The ventures of a Vagabond

The ventures of a Vagabond

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Driven by love and a vagabond soul, the culinary journey of Chef Philippe Léveillé resembles something of a fairytale.

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After volunteering in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, followed by a whirlwind, worldwide adventure, Léveillé settled in Italy upon falling for the daughter of Mary Piscini – a master of local Brescian delicacies.

Despite gracing the kitchens of some of the world’s most burgeoning cities, including Paris, New York and Monte Carlo, Léveillé revelled in the rare local cooking style meticulously bequeathed to him from Mary Piscini. By marrying his French culinary artistry with the secrets of Brescian dishes, a unique style of cooking was born, and a new era transpired for the Piscini family and their Italian restaurant, Miramonti L’altro, helmed by Chef Léveillé.

With over two decades on the opposite side of The Alps, earning and retaining his two michelin stars since 2001, the French chef is now a self-proclaimed Italian. With a passion to share his love for his adopted country and its cuisine, Léveillé now graces the kitchen of L’altro Hong Kong, continuing to serve up gourmet Italian fare with his signature French twist.

Striving to please the palates of each and every diner, Léveillé embraces a concept where “conviviality” meets “contagious gluttony”. “Greedy, buttered, generous, and ‘never brainy’” is the way the chef describes his kitchen, capturing the perfect balance between substance and taste. His signature dish resonates with the essence of this concept – one side grilled pigeon, squid and chorizo brunoise, light sauce of foie gras and crustacean reduction – a myriad of mouth-watering textures and full flavours, lightened with a zesty finish.

Aptly named L’altro, meaning “the other”, this chef and his kitchen deliver a dining experience different to all the rest. The launch of the new menu in March, in short, “simply must be tried”, embodying the passion and fascination that shaped the story of Chef Léveillé and his culinary creations.

Mary Piscini is renowned for having mastered the cooking style of the Brescian region. How did you feel entering new culinary territories, and how did it affect your own cooking style?
The combination of entering new culinary territories and working with a master of Brescian delicacies kept me in touch, for the first time, with real, traditional Italian Cuisine. Mary Piscini’s cuisine did not necessarily modify my vision and my style of cooking, but rather consolidated it, giving me the chance to express my culinary thoughts in a much better, refined way.

What was your relationship with Mary Piscini like when you were learning the secrets of Brescian cuisine?
It was a marvellous experience to be side-by-side with her and immersing myself into the traditional cuisine. Every day was a daily discovery.

After two decades in Italy and serving Italian fare, do you ever return to France for a piece of French-style cooking?
Actually no, not really. My roots are here now (Italy), and this new project of Italian cuisine in l’Altro Hong Kong has now given me the opportunity to explore and establish myself and my cuisine in Asia.

You now helm two thriving kitchens on both sides of the equator. How do you manage your time between the two?
This new adventure with l’Altro Hong Kong has not really changed my routine… I learned to manage two kitchens simultaneously thanks to the help of my wife, Daniela, and of my chefs, Antimo Maria Merone in Hong Kong and Maura Zacchetti in Brescia.

You have travelled the world. Are you planning on settling in Hong Kong for now, or are there new ventures on the horizon?
New projects are coming – especially in the Asian Market. But for the moment, everything is still very top secret…

You have a great concept of “conviviality” meets “contagious gluttony”, and you describe your kitchen as “greedy, buttered, generous, and ‘never brainy’”. What’s the story behind this?
My cuisine reflects my way of living. I like that if a guest sits down in one of my restaurants, he is able to enjoy a relaxed and happy experience, as well as good, satisfying food.

Your new Hong Kong menu launches in March. What should we expect?
This will simply follow on from my first menu, so some of the diners’ favourites will remain on the new menu, as will some of the signature dishes. However, during the first few months, I slightly modified my style, altering my cuisine to be more interesting and desirable to the Hong Kong clientele, so there will be a few dishes with a classic Asian twist.

Two Michelin stars from the Italian based restaurant, and already a loyal following in Hong Kong. What’s your secret?
I don’t have a special secret. I just put my passion and heart into all the food that I create.

vagabondA l’Altro all-time favourite

HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI
“ALLA CHITARRA” WITH CLAMS AND SEAWATER EMULSION

INGREDIENTS:
For the pasta dough:
– 300 grams Flour
– 200 grams Fresh egg italian yolk
– 3 grams Salt
(65 grams per portion)

For the sauce:
– 50 grams (clean) Clams
– 20 grams Clam water
– 16 grams Confit tomatoes
– 5 grams Pantelleria capers
– 20 grams Beurre blanc
– Salt and pepper

For the seawater emulsion:
– Shallots 100 (20-30 per portion)
– 200 ml Vinegar
– 200 ml White wine
– 50 grams Lemon grass
– 250 grams Butter
– 100 ml Clam water

DIRECTIONS:
1. Open the clams with olive oil and white wine.
2. Remove the flesh of the clams from the shell and clean.
3. Combine the clams with the confit tomatoes, pantelleria capers, salt and pepper, then mix in the beurre blanc.
4. Add the clam water and whip with a bamix blender until foaming.
5. Boil the pre-made pasta and mix in the sauce.
6. Serve with some seawater foam.

ALLA-CHITARRA