We spoke to chef Mariangela Ruggerio, the recently appointed head chef at Certo, Radisson Blu Dubai Media City, on her journey as a chef.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I had been working in sales and banking since I completed my education in Business Economics but after years of sitting behind a desk, I decided to follow my true passion which is cooking. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave a safe job behind but being the dreamer that I am, combined with my stubbornness I knew there was only one road to take.
Being a woman in the kitchen has not always been easy since it is a male dominant profession, but I have always been determined to achieve my goals. My studies and my previous work experience in which I had to take care of my clients help me to do my job every day. For me, being a chef is not just about cooking, it also means taking care of people – to see them enjoy my food and leave the restaurant with a good memory.
When did you know that you wanted to be a chef?
Food has always been my passion, I grew up with an Italian family and a grandmother who cooked every day like she was cooking for an army. As a kid, all I dreamt about was to cook like her, because I was fascinated by how much happiness can be spread through food.
How do you ensure the cuisine at Certo stands out in the market?
At Certo we offer homemade traditional Italian recipes. When I create the dishes I want to give our guests an experience, I want them to feel my love for food, my passion and my memories. When a guest tastes my ragu sauce, I want them to feel the joy I had when climbing the stairs of my grandmother’s house, who would cook the same sauce for me.
I want my guests to feel at home, so much so that even if they come for a quick business lunch they can have a hearty homemade meal with a taste of Italy.
How often do you change your menu?
My menu is seasonal, and with the climate changes in the UAE, my main menu changes twice a year, with the addition of small occasional menus dedicated to products that we can find for a limited time like the white truffle from Alba. The lunch menu however, changes often to give our regular customers something new to taste.
What influences do you draw on your menu creations?
My menu items are all based on raw materials and their seasonality followed by family memories which make the base. I then mix it with my travels, moods, and the quest for what the customer wants.
I enjoy interacting with my guests and often add special requests and suggestions to the menu too.
What is your advice to young chefs starting out in the region.
I would say always focus on your guest, no matter where in the world you are. The high supply of restaurants in Dubai makes it a very competitive market, very much like some of the leading F&B hubs in the world like Ney York and London. The difference is that the Dubai consumer has probably eaten in all these cities and is therefore very demanding. Take advantage of this opportunity.
How do you pick the right supplier?
For me quality and freshness are the main components, but I am also very cost conscious in order to give the guest value for their money. I love turning ingredients that are not considered very noble into exceptional dishes.