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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.
Northern Italy native Chef Samuel Zucca recently landed in Beijing to head up Daccapo at the Regent Beijing. He spoke to us about street food versus burgers, the difficulties of a simple pasta and the ideal pizza.
The Beijinger: If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life what would it be?
Samuel Zucca: I would choose pizza because it’s a full meal, and it’s the best combination of ingredients you can have. If you eat it with the right toppings, I don’t consider Italian pizza to be junk food.
tbj: What’s your favorite pasta dish? Why?
SZ: A good spaghetti with tomato and basil. It seems like a simple dish, but I’m really picky as it’s not easy to find a good one – one made with the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity of fresh tomatoes, plus a pinch of garlic, red dried chili, and perfumed with Italian basil.
tbj: If you could build your own pizza with any toppings in the world, what would you include?
SZ: I would top a pizza margherita with fresh porcini mushrooms, finely cut and sautéed with extra virgin olive oil. I’d top the pizza with them just before serving, so that the fragrance of the porcini wouldn’t change. Finally I’d finish it with wild arugula and Grana Padano cheese.
tbj: Which of your mother’s dishes do you miss the most from home?
SZ: Every time I go back home to Italy, my mom calls me two weeks before to ask me what I want and plan the menu during my stay. I always ask her to prepare boreto alla graesane – a seafood soup prepared with a fish particular to my town – at least twice. In our town, my mom is quite famous for cooking this. Actually, all my family members are chefs.
tbj: Is there anything you don’t eat?
SZ: I don’t eat much meat, and I avoid fast food. I prefer street food to burgers.
tbj: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in a kitchen besides cook?
SZ: Well, you should ask my girlfriend.
tbj: What is your biggest reoccurring food craving?
SZ: I’m a chocolate addict. I always feel better emotionally after eating chocolate.
Head over to Daccapo at the Regent Beijing to try the new menu created by Chef Zucca.
Read more of the 2014 January issue of the Beijinger online.
Photo: Courtesy of Regent Beijing