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Recipe: Four chefs from Singapore restaurants tell us the one ingredient that is essential in their cooking

We asked chefs from four prominent Italian restaurants for the one ingredient that they are the most finicky about – that one item where they wouldn’t dream of cutting corners. Here are their answers:

Sea Salt Flakes

Name: Yves Schmid

From: Geneva, Switzerland

Years in the kitchen: 21

Chef at: Senso Ristorante & Bar, La Villa, La Nonna and Spizza

Used in: Almost everything, but especially in salad garnishes.

Yves Schmid 

“Using sea salt flakes, rather than refined salt, gives a better flavour to the dishes. For example, using them in a salad delivers a distinct crispiness. If you used a different type, say rock sea salt, which is coarser in texture, the resulting taste would be much more aggressive to the palate. We use two types, a pink salt from the Himalayas and a white one from Guérande. You can find them in Singapore in high-end supermarkets, such as Dean & Deluca.”

senso.sg | lavilla.sg | lanonna.sg | spizza.sg


Name: Angelo Ciccone

From: Locorotondo in the Puglia region of southeast Italy

Years in the kitchen: 15, including 5 years obtaining a Masters at I.P.S.S.A.R. Castellena Grotto (Italian culinary school)

Chef at: Basilico and Dolcetto by Basilico at Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel

Used in: the foie gras, homemade pasta dishes, Parmesan risotto and focaccia mascarpone

Angelo Ciccone 

“I love truffles because they have a sophisticated, earthy fragrance that can completely transform a dish. Considered by ancient Romans as the ‘food of gods’, truffles – or tartufi in Italian – are rare, which is why they are highly coveted. The best white truffles are beige or light brown and can be found in the Piedmont region of Italy for only two months of the year. They are far more flavourful and aromatic than their black counterparts and best shaved raw over a dish. Black diamond truffles, which have a rougher surface, are more delicate and subtle in flavour. We get our white truffles from Alba, a small town in Piedmont, and the black ones are flown in weekly from Norcia in southern Italy.”

1 Cuscaden Road

6733 8888 | regenthotels.com

Olive Oil

Name: Loris Massimini

From: Pietrasanta in northern Tuscany

Years in the kitchen: 25

Chef at: Pietrasanta

Used in: Almost everything on the menu

Loris Massimini 

“I am always willing to pay more for a good bottle of olive oil because it enhances the taste of the dishes I prepare. Buy a cheap one, and you can completely change the dish’s taste – and not in a good way. We buy ours from either Tuscany or Abruzzo. To find a quality olive oil, look for one that is yellowish-green in colour, flavourful and easy to digest. I have seen some good bottles in specialty shops around Singapore, but I prefer to serve the kind that I can get from home.”

53 Portsdown Road #01-03

6470 9521 | ristorante-pietrasanta.com

Fresh Herbs

Name: Beppe De Vito

From: Bari, in the Apulia region of Italy

Years in the kitchen: 7

Chef at: Latteria Mozzarella Bar and Il Lido

Used in: basil pesto with fior di latte (a round-shaped mozzarella with a richly sweet milk flavour), squash risotto, lamb shanks with chickpeas, and red wine casserole 

Beppe De Vito 

“Herbs at their freshest can impart more flavour and aroma to a dish. Older or dried herbs can lack aromatic natural oils, causing a dish to lose that elusive quality that should make it stand out. As much as we want to grow them ourselves, we don’t have the luxury of space in our own garden for the quantity we need. Instead, we work with a supplier with access to herbs from local growers. Other than freshness, it’s all about which herbs you choose and how you use them to showcase the main ingredients. That’s the wonderful thing about cooking with herbs – there are no rules.”

40 Duxton Hill

6866 1988 | latteriamb.com | il-lido.com