Diary Of An Italian Executive Chef

Ivan Barone, the culinary maestro behind the epicurean delights at MGallery’s Hôtel des Arts Saigon, is no stranger to luxury dining. Take a peek inside the mind of an Executive Chef living his dreams.

Tell us about your culinary journey, how many countries have you worked in as a chef?

My culinary journey began in 1996; I lived and worked in Italy until 2014, before I left my country to come to Vietnam. I have mainly worked for luxury hotels and fine dining restaurants, starting a new chapter in Vietnam as Chef de Cuisine for Park Hyatt Saigon. I have also worked in Thailand for a group of restaurants.

What drew you towards working for Hôtel des Arts Saigon - MGallery?

The luxury and prestige, the freedom to express myself through the cuisine that I present to my guests. I love the working environment as well; I am surrounded and supported by a great team of colleagues.

As an Italian Chef in Vietnam, what part of your experience comes with the most pressure and difficulty?

At the beginning, there were challenges finding good quality ingredients, but now that has changed, and almost anything can be sourced. In addition to adapting to the ingredients I had, I also had to adapt to the weather, as the climate in Vietnam is so different to Italy, and it affected my recipes. I also felt pressure to integrate myself into the local community and culture, and today I am proud to say I have.

Is there a secret to creating authentic Italian flavours?

I don’t have any specific secret, except for the true love and passion for what I do, that is what makes me successful in every position as a Chef. Certainly, knowledge of ingredients is vital as a Chef, in order to bring the best out of them. When people ask me what ingredients I use, I always reply that the best ingredient is love.

You once shared that Italian cuisine is your career soul, and Vietnamese cuisine is an inspiration to create new delicacies. How does Vietnamese cuisine inspire you?

Vietnam and Italy have many commonalities, in the way we care for our families, the sharing of food on the dinner table, the use of fish, seafood and vegetables within our cuisines, so I love to integrate local ingredients into my culinary offerings. Like Vietnam, Italy also has many regions, each with their own local food specialties, dialects and accents. I find these similarities amazing.

What is your favourite dish to prepare?

I don’t have a specific favourite dish to prepare, as it would limit my creativity, but I can tell you that one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes is Bun Bo.

Hôtel des Arts Saigon won the World Culinary Award for Asia’s Best Brunch Venue in 2023. What did this mean to you and your team?

This award really meant the world to myself and the team. We work so hard every Sunday to create a unique epicurean experience for our guests, every time they walk through our doors.

How would you describe your cooking style in three words?

Fresh, modern and tasty!

How would you approach the task of creating a lower-calorie menu?

It depends on what the guest wants to achieve, but legumes and vegetables are a good start, but I would play to my strengths, and draw from my knowledge of Mediterranean cuisine.

Are there any new culinary trends you want to implement in your dishes?

I am already working on some new trends but I have not fully applied them yet; I follow some great Chefs on social media. However, I am focussed on developing my own style, which is based in simplicity and drawing the most from my ingredients to allow them to shine. When you have good ingredients and a good knowledge of those ingredients, you’ve already done fifty percent of the job.

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