‘‘I never thought of doing anything else, I love what I do, I am happy. Only people that love this job can really do it’’
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
His first experience in the kitchen was in a local pizzeria in his hometown in Southern Italy, where he was sent to work by his parents at the age of ten to keep him in line.
INCE THEN, his drive to become a chef has never diminished, going straight from school to work in Majorca at the age of 18. He trained in Germany, Great Britain, and in the unique and quite outstanding Hangar 7 in Austria. As well as being associated with some of the biggest names in gastronomy today, such as Roland Trettl, Eckart Witzigmann, Jean -Georges Vongerichten and David Thompson, he is known for having a clear, new and different perception of haute cuisine.
Just like an artist, Matteo experiments and expands the limits of his work by stretching tradition towards his own personal compositions. At Vila Joya he can experiment even further with his ideas, sharing the culinary throne with Dieter Koschina. Sticking to a particular place for several years is part of his work ethic. He doesn’t like rash decisions, hence his skepticism towards short term experiences. He needs time to think and reason: “In order to demonstrate that you're doing something valuable, you have to stick to it for a long time, you can’t demonstrate much in one year only, it’s too fast. I am very patient, things have to be cultivated, and I am at an age where I have the experience and the perseverance.”
Matteo enjoys his life in Portugal; he loves to be close to the sea which he greatly missed during his stay in London and Austria, and he is influenced by what is available locally on a daily basis: “The menu here changes every day, so I must always be ready to create something new and different.” Matteo gets fresh herbs from a 75- year-old who grows them locally, he meets with local fishermen to get fresh and high-quality produce. New ideas and inspiration very often come from the quality and the many variations of the ingredients.
Usually many expats are a little nostalgic of la bella Italia, however Matteo isn't too keen on the possibility of going back to Italy to continue his work. He jokes about a lesser interested market back in the homeland: “Everyone in Italy can cook! I have no audience there!”
Travelling is what gave him the possibility to learn, speak five different languages and build his career. His home is however a great influence on his vision: “I come from a place where you can go to the sea, to the countryside and to the mountains in very little time... as much as I don't mind chaos, I think it would tire me out.”
A busy kitchen, the long work hours and the fast pace are balanced by simple benefits, like the ease in getting to work:: “It takes me five minutes to get here and I drive straight into the kitchen!”
However, being young, he doesn't know where life might lead him and is open to anything that will come his way. “I never thought of doing anything else, I love what I do, I am happy. Only people that love this job can really do it.”
This firmness, calm and decisiveness comes from belief, belief in oneself, in the craft, in the work, in your own hands and in what you can achieve: “You have to believe in something... I got what I wanted and I know where to go.”