Chef of the Week: Angelina Adamo, Chef Patron at TuttoApposto in Birmingham

How long have you been a chef?
9 years. I started out at the University College of Birmingham (previously Birmingham College of Food) when I was 16.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skill?
Coming from a big Sicilian family, my Nonna used to cook a lot at home and as I watched her in the kitchen I fell in love with cooking and learning about fresh ingredients. It was at Simpsons Restaurant that I learned how to finesse my skills, I’m so fortunate to have been able to learn hands-on in a Michelin-star environment. I’ll forever be grateful for Andreas Antona and Luke Tipping’s mentoring they taught me over my time there.

What do you enjoy the most about being a chef?
I love the buzz and adrenaline of a kitchen- I thrive off the stress and the heat! There’s nothing more rewarding than the feeling after a busy dinner and you’ve been bouncing off of each of your team of chefs the entire service. Watching the dishes that you’ve created all coming together, utilising everyone’s skills, and being able to feed people and put smiles on faces through the power of food.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Garlic, olive oil and salt.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
I would say my KitchenAid. He’s named Luigi, and he’s an angel.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Menus featuring small plates have really taken the forefront. It creates a much more sociable way of dining and enables the guests to try a little bit of everything which can push people out of their comfort zones a little and try dishes they might not have normally ordered, without committing to it being their main meal. It also gives the chef the creativity to create menus that can be enjoyed either individually, but then also complement each other as a collection. What more could you want than a table full of lots of tasty plates to dive into?!

What do you think is a common mistake that let chefs down? Trying to overcomplicate a dish, or doing too much. Sometimes less can be more- let the produce speak for itself. ‘Good food is often, even most often, simple food’- Anthony Bourdain

What is your favourite time of year for food and why?
It has to be Spring. After being in the ‘heavier dishes’ months, the first proper fresh ingredients of the year are popping up ready for an abundance of lighter seasonal goodness. The marriage between Jersey Royals, British asparagus, wild garlic and New Season Lamb will always be an unbeatable combination.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My Tuttoaposto Aranicini has turned into one of my staples. Turning an Italian street food into a refined dish that has become my most popular by far- whether for private dinner parties, in my own restaurant, or as wholesale for other restaurants around the city. It’s a traditional Sicilian staple that makes me proud of my heritage, a real comfort food, and a personal favourite.

How do you come up with new dishes?
They normally hit me at 3am. Social media helps, reading books, and looking at what it is season really does lead the way. Taking the time to experiment with different flavour combinations and play around really sparks the fun of being a chef. Some of the best recipes can stem from trial and error of ingredients you never even thought could go together- my artichoke tiramisu recipe is a firm favourite.

Who is your greatest influence?
Cooking comes from having a passion, there’s nothing like having some key ingredients and turning them into something incredible. All of my favourite dishes stem from my Nonna’s classics I ate growing up, her skills in the kitchen were amazing and her work ethic was like nothing I’ve ever seen. A true inspiration.

Tell us three chefs you admire?
Domique Crenn, Massimo Buttura and Thomas Straker.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Honestly, the Pasta Queens cookbook. She’s an internet sensation- think… Italian Nigella – need I say more?

Who do you think are the chefs to watch in the next few months?
Birmingham babs- I think Tom Smith is making amazing creations in Stirchly, Kray Tredwell at 670g is forever smashing it, and Kasia at Tropea in Harborne is doing some seriously tasty food!

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I think it would be wrong not to say my own wouldn’t it! It’s been a long time in the making (and a lot of hard graft). The Circle Lounge by Tuttoapposto within The Hippodrome officially opened in August and the feeling of finally having a Tuttoapposto headquarters restaurant, and the ability to have full-time employees is a true pinch-me proud moment. The menu is built up of seasonal, sharing, Mediterranean dishes and really is a true representation of what I love.