Enthralled with cooking from a very young age and fascinated by his mother’s skills in the kitchen, Angelo Ciccone started working in a seafood restaurant every day after school at the tender age of 13 so he could understand the secrets of the culinary world. He enrolled in hospitality school aged 14 and is now executive chef at Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel, where he remains hands on and delights in heading all the hotel’s culinary operations.
E: You started working in kitchens very young, can you imagine being anything other than a chef?
Angelo: At a young age, I was fascinated by top singers (like Freddy Mercury) who were able to make thousands of people at a concert scream for them, so I was always fantasising about being a singer. In fact, when I was 9 years old, I sang in the local church! As I grew older, I realised my passion for food was my life. Also, apparently my off-key voice didn’t help my singing career!
E: You have said that Locorotondo, your home town in southeast Italy, is all about fresh seafood and good quality wine. What would your comment on Singapore be?
A: I think that Singapore is a paradise for foodies. You can taste some of the best cuisines from all over the world on this beautiful island. Some amazing chefs are based here as well so there are plenty of opportunities to experience specialties from places such as Japan, Peru, Europe, India, Korea, and so on, with very high levels of quality and authenticity.
E: You’ve worked in pastry, Italian restaurants and much more in between, do you have a favourite part of the culinary world?
A: Italians by blood are passionate about the art of pastry and intrigued by rare spices. My favourite part of the culinary world is that it is always evolving and getting better. In the last 20 years, we went from Mamma-style Italian food to classic English roast and potatoes. Thereafter, we moved into refined French nouvelle cuisine, then organic superfoods, molecular cuisine, farm-to-table concepts, and now “Instagrammable food”. It’s always changing. The rediscovery and creative freedom always keeps me inspired and sharp.
E: What is it you most enjoy about cooking?
A: Finding the right balance presenting modern-day guests with food in a new way, but keeping the flavours authentic. I believe we must always respect the food and the ingredients themselves; source the best produce, cook it in the right way, and you are already set for success. I like to push myself and my team to come up with the “next thing”, not following, but instead trying to set new trends.
E: Tell us what you find most interesting about setting up a wine dinner.
A: Wine dinners are some of the greatest events that happen in a restaurant. We get to connect with the winemaker to understand their story and product, learn more about the wines through the experiences of the sommelier, and learn about the chef and their creative process to create food that matches the wine. And you need a good PR/marketing plan to execute for publicity. There is always great synergy from different individuals when organising a wine dinner. That’s what makes it so exciting!
E: At Regent Singapore you’re overseeing very different cuisines served in renowned restaurants. What sort of challenges do you come up against with, for example, being hands on with a team of chefs preparing primarily Italian food, another team preparing award-winning Chinese food and another handling the Tea Lounge?
A: That’s the exquisiteness of my job; having to collaborate with international teams from different backgrounds and experiences, in different concept restaurants and banqueting. It is always important to have an encouraging outlook, an open mind, but more than ever, the need to focus on four letters: BEST! Everything that we do has to be the best. We don’t get out of the bed in the morning just to be mediocre.
E: As an executive chef, do you still manage to find time to cook?
A: Yes, of course I do. Nowadays as an executive chef, I need to focus on finance, marketing, human resources and creating menus, while inspiring and leading a big group of cooks into developing their careers. But first of all, I’m still a chef and food is my life.
E: What was it that drew you to Asia as opposed to returning to Europe?
A: I think in the next 30-50 years, Asia will be the “happening place” to be at! Cities like Singapore, Hong Kong and other capitals in Asia will be where new trends for the rest of the world come up. Particularly, I love Singapore as she has a great mix of talented people working together.
E: Your hobbies are very different from each other – golf, football and chess! Why these three?
A: I have loved football since I was a baby! I always played and scored many goals and am a huge supporter of the Italian football team Juventus. I started golfing in the last 10 years and love the game as you are really competing with yourself. As for chess, it’s my favourite table game. I think you can really see how somebody’s brain works when you play chess, and I’m very competitive, I like to win.
E: Other than your own restaurants in the hotel, where do you like to eat?
A: I love dim sum and always try new Chinese restaurants that are famous for dim sum. Also, I must have authentic Japanese food at least once a week! Usually I will be out trying new restaurants in the city.
- 250g carnaroli rice
- 1,200ml fish stock*
- 20g spring onions
- 80ml Prosecco
- 70g extra virgin olive oil
- 400g lobster
- 150g asparagus
- 16g queen scallops
- 160g tiger prawns
- 2g fennel seed powder
- 3g lemon zest
- 5g dill
- 10g chives
- 10g parsley
- 5g squid ink
- Salt and pepper to taste
Fish Stock Ingredients
- 150g sea bass bones
- 300g lobster shell
- 200g prawn shells
- 50g fennel
- 40g celery
- 140g ripe tomatoes
- 50g carrots
- 50g onions
- 20g garlic
- 2,400ml water
- Chop all vegetables and place in pan with rest of ingredients.
- Boil until water has reduced by half.
- Strain liquid and set aside for use when cooking risotto.
- Put olive oil and onions in a pan, add rice and toast for 2 minutes.
- Add half Prosecco and allow evaporate.
- Once evaporated, add stock one ladle at a time and cook for about 12 minutes.
- Add thinly pre-sliced asparagus to risotto.
- Cut all seafood into cubes.
- In another pan, sauté seafood with garlic. Add remaining Prosecco, lemon zest and pinch of fennel seed powder. Set aside.
- When risotto is almost ready, add seafood and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Remove pot from heat, add fresh herbs, remaining extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
- Serves 4.
- Using lobster bisque instead of the stock can enhance the seafood flavour.
- A dry Pinot Grigio pairs well with this dish.
- Adding a pinch of saffron gives a new dimension to this great recipe.
- Leftover rice can be made into arancini – just shape rice into balls, add breadcrumbs and deep-fry.
Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel
1 Cuscaden Road,
T: (+65) 67338888