This year our 2015 Reader Restaurant Awards have four personality-based categories: Best Chef, Best Manager, Restaurant Personality of the Year, and Food Entrepreneur of the Year. During the voting period that runs through March 8, we’re profiling a few of this year’s crop of nominees.

This time around we present Marino D’Antonio, executive chef at Opera Bombana, who has been nominated in the Best Chef category.

TBJ: Tell us how about how you got to where you are today.
I arrived where I am now through a lot of patience sacrifice and passion for this job, which is amazing because it give me the chance to meet many beautiful people and see a lot of this incredible city. I first worked in London, Paris, Moscow and Milan. Then I got the chance to work for Silversea, one of the best cruise lines in the world. Finally, in 2006, I arrived in Beijing, and realised it was one of my favorite places in the world! It is challenging and sometimes very hard to work and live here, but in return I got a beautiful wife, a lot of friends and Opera Bombana.

TBJ: What dishes are you most proud of?
I am most proud of a very simple dish: my hand-crafted spaghetti alla chitarra with pork and veal meatballs. I started preparing this dish in 2009, when my mom came to Beijing to cook with me in Sureno. Since then I cannot take this dish out of my menus here in Beijing. People like it a lot, and I like to cook it. It is a traditional dish from Abruzzo, Italy. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be cooking spaghetti in Beijing in a pyramid-shaped building, I would have started laughing.

TBJ: Tell us about your biggest kitchen disaster.
The worst was in 2010 when the oven of the restaurant I was working in caught fire. It was a quiet night, and I recall we had only a few guests. Then, around 8:30pm, the smoke started to come out from the oven, and it suddenly began to spark and a small fire started. At that moment security and the GM of the hotel came into the restaurant. We needed to use 26 fire extinguishers to secure the area, and we were completely covered in white dust. It was really crazy.

TBJ: How does Beijing rate on the scale of international dining destinations?
I feel that Beijing deserves more recognition. Last year, not a single Beijing restaurant made the "Asia's 50 Best Restaurants" list compiled by Restaurant magazine. And honestly, I think there are some really nice places to eat and enjoy a nice glass of wine in Beijing. I hope that this situation changes soon. This year there have been a few nice additions to the culinary panorama of Beijing, so I am confident it will change.

TBJ: Tell us about one of your favorite places to eat in Beijing, aside from your own.
I love Chinese cuisine, and my favorite spots are Din Tai Fung, My Humble House and Da Dong.

Click here to read previous editions of A Few Words With wherein we profile some of the top players in Beijing's food scene during the voting period for the 2015 Reader Restaurant Awards, which runs through March 8.

Photo: Opera Bombana

 


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