Five minutes with… Francesco Mazzei

The Sartoria, Fiume and Radici chef talks to Brummell about his love of gardening, olive oil and Sophia Loren

Food and Drink 16 Oct 2019

Francesco Mazzei
Sartoria Dining Room
The exterior of Sartoria

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The first chef I worked under used to say that in our job the day you think you’re the best is the day you’re going to fail. You can always be getting better and improving. I tell all the younger chefs I work with the same thing. They are all so ambitious, but I tell them to be smart and don’t rush.

 Who is your role model?

My great grandma, Maria, who was 97 when she died. She was the best person in life, an amazing cook, a fantastic gardener and she wasted nothing. I learned a lot from her.

What ingredient can you not live without?

Olive oil! Both for cooking and for my skin – my grandma always used it in her beauty regimen and I do too. Life would be so boring without it.

What item, apart from your passport, can you not travel without?

A notebook and a sharp pencil. I write on my phone too, but a pencil and paper is very organic and it’s easy to erase and rewrite when needed, it makes me feel like I’m cooking something. I’m always writing ideas and recipes down, so I don’t forget them.

Where is your favourite place to eat in London?

Hakkasan is always somewhere I love to go. I also really like Dumplings’ Legend in Soho for dim sum. I go there a lot with my family, the xiao long bao are our favourite.

What do you do on a day off?

I spend time with my kids. I have two – a girl who is 12 and a boy who is 9. I like to cook with them and they really want to learn how to cook, which is fantastic.

What are your biggest passions outside of cooking?

Gardening is one of the things I enjoy the most, it’s really relaxing and growing a plant feels really special. I grow beans, tomatoes and grapes among other things. I also have a small farm in the south of Italy that grows chillies that we use in my restaurants.

If you could choose anyone from today or history, who would be your ideal dinner party guest and why?

Sophia Loren, I think it’s amazing what she did for the perception of Italy. She is a great ambassador for food and a great woman. She once said: ‘Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti’, what an amazing thing to say! I would make her spaghetti with tomato, pecorino and basil and I’d serve it with a nice bottle of Gavi di Gavi.