano with the unmistakable adding of our Amarena, such as the preparation of a foie gras terrine garnished with a “paper” of Amarena cherries syrup and brioche bread.
Chef de Geronimo first memories related to Fabbri go back to the 70s, when, Stefano, still very young, used to go with his great-grandmother to the park of his native town, Brescia: “It is still alive in me the memory of those moments when, in the park’s kiosk, I admired some beautiful sorbets prepared with Fabbri syrups, the same syrups which were always present in my house: orzata, mint, tamarind…during summer, we used to drink only those beverages!”, or even when, each Sunday, Stefano asked to bring him to gelato shop to taste Amarena with gelato: “At that time, you could find Amarena only in that place, where you could recognize it through the Fabbri vase, with its unique decorations”. Chef Stefano distinctive features are remarkable manual skills and considerable creativity; the last one learned by observing for the first time the respectful uncle, an Italian Chef in America, creatively combining the poor ingredients present in the house to cook a delicious pasta, “My culinary aspiration was born in that moment and, with it, my motto ‘No matter what you have in your hands, the essential is having an outstanding creativity and creating through that something visibly and tastefully pleasant’”. Stefano cooking talent has therefore a familiar origin. Before the uncle, Stefano loved seeing her grandma and all the family women cook casoncelli and roasted potatoes. However, Chef Stefano ironically tells us that, at the beginning, he had three dreams: “When I was young, as all the other children, I would like to be an astronaut but you usually need a lot of money. My second dream was to be a fireman but, although my heroism, we can say it is not the most suitable job for my robust body. The third one was to be a chef and go to Canada to work for my famous uncle chef!”
And this is what happens: after some seasons in Tuscany working for the in-law aunt, who, as Chef Stefano admits, was his real cooking teacher – “tiramisu, fresh pasta, game meat are some of the dishes I learnt from her”-, after catering college and some significant Italian experiences, Stefano finally flew to Toronto where he matures and improves himself until reaching the title of Executive Corporate Chef for numerous restaurants all around the world: “From Toronto, I almost never came back to Italy. I lived in US, Cuba, Cape Verde, Jordan. And also Cyprus, Mexico, Greece. “ And more other countries until arriving in China on the occasion of Beijing Olympic games and moving in 2010 to Shanghai for the Expo: “ I have always considered Asia a tempting destination. However, in 2008, I arrived here by chance. Initially, it was a great shock. I was not able to identify completely with the local culture and, professionally speaking, I could not understand what I was missing with my partners. I realized soon that, to make things better, I had to become one of them, not their boss but their older brother, a member of the family. Since then, I can affirm to have completely integrated myself with the Chinese culture and that China represents now my best success”. Speaking about cooking, Chef Stefano retains there is a similarity between the Italian and Chinese culinary culture: “the usual Italian notion about Chinese cooking is wrong. Chinese cooking is indeed diverse in its traditions and regions as is the Italian one. Moreover, the preparation technique is the same. Tofu rennet, for example, is very similar to the one used for our cheese manufacturing, Chinese fish preparation is equal to Italian one. The two cuisines differ for their ingredients and cooking methods. We have several ways of cooking, China implies only steam or sautéed cooking”. Chef Stefano, on the other hand, describes Fabbri Amarena like this: “Amarena represents for Fabbri the image of the company around the world, as is its vase with its unique white and blue colours. If I had to define Amarena, I would use these adjectives: one hundred per cent Italian, a delight for the palate.” He adds, citing its use: “Amarena is such a strong product in its flavour which has to be combined with a dish with an intense flavour too, so that contrast could emerge. I use it for example in combination with some meat and, on the sweet side, as garnish of our tiramisu or chestnut mousse”. Chef Stefano concludes: “Amarena is a sign of the past, it is unique. There are no other things in the world like it.”
Name: Stefano de Geronimo
Italian favorite dish: Pizza. “If there is something I could not ever get tired of is eating pizza!”
Chinese favorite dish: Nord-East cooking but also Sichuan’s or Shanghai’s
Never abandoned dish: Tiramisu and pasta with garlic, oil, anchovies, olives and capers
Essential ingredients: Fresh herbs such as chives, thyme, basil, marjoram, etc…