He graces our television screens on Gourmet Today as he eloquently waxes lyrical over the fabulous Maltese produce which he transforms into gastronomic marvels.
eve.com.mt speaks to Chef Sean Gravina about his life-long love for food.
What inspires you/motivates you to cook?
My motivation comes from the freedom cooking brings. Ironically though, as everyone knows, a chef’s life is quite tough and far away from being free. What I mean by freedom is thus; a chef is free to create whatever he or she desires. S/he only needs to use ingredients that make sense, which isn’t so hard. I don’t believe that food/techniques should strictly be done in ONE way. The cooking world is all an experiment and if one finds a better way, then he/she should just continue following them, regardless what the books say.
You mainly focus on creating ‘simple quality food’. Which ingredients do you particularly like working with?
That’s an answer which I cannot answer because I simply love cooking anything, from a simple tomato to using the most expensive beluga caviar. I truly respect all the ingredients I use and I always say that the freshest ingredients are around us. Using local ingredients is vital not only for the economy, but it is also our duty as Maltese people to use and promote local produce, especially when it comes to vegetables.
The way I cook is very simple. I try to use the best ingredients I find, respect them and cook them with love. That’s it.
It is a well-known fact that there is great comfort to be found in both the preparation and the eating of food. Which part of the cooking process do you enjoy most?
I obviously love dining, and one would think that all chefs love to dine in super restaurants around the island where the bill comes to nothing less than €120 for two people. Not I. I love dining at small, family-run restaurants where they still use grandma’s recipes and are slightly run down yet bursting with character. I find these restaurants so exciting and most important of all full of passion. On the other hand, I certainly prefer preparing food myself. It’s an exciting trial-and-error process, and when you achieve what you’ve been trying for, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment.
Do you have a signature dish? If so, would you care to let us know what it is?
No, I don’t. The funny thing is that I rarely cook the same dish twice. I actually don’t know if I ever have, but I’m obviously not talking about menu items. I’ve never repeated specials and every time I’ve cooked in homes, they have all had their own original menu and it would never be repeated anywhere else. That’s the reason I stopped providing outside catering because it got complicated and I was struggling with time, but that’s only until I build my team. My favourite ingredient would be cooking a second cut of meat because it certainly requires technique and precision.
What do you think Maltese diners tend to opt for when eating out?
I think nowadays it’s certainly NOT all about the food. Diners look for entertainment, comfort, character and above all, a friendly service. Diners want to feel at home yet NOT at home.
You’ve trained at Le Cordon Bleu and you also have an eclectic resumé of work experience under your belt. What would you say is the greatest lesson that you’ve learnt so far on your culinary journey?
It’s hard to round it up in just one answer, but I’ve learnt so much and I am continuously learning. More than anything, LCB taught me how to be organised and I underestimated that before I went to London, and they made me realise how important it is. Restaurants taught me how to respect and store ingredients. Master Chef took me to a place where I’ve never been before – being under intense pressure. It was so intense that I nearly fainted and after that experience everything that’s coming along seems slightly easier to handle. What I know for sure is that anyone who is passionate about cooking will never stop learning.
As a provider of nourishment, what is your go-to comfort food after a long day’s work?
There’s nothing like a pie – buttery pastry and chunky creamy inside. Delicious. On the other hand, if I want to eat healthily I always go for pulses, especially in winter. In summer, I generally keep things light when it comes to my food.