Q&A is a regular feature in the Beijinger magazine in which we ask notable celebrities in Beijing's culinary world about their favorite dishes.
Hailing from the heart of Abruzzo between the mountains and the sea in central Italy, Chef Achille Travaglini is well-versed in the finer ingredients of life with family history in the businesses of oil, wine and cheese. Since autumn, he has been heading up the kitchen at Tavola and speaks to us here about wine gelato and cooking for James Bond.
the Beijinger: What was the first thing you remember eating as a child?
Achille Travaglini: My first memory of food is toasted homemade bread topped with homemade ricotta cheese that my grandfather used to prepare.
tbj: What’s your favorite pasta dish?
AT: My favorite pasta dish is homemade tagliolini pasta dressed with extra virgin olive oil, a little bit of pasta water from cooking, Parmesan cheese and white truffle. This is the best preparation for pasta with the truffle flavors of my region, Abruzzo.
tbj: What is the most memorable food city in the world?
AT: Rome, where you can eat and smell an unbelievable variety of beautiful food paired with the magnificent monuments of “The Eternal City.”
tbj: What is your favorite dish at Tavola?
AT: The gnocchi with scampi and truffle. It’s an amazing combination. What is one of the first things you crave to eat when you return to your hometown? My mother’s pizza filled with young broccoli and Emmenthal cheese. It is one of the best dishes I have tasted in my life.
tbj: What would you most like to cook in Beijing, but can’t?
AT: I can’t cook braised artichokes with pork sausages and bread stuffing because I can’t find good quality artichokes in the markets here.
tbj: Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever cooked for and what was that experience like?
AT: I once cooked for James Bond himself ... or rather Sean Connery. I was working at a hotel in southern Italy where Mr. Connery was the special guest of a gala night. It was great to meet him.
tbj: What’s the most interesting flavor of gelato that you ever eaten?
AT: One time, some wineries organized a fair in a castle in Balsorano, and I was very impressed with the gelato al Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Wine. What has been most surprising about Beijing? I have lived in Beijing since October, so I know just a little about the city. My first observation has been how big, and how organized it is. I’ve also been impressed to find products from all over the world.
tbj: What has been the most surprising thing about the Chinese food in China to you?
AT: I am fascinated by the variety of dishes and by the passion and care that Chinese chefs take to prepare dishes. I can recognize a little bit of Italian cuisine in Chinese handmade noodles and dumplings.
Sample the new homemade organic fresh pasta recipes created by Chef Achille at Tavola, Mon to Sun from 6pm.
A version of this interview appears in the March 2014 issue of the Beijinger.
Photo: courtesy Tavola
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