Food Philosophy: Massimo Mele
Food Philosophy: Massimo Mele
You speak so vividly about your upbringing and how a familial relationship with food inspired your own culinary journey. What is your first food memory?
My first food memory was when I was five in Italy. It was my birthday and in July it’s the middle of summer in Italy, so we were all at the beach. The entire family were there – my parents, cousins, aunts, you name it! Everyone would bring a dish and all I remember was tucking into my mother’s meatball lasagne – even cold it tasted delicious.
What are your three most important rules when creating honest and delicious food?
Cook with produce in season – there’s nothing better than cooking with delicious ingredients that are in season. Half your work is done as you can taste the difference and that’s what gourmet is.
Keep it simple – very cliché I know, but you would be surprised how many people over complicate food when cooking. Your guests will be impressed by the quality on the plate not the quantity. Steam cooking is simple and great at locking in flavours and nutrients to bring out the full taste of your food.
Get organised – Plan your meals in advance and see what can be prepared ahead of time. When your entertaining guests, you want to enjoy each other’s company when they arrive.
How important is local produce to your food philosophy?
Local produce is more important than ever. After working in kitchens for years, I get more excited about where the produce comes from, who grew it and how it needs to be treated.
Most recently in Tasmania I hosted a lunch in a vineyard in the Huon region and almost everything was from just down the road. You can taste the difference and it’s exciting because not everyone is lucky enough to have fresh local produce on their doorstep.
What is your favourite meal to cook at home?
I’m a big fan of cooking at home and always cook quite simple food. Almost every night I cook something over the coals be it fish, meat, burgers and even vegetables. My partner is also a big fan of steamed greens from our garden which are always quick and easy to prepare.
What would be your ‘death row’ meal?
My death row meal would be a Fried Chicken Burger with cheese and pickles. I know it’s not very ‘cheffy,’ but if you’re going to walk the plank, go in style with maximum calories!
Talk to me about how your cooking has evolved over the years.
My cooking over the years has gone through several stages – not trends, but stages. From vegetable stacks, to deep fried leeks as garnish – some stages horrify me today!
Over the last year or so I’ve gone back to my roots a little. I’m based in Tasmania with my family and we grow a lot of what we eat, so our approach is more paddock to plate. Vegetables are more important than ever – my mother grows so much and we’re really enjoying watching my little boy Maximiliano trying lots of different foods.
It’s important for me that I pass on my family’s traditions and culture to my own family now. Eating fresh, seasonal and simple is the Italian way and it’s always so much more delicious.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
If you asked me that question 12 months ago I would have given you a very different answer to now! I see myself still connecting with people through food – whether that be through a restaurant, special events or my cooking classes.
I know my focus will be more on local and seasonal produce, so I see that happening more in Tasmania. I love the fact I can go down there and go diving for seafood, pick delicious fruit and vegetables and grow my own vegetables with my family around me.