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5 minutes with Massimo Mele

Executive chef Massimo Mele has drawn on a childhood spent in Naples for his latest venture, Sydney’s La Scala on Jersey.

5 minutes with Massimo Mele

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?  

Pretty much when i started working with my Dad. I didn’t realise i had a real passion for it until much later on as i progressed and started working at some high end restaurants.

Who was instrumental in your culinary journey? (Did you have any food ‘mentors’?) 

My Parents have both been amazing mentors, I have been lucky enough to collaborate with some awesome cooks over the years real legends of the game. I guess one of my biggest influences came from Roberto Castellani from Donovan’s. Now more than ever i still get to join great chefs and food festivals and they all seem to inspire me in different ways.

Can you tell me a bit about your food journey before La Scala on Jersey?

For the last 6 years i ran the Hugos Group, Two years as head chef of Hugos in Manly and 4 years as executive chef. Before coming to La Scala i started my own business Catering By Massimo Mele and also started hosting my own pop up dinners called “tutti a tavola”.

There are dishes evocative of your childhood on the menu at La Scala on Jersey. Can you tell me a bit about these?

Food for me is nostalgic. Although i have lived in Australia for most of my life, a little part of me is still in Naples. My mother’s carrot dish is a family favourite; the smoked ham calzone reminds me of Italian Street food in Piazza Garibaldi in Naples; the bbq prawns a favorite from my time at Donovan’s. Even the pasta shapes are a little different – the Lumaconi is a classic shape served with seafood pasta in Naples.

How important is the drink component at La Scala on Jersey? 

Food and drink go hand in hand. The bar is a big part of the La Scala on Jersey experience – it has its own identity and is a place where visitors can stop by for a drink and some antipasto. The cocktail list draws inspiration from the kitchen’s produce, flavour pairing and techniques. The wine list is extensive and showcases Italian grape varietals from regions within Australia, New Zealand and Italy.

There are touches of Naples, the Amalfi Coast and other corners of Italy on the La Scala menu. Can you elaborate more on the influences here? 

Having only spent time in the south of Italy, I have researched many other regions for my pop up “tutti a tavola” events. What’s really important is people are aware that Italian food is not just about pizza and pasta. There is so much more.

Tell me a bit about the La Scala winter menu? 

It’s the best time of the year! Lots of vegetables, braised meats and hand made pasta. I’m looking forward to fresh artichokes, borlotti beans and oxtail!!

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