Chef Guglielmo Araldi arrived at the Majestic at the busiest time of year, bringing his experience to a team that was already well-oiled and working well together. His food is based on emotion and he cooks it for the hotel’s international clientele with due care and dedication. Some ingredients he can’t do without, one of them being ‘nduja, a spicy, spreadable pork sausage from Calabria.
1. Do you remember your first day working in the kitchens of the Grand Hotel Majestic?
I remember it very well. I began here in November, just before the Christmas holidays, a very demanding time of year for our kitchen. As soon as I got here, we threw ourselves into planning ahead for Christmas and there was a lot of work to do until the end of the year. Meanwhile, I settled in and got to know my new colleagues, most of whom are still here at our Ristorante I Carracci.
2. What was the most bizarre or unusual culinary request you’ve ever had to meet?
It was a spring afternoon and some clients who had flown in by jet asked us for forty dishes to take away. We managed to get it all done in less than half an hour. The anecdote gives you an idea of how our clientele is very international and very demanding. We like to pamper them and thrill them by giving our all and serving fine, fresh, top-quality food.
3. In your opinion, which dish captures the soul of the Due Torri, and why?
Seeing how we’re in the old centre of Bologna we’re always open to tradition and the most popular local recipes. One of the dishes that best reflects my own cooking is red shrimp with almonds, passion fruit, seaweed and caviar. It’s now on the menu and it captures my origins and my career.
4. You must travel sometimes yourself. What is the first thing you notice when you eat in a hotel restaurant elsewhere?
What I look at first is the menu, which is a restaurant’s visiting card. It mirrors the chef and his cooking philosophy. When I eat out, I always hope to find someone who loves their job, though in a hotel that’s not enough in itself. There also has to be synergy and trust between the chef and the owners.
For me, good work is based on creativity, product sourcing, the quality of the ingredients, and the freshness of the vegetables. Nowadays vegetables are fundamental. Just think of the millions of vegetarians there are all over the world. When I’m out and about, I like to sample the dishes typical of the place where I happen to be. I also like to scour the menu for the chef’s most important dishes. I enjoy looking for “clues” about the identity of the person who prepared them.
5. Catering professionals do a very challenging, tough job that often requires a great deal of physical and mental effort. What’s your typical day and how do you cope with the busiest moments?
My days are pretty frantic. They start at seven in the morning (when my daughter wakes up) and I devote the first hours of the day to my family. I arrive in the kitchen between nine and ten o’clock. The first thing we do is get in touch with suppliers, put goods into storage, and check foodstuffs and put them in order. Then we organise the stations and the team starts working on the antipasti, first courses and main courses.
At this point we hold a daily briefing with the appropriate offices to see what events have been organised for the day, after which I return to the kitchen to organise the service with the waiters and the various people in charge.
At 11.30 the staff have their lunch. We wouldn’t have time to eat in the afternoon as the restaurant opens at 12:30pm. After the lunch service, in fact, we immediately start organising dinner, which goes on until midnight. After that, we see to cleaning and tidying the kitchens and taking orders for the next day.
In general, I manage stress by trying to stay calm. We manage to get through the busiest days together as a team, helping each other, working with a smile and always seeking harmony, which is fundamental seeing as we’re all together for so many hours at a time.
Our job is a constant flux. It wouldn’t be possible without passion because it requires a lot of sacrifices. Even if we’re exhausted at the end of the day, the morning after we start again with a smile.
6. What could you never do without in your kitchen? A flavour, an ingredient, a specific utensil …
In all my menus I always add a touch of my native Calabria by including ‘nduja calabrese. On the menu at the moment, for example, we have linguine with scorpion fish soup, ‘nduja infusion, sea urchins and lemon. In general, I like clear-cut flavours and I’m happy to say that in my cooking it’s always possible to identify the various tastes and ingredients that compose a dish.