Let’s start at the beginning, what do you eat for breakfast?
Lots of fruit. I’ll occasionally treat myself to an English breakfast – but not too often!
What about your go-to guilty pleasure?
I’m definitely a carnivore. I love beef and richly flavoured game – pheasant, rabbit, venison, guinea fowl. I’m also a big fan of smoked salmon.
Your last meal on earth?
Some amazing cheese and a large antipasto.
What can I find in your home fridge right now?
It’s almost empty because I eat at the restaurant a lot. There’ll be a good piece of cheese, some salami and a bottle of wine at all times though.
Which ingredient would you grab if you could only choose one?
Basil – it has a rich flavour that complements so many ingredients. What nature supplies is simple and good, so I try to embrace the quality of natural produce in everything I do.
You’re in the kitchen a lot so we imagine you have plenty of essential kit. Which is the most important?
Gas! And my chef’s knife: it really is a part of my hand.
You must have plenty of cook books. Which is your favourite?
Il Cucchiaio d’Argento – translated into English as The Silver Spoon. The passion, pleasure and culture of Italian cuisine has attracted chefs from all around the world. Italian chefs cook because they love it. Sicily, where I grew up, has a cuisine which has adapted to so many tastes. It has been conquered by Turks, Persians, Normans and Romans and these tastes have been absorbed into the gastronomy of Sicily. We Italians love food; that’s what we are.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu right now?
Who’s the most famous person you’ve cooked for?
There have been a few, particularly when I worked in London near Pinewood Studios. Michael Flatley, Terry Wogan, Steve Cram, Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy and Denise Welch to name a few off the top of my head.
What’s your most important bit of advice?
Use your passion, creativity and determination! And keep your customers happy.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I’m a great movie lover. If I could do anything, apart from cooking, I’d love to direct movies.
If you only had £10 to spend on food, what would you buy?
Carrots, onions, celery, basil, tomatoes, fresh sausage, garlic and pasta. Simple and delicious!
Last one, who gets your vote for greatest cook ever?
Bruno Serri. He still works at the Old Inn, Saux d’Oulx, Turin. He’s the best chef I have ever worked with and he trained you with passion. Without passion, a chef is nothing.
Emanuele Orto and wife Pam run Il Piccolo restaurant, delicatessen and wine bar in Corbridge