'My wife and kids are my best critics'

Talking food with Giovanni Ledon, Chef de Cuisine, Akira Back, W Dubai, The Palm

Your best food-related experience.
My most memorable food experiences have always been in situations where the food was prepared in a simple way, using fresh and local ingredients. The first experience that has stayed in my memory, was in a small fishing village in Mexico. I had the best lobster ever there. It was caught in the ocean near the food stall and cooked with salt and butter. I was about 16 years old at the time and it made me realise the importance of fresh local products.

Who do you admire most in the culinary world, and why?
Anthony Bourdain. My answer might be a bit cliché but let me explain: I grew up in the food industry and loved it ever since I could remember. Before I decided to go to cooking school, my mother gave me a copy of Kitchen Confidential and said I had to finish it before I decided to start working in the kitchen. The book really tells it how it is - good and bad - and I will always respect Anthony who wrote it, making sure to keep it real.
Your favourite culinary destination, and why?
Definitely South Korea. The food culture is incredible there, from all the different fermentations, strong punchy flavours, fresh produce, and some of the best fish, shellfish and beef I have ever tasted. That said, I have been on a predominantly plant-based diet for the last four years and I would love to go back and try all the plant-based options.

How often do you eat out? What's your favourite place around town?
I don't eat out much but, when I do, I really enjoy a good pizza. My favourite is the Marinara Pizza from Torno Subito (that's not a plug for our hotel, I honestly do love it!). It's so simple - but it lets you appreciate the fermentation of the dough, balance of the tomato sauce, and a small hit of garlic and olive oil at the end.

If you could cook for a high-profile personality, who would it be and what would you serve him or her?
Probably Bill Clinton. I hear he has been vegan for a while now and I would love to cook for him. I would do a full vegan Omakase for him!

You're asked to invent an unusual dish - what would it be?
This is actually a really hard question. Unusual depends on the person, but off the top of my head, I would say Black Sesame Cheesecake with Black Garlic Ice Cream and Fermented Soy Bean Powder. Got any tasters in the house?

One ingredient/dish you can't stand - and why.
I don't really hate any ingredient, to be honest. I think there is a time, place and correct usage of most ingredients.

After cooking all day, do you cook for yourself at home too?
Yes, I cook almost every day at home for my wife and kids before I go to work. I really enjoy cooking for them, since I don't get much time at home and this is a really good way for me to ease into the day. They are my best critics too!

Favourite comfort food?
Noodles, usually from Wokyo at JLT. Udon Noodles, Jakarta sauce and vegetables - the perfect mix!

If you could choose a last meal, what would it be?
Definitely pizza. I'm addicted.

Where can we find you, when not in the kitchen?
Hanging out around the Palm with my wife and kids, or whizzing around grabbing groceries on my electric scooter.
- Staff Reporter

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