It is 10am, and Chef Mauro Colagreco is seated with his team at The Library at Capella Singapore after a big night 12 hours ago. Fiamma had hosted a closed-door private event, with him at the pass ensuring every plate of food that goes out meets his exacting standards. “I wanted people to enjoy the experience of sharing food; to be in a place where you can be relaxed yet have food that is high-quality,” he says passionately, in between sips of sparkling water.
Fiamma is a veritable tribute to his grandmother’s hearty Italian cooking—with large sharing portions of the likes of a blue lobster tagliatelle, a decadent smoked Scarmoza cheese cream and Tuscan salami pizza, and a tender dry-aged beef chop. There were copious amounts of wine, great conversation and laughter, and food that made people happy.
This is what Colagreco’s grandmother’s home in the Argentinian countryside was like—warm and open to anyone who walked through those doors. It might be hard transporting that exact memory, but with Capella Singapore’s lush green landscape amidst clear blue skies, you might for a moment forget where you are.
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Why did you decide to open Fiamma at Capella Singapore?
I love Singapore. It’s full of people who travel around the world and are open to different tastes and cuisines. Capella Singapore is one of the most beautiful places in town, am I right? You’re in contact with nature and that’s incredibly special. We have also opened a restaurant in Bangkok with Capella—Côte by Mauro Colagreco—and it was a very successful partnership. There is great dialogue between both companies and that is crucial in achieving something together.
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What is the experience you hope people will have at Fiamma?
I wanted people to enjoy the experience of sharing food; to be in a place where you can be relaxed yet have food that is high-quality. It’s a place where you can come with your children, friends or family and you’re focused on the experience from beginning to end. I grew up in my grandmother’s house, which was always so welcoming to everyone—there was always a plate at the table for everyone who walked through those doors. I wanted to re-create that feeling.
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How did food play a big part in your childhood? What is the dish that holds a special place in your heart?
Food played a huge part in my life since I was little I was a happy child and had a wonderful childhood. Everyone cooks in my house, from my mother to my father and my sister. My grandmother was an extraordinary woman who had plenty of love to give. She lived in the countryside in Argentina, so we passed a lot of time in her home during summer holidays and big events.
My grandmother made a fantastic Italian-style dumpling ravioli. The family tries to do the same, but nobody can achieve the same results. She served it with an amazing tomato sauce.
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What are some qualities or attributes needed to be successful as a chef these days—apart, of course, from being able to cook?
Yes, that is the base (laughs). I think one of the most important things is to have an open mind, to have an interest in various cultures, and to open your heart to others—because you cook for both yourself and others, and this is what you love. The most important ingredient is love.
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What do your sons think of your cooking?
They are my worst guests (laughs). Luca is 12 and he is very critical—he has already eaten in plenty of restaurants so he knows the words to use [to describe food]. He offers a lot of details. Valentin is eight, and loves meat, pasta and French fries. I try and make vegetable dishes, but he refuses to eat it. But he’s started to say to me, “Dada, I want to continue your work.” I try not to push them because it is hard work, and you need to have passion to do it.
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What are some ingredients in your kitchen pantry you cannot live without? What’s your go-to late night snack?
I love tomato season. My grandfather grew his own tomatoes. When I think about tomatoes, the first image that comes to mind is him. He once gave me a warm tomato directly from the plant—plenty of juice and flavour, it is something I remember till now. I also love olive oil and basil, simple things.
My go-to late night snack is … bread. I love bread. It’s good with tomato, parmesan cheese, olive oil and sea salt. It’s something I can eat all the time. Like a bruschetta.
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What is success to you?
It is being happy about what you do, and being lucky enough to express yourself through your work.
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I hear Julien Royer—of Odette and Claudine—is your good friend. What do you think of him?
He’s fantastic and serves very high-level international cuisine. He is one of the most creative chefs—and youngest chefs—in the world right now. He’s a very nice person.
Fiamma is now open at Capella Singapore.