Chef of the Week: Valentina Maschio, Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay Burger in Harrods

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have been working as Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay Burger for 1 year. I joined the Harrods’s Team 3 years ago.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking stems from a few different sources, given my rather unconventional background as a criminal lawyer. First and foremost, I must credit my grandmother, who instilled in me a love for cooking from an early age. Watching her create delicious meals with love and care sparked my initial interest in the culinary arts.
However, when it comes to my professional skills, I must attribute much of my development to Chef Anthony Garlando, now Culinary Director at Atlantis Dubai. In fact, while working as criminal lawyer, I realised that my true passion lay in the kitchen, and I made the decision to pursue it wholeheartedly. I had the privilege of training under Chef Garlando, who not only refined my technical skills nut also nurtured my creativity and taught me how to navigate the fast-paced culinary world.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
As a chef, there are several aspects of the profession that I truly enjoy.  I have a deep passion in the artistry and creativity that comes with being a chef. The constant exploration of flavours, textures, and presentation keep me engaged and excited about my work every day. Additionally, I find fulfilment in researching and implementing sustainable practices in my work. Being aware of the environmental impact of the food industry, I strive to find ways to minimise waste, work with local and seasonal ingredients, and support sustainable farming practices. It brings me a sense of purpose to contribute towards a more sustainable and ethical way of cooking.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, salt and a good olive oil.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
This is an hard question to answer for. I will say “I like all my toys in my kitchen”, however initially I couldn’t live without my charcoal grill, Josper as I loved the unique flavours it brought to my dishes. Recently my perspective has shifted, and now I cannot imagine my kitchen without my practical and efficient FlashGRILL.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
The food industry is constantly evolving, so there may be new trends emerging all the time. However, currently there is a significant rise in the popularity of plant-based and vegan food options. Furthermore, there is a growing movement towards promoting regenerative agriculture practices, with focus on improving soil health and carbon sequestration. Overall, the food industry is witnessing a shift towards more plant-based option and a greater emphasis on reducing carbon footprint, demonstrating the increasing awareness and concern for the environmental impact of our food choice.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
One common mistake is the tendency to overachieve and prioritize a speedy career at the expense of self-care and work-life balance. Chefs are often passionate and driven individuals who strive for excellence in their culinary endeavours. They may feel pressure to meet high expectations in shorter time when they should enjoy the ride.
Burnouts are common, and I suffered with this as well. To avoid falling into this trap, chefs need to speak up loudly. In my case, I had a great supportive work environment where communication is encouraged and can help alleviate some of the pressures that contribute to burnout. Ultimately, chefs who prioritize their well-being and strike a healthy balance between ambition and self-care are more likely to sustain their passion in the long run and continue thriving in the culinary career.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn is my favourite time of the year due to the abundance of seasonal ingredients and the warm, comforting flavours associated with the season. As the weather begins to cool down, people naturally gravitate towards heartier and warming dishes. Think of dishes like roasted butternut squash soup or hearty stews. These flavours evoke feelings of coziness and nostalgia.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My ratatouille saffron ravioli pasta with parmesan mousse and crispy sage.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I am a curious person by nature. Usually, I like to explore new restaurants to spark my inspiration or sometimes the inspiration comes from a single ingredient, the willing sometime to elevate a single ingredient is guide me during the creative process.
Ultimately, believe it or not, dreams can sometimes provide unexpected culinary inspirations. It’s not uncommon for me to wake up with a fresh idea after having a vivid dream about food. Embracing the imagination and allowing your mind to wander can lead to unique and innovative culinary creations.

Who was your greatest influence?
Jason Atherton and Tom Sellers had the great influence on the chef I am now. Working with them for many years as shaped my professional skills and my way to adapt in different environment.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
My mentor Anthony Garlando, Marco Pierre White and Daniel Humm.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Eleven Madison Park. I couldn’t live without it.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Sean Clark, chef patron The Table in Edinburgh. It is an amazing concept, one table with 10 guests and high skilled chef in an intimate environment.
James Cochran, patron of 1251 and Around the Cluck. Simply love his flavours. His scotch bonnet jam needs to be tasted by everyone once in their life.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Studio Frantzen in Harrods. The menu showcases seasonal ingredients sourced from local and sustainable suppliers. It focus on using traditional Nordic flavours while incorporating modern techniques and international influences. Each dish is thoughtfully crafted, showcasing a balance of flavours, texture and presentations.