Gourmet Society Chef Profiles: Meet Alessandro Bay, Head Chef at Diciannove Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
Situated in the Crowne Plaza London – The City Hotel, opposite the Blackfriars station, is Double AA Rosette award winning Italian restaurant Diciannove.
Diciannove’s talented and passionate Executive Chef Alessandro Bay, who trained in Michelin-starred London eatery Locatelli for a decade, will serve you home-made pastas and a range of the finest cuts of locally sourced meat and seafood.
Find out the inspiration behind his AA Rosette menu, his favourite dishes and why Italian cooking is the only cuisine style for him.
Why did you become a chef? Who or what inspired you?
I have always been fascinated with the kitchen, especially as a kid with my mother and my grandmothers, who are the ones that inspired me and gave me this passion. I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen – I remember starting out simply washing up and I liked the environment and the hard work involved, so I decided to follow this pattern and began to train as a chef.
Where did you train, and do you have any awards?
I began my training in my home town of Genoa in Italy, straight after school, washing up and then as a commis chef, learning the very basics of food. Being in a city in front of the sea, I was lucky because I got to learn how to treat fish and shellfish.
After that I moved around a little bit, working in Belgium to learn classic French cuisine, then back in Rome, and then finally I moved to in England in 2000.
My biggest achievement is the two AA rosette awards which we still hold in the restaurant.
What is it that sets Diciannove apart from other Italian restaurants in London?
We always aim to have a very high quality of produce and ingredients, which we source directly from Italy. We try to respect seasonality, and we do everything fresh every day. We use only fresh pasta on the menu, something that I’m particularly proud of.
I believe sustainability and seasonality are fundamental in the kitchen. Sustainability is something that we as chefs have the responsibility to look at in order to protect the environment – especially so if we want to have fish dishes in the menus in the future.
Seasonality is something that I particularly look at in my dishes because products that are in season are full of flavour and exiting, and also products in season are cheaper and better value.
What is your favourite dish to cook from Diciannove’s menu?
I have two dishes that are my favourite to cook. One is the octopus salad; it’s very delicate and has lots of flavour. It also reminds me of my city, Genoa, where in summer time, octopus salad is one of my favourite salads to eat – especially in front of the sea with a good, fresh glass of local white wine!
The other has to be the red mullet. I like this in particular because is extremely summery and even though the dish itself has very simple ingredients, like tomato sauce, olives and basil, it offers you very complex flavours. Also it requires skill to cook the fish to perfection, so it always provides a challenge!
Why do you enjoy Italian cooking above all cuisine styles?
Certainly the fact that I was born and raised in Italy plays a huge part of it, I also love the versatility and simplicity of it.
Another thing that I always find incredible is that wherever you go in Italy every region has its own cuisine, with plenty of different recipes to sample and try. With Italian cuisine, I believe that you always have something new to learn.
Share with us one secret to perfect Italian cooking…
I come from Genoa where pesto sauce was invented, so my tip is about making pesto.
Normally pesto sauce is made by hand with pestle and mortar, but I understand that in these busy days is not always possible. Most people now make pesto sauce with a normal blender, which is fine, but my secret to Gourmet Society readers is to not put any Parmesan or Pecorino cheese into the mixer itself – as this will result in a burnt taste from the delicate pesto.
I would say that once you have completed the sauce, pass it from the blender into a container and in in the grated cheese, mix and then add a layer of cheese on the top and some extra virgin olive oil. Then cover it and keep it in the fridge. This will result in longer lasting, better tasting pesto.