Apart from being spellbound by Chef Martina’s mixed shape pasta served drowning in ragusano cheese sauce and scrumptiously topped with mussels, we were also beguiled by her light-hearted, down-to-earth personality. Bold and fearless like the Sicilian cuisine she specialises in, we recently sat down with the charismatic chef.
As part of the Sicilian Journey dining pop-up hosted by Gastronauts Asia last year, Chef Martina Caruso, a chef and owner of one-Michelin-starred Hotel Signum in Salina, Italy was welcomed as a first guest chef to grace the Sicilian food series with her signature dishes.
Although Martina is the youngest female chef to receive a Michelin star in Italy, her food expresses bold charisma and the vibrancy of Sicily’s charm second to none. Her knack and passion for working with Sicilian ingredients to create a groundbreaking meal are greatly celebrated among Italian chefs – and now also among Bangkok-based ones.
With so great of chance to wine and dine over Sicilian food and vino with her, we eagerly seized this opportunity to also sit down and chat with her in a food centric-talk. Read all about her insights and thoughts in this full and exclusive interview below.
Olive oil, tomato, and eggplant. The latter is an absolute must-have item. We cook with eggplant a lot.
Grilling vegetables and preparing salad. These were my first kitchen jobs when I was about 14.
My dad Michele, who introduced me to cooking, and Chef Pino Cuttaia from Sicily.
I would be Malvasia grape. It’s a wine grape and I love its transformation from blooming on a vine, being sun-dried, and being made into a very great bottle of opulent wine — passito wine, to be specific.
Ratatouille, of course! [laughs]
Poached egg. My mom used to cook it for me often when I was young and it was actually the first thing I learned to cook.
I like to tell the stories of Sicilian islands and also my travel experiences through the food I make. Going on a trip and exploring new places are my ways of learning about new ingredients and new cooking techniques. I use my food to depict the journeys that I had.
Tom Yum Goong! So delicious.
Lemon! I’m Sicilian after all. [laughs]
No, absolutely not. This is a sensitive topic for the Italians. But Nutella is a perfect exception for a dessert pizza.
I cook at home quite often. And since the restaurant opened, I’ve been trying to take care of my health by eating the right thing at the right time, because sometimes a chef schedule can get very hectic. I cook for myself pretty much everyday both at home and at work. I also like the time spent on cooking at home with my boyfriend. It’s part of the daily routine in life I truly enjoy.
Non-stick pan — it’s a very great tool to have in cooking.
The number one rule is to always stay humble, even when you’re awarded or become famous. Also, travel as much as you can and constantly do research on cooking to keep on evolving as a chef.
Pasta with simple tomato sauce and a ton of parmesan.
Deep-fried seafood, because it’s a crowd-pleasing dish and perfect to share. It also reminds me of celebration.
A bunch of buffalo mozzarella. [smiles]
Deep-fried Italian fishballs with sweet and sour onion sauce. Ravioli filled with soft ricotta filling sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with Sicilian orange seasoning. I’m planning to also have Caponata, a Sicilian eggplant dish. And for dessert, I would like to also have a good Biancomangiare, a pudding-like milky Italian dessert. Yum.