Chef Carrado Assenza began his culinary adventure at Caffè Sicilia, a family business in which he subsequently headed. It did not matter that he did not finish his degree in agronomist studies, as Chef Assenza had the flair of dealing with the synergistic bonds between biology and agricultural production – along the way, adding his special touch to his creations. Chef Assenza firmly believes that “once the aroma has been captured, the real challenge is to manage to recreate it again by natural means, in a cream or a sweet, without diminishing it or letting it stand out too much among the rest of the ingredients”, which has allowed his perfect creations to do the talking.
Currently, Chef Assenza the innovator of Caffe’ Sicilia’s one-of-a-kind jams and sweets. He has been touted as the ‘alchemist of nature’ – one of the most bold pastry chefs who dare to utilize all Sicilian elements in his creations which can range from sweet to savoury.
Why do you only use raw ingredients from Sicily?
Carrado: I search to work, to live, to make with my human experience into my food. My Italian heritage is in my body, my brain and my head – I like to use it everyday, not only in my food but in my life experience. So that it becomes a 360 degree life experience.
How do you balance your work and life?
Carrado: My work is my life. I don’t have enough time to have work and after life. My wife works with me in the shop and my family is my work. I have a lot of friends from work, but not friends of work.
What prompted you to start your journey as a chef?
Carrado: It all began with my family. I was involved since I was one year old. The first playing room in my life is the same room where I work now. I never leave the room. I improve every time I spend time in this room – I don’t know whether I play more in this room or work more. To me, it is is one-direction – I never finish working, and I never finish playing.
How do you deal with difficult customers?
Carrado: I make what I like. I like it if people appreciate it, but if people don’t appreciate it and try to change my idea then I won’t go all out to please them. I try to explain what is behind it but I also appreciate if they don’t love my creations — it’s a new experience for me and for them.
Besides Italian food, do you fancy other cuisine?
Carrado: Yes, I don’t just fancy Italian food. I like a variety of cuisines such as Singaporean food as it brings together a combination of food from Asian countries such as Indonesia, Japan, China and more.
How do you ensure that your secrets for making pastries are kept properly?
I have a master chef. I told him not to compete, not to learn – but to take the secrets. This is not a school, this is a job and the best lesson that you can take away is to find your own secret – that is the best secret. I have applied many years of experience I garnered from my education in chemical biology and agriculture to understand how things are being made.
Do you have any future plans?
I don’t know. At the moment I am scheduled to be in Singapore, and each time my schedule changes in accordance with the surroundings, environment, time and experience. I stay in touch with people in my industry, listen and love to travel. But I rather go directly to places to make an experience and not to listen to anyone.
If you could describe your life in one sentence, what would it be?
Carrado: I find sugar in the sea water and salt in the sweetness of fish.
World Gourmet Summit 2013: Gattopardo featuring Corrado Assenza
Available from 21-24 April 2013
Sun-Wed: 12-3pm; 6.30-10.30pm