Francesco Mazzei was born and raised in Calabria, the toe on Italy’s boot and the region noted for producing ‘nduja (a spicy, spreadable pork sausage). Displaying an early interest in food, he was always to be found in the kitchen making olive oil, tomato sauce, bread and salami with his mother. At fourteen he met renowned Italian chef Angelo Sabetta who recognised his talent and encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming a chef.
Francesco’s culinary adventure started right after catering college when, at only 18, he opened his own fish restaurant. In 1992, Mazzei then moved to Rome and joined The Grand Hotel. Inspired by the international environment he found there, he left to learn English and ended up securing a job at The Dorchester in Mayfair working under the respected Willi Elsener and Henry Brosi before returning to Rome to take up a position at Michelin-starred Eden Terrazza. Mazzei has since opened the Santini restaurants in Edinburgh and Milan, the Royal Sporting Club in Bangkok, Franco’s on Jermyn Street and St Alban in London, as well as venues across the world alongside restauranteur Alan Yau.
At the age of 34, Francesco Mazzei opened L’Anima where he showcased dishes from Calabria, Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia. Forever an advocate of Southern Italian specialities, he returns home to seek out new products every two months and advises the Calabrian government on how to promote their artisan goods outside of the country. As ambassador for the citrus fruit bergamot and the spicy sausage n’duja, both of which are produced in the region, he is credited with single-handedly bringing the latter to the restaurants and dinner tables of Britain. Since 2007 he has appeared frequently on BBC shows including Saturday Kitchen and MasterChef, and is a regular at Taste of London festival, opportunities he uses to introduce creative applications of Calabrian ingredients to a wider audience, such as his Fillets of wild boar marinated in liquorice, bergamot and chilli.
His first cookbook Mezzogiorno: Francesco Mazzei Recipes from Southern Italy, has recently been published. Yet another vehicle with which to showcase the edible delights of the region, he describes the recipes as “Mamma’s cooking with chef hands”.
Follow Francesco Mazzei on twitter: @francescocook