When it comes to Italian-Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco, there’s no shortage of hyperbole. After years of working alongside the likes of Bernard Loiseau, Alain Passard and Guy Martin, Colagreco opened his first restaurant, Mirazur, in 2006 to critical acclaim. Within just a year, he was awarded his first Michelin star, followed by his second in 2012. In 2019, he became the first chef not born in France to receive three stars in the French edition of Guide Michelin. The restaurant located in Menton, France, also previously held the number one spot on the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
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If you’ve not had a chance to experience the gastronomical wonders of Mirazur, fret not. There’s Fiamma, Colagreco’s latest culinary venture located at Capella Singapore. Inspired by his grandmother’s cooking, the menu offers a delectable range of traditional dishes made with the freshest ingredients. And if you find yourself in Bangkok, Thailand—or are planning a trip there—do consider Côte by Mauro Colagreco located within Capella Bangkok. Overlooking the Chao Phraya River, the menu created by Chef Davide Garavaglia presents mouthwatering dishes influenced by flavours from the French and Italian Riviera.
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So when Penfolds held their first-ever phygital pop-up experience in Thailand earlier this year, it came as no surprise that they decided to engage Colagreco for a special one-night only six-course wine-pairing dinner. The event, Venture Beyond by Penfolds, saw the entire seventh floor of ICONLUXE at ICONSIAM transformed into a fantastical world of space exploration. There, guests had a unique opportunity to learn about the Penfolds global approach to winemaking, its rich history and more.
Ahead, Colagreco talks about his newest restaurant and more. Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker and Samuel Stephens, Penfolds Brand Ambassador (Asia) weigh in on their partnership as well.
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ON HIS CULINARY JOURNEY AND MORE
What made you fall in love with cooking?
MC: I studied economics to be an accountant, just like my father. And to pay for my studies, I started to work with a friend at his restaurant in Argentina. There, I found my calling and felt at ease in the kitchen.
I come from a family that loves cooking and sharing around the table. Nature was also very present during my childhood, and greatly influenced my family’s culinary habits. However, I am the first one that decided to do it professionally.
What inspires your menus?
MC: My inspiration comes from nature—always. It’s the most important aspect in all of my culinary creations. The same can be said of the menu I created for Penfolds, this time, inspired by wines.
What inspires you?
MC: Curiosity, products, terroirs, soil. I wasn’t destined to have a culinary career. My instincts and my passion for new challenges drove me onto this journey. I want to keep one hand in the garden, and the other in the kitchen. It is the key to my inspiration, and the influence for my dishes.
ON WORKING WITH PENFOLDS
Tell us about your partnership with Penfolds.
Mauro Colagreco: I like the philosophy behind Penfolds. Venture beyond means going beyond borders, beyond limits. However, they always keep a look to the past and history to make sure to respect and be inspired by it.
Peter Gago: Mauro Colagreco has a long list of accolades and truly embodies the Penfolds DNA. He set his heart on becoming a chef at a young age and extended his ambition beyond the kitchen, very similar to how the Penfolds gaze was firmly fixed on the future since its establishment to create wines unrestricted by vine, border or continent.
ON FLAVOURS, INGREDIENTS AND WINE
We had the pleasure of dining at Côte. Tell us more about your vision for this restaurant and its menu.
MC: Côte brings the French Riviera to the Chao Praya River. It’s a cuisine inspired by products constantly in movement. Driven by instinct and seasonal produce, the menu evolves every day to create new experiences for our customers.
Samuel Stephens: When pairing the exquisite dishes from Chef Mauro and Côte for the welcome dinner, we wanted to reflect the diversity and craftsmanship of the menu. We selected wines that elevated the dishes and highlighted their key characteristics. At Penfolds, we ensure each wine has a unique character and style which perfectly complements such complex and varied dishes from Côte.
I had the pigeon, which I must say was truly delectable. What’s the story behind this dish?
MC: Pigeon is a beautiful product to me. Where possible, I propose a pigeon dish. Davide used to cook a lot with pigeons when he was at Mirazur. I don’t like saying that I’ve got signature dishes, but I’ve got signature ingredients such as pigeon and beetroot, that Davide brought to Bangkok.
The Grange line was a highlight at the dinner. What are some of your favourite dishes to pair it with?
SS: When we collaborate with exceptional chefs like Mauro, there is a lot of thought that goes into pairing each course. The most important consideration is what are the key elements of the wine and how can we elevate those as well as the dish itself. For example, a more floral and spice driven Shiraz, such as our BIN 150 Marananga Shiraz would compliment a dish with layers of fresher, complex flavours rather than heavier, richer ones.
This was shown at the dinner at Côte, where it paired perfectly with the lamb dish with the seaweed chimichurri. The lamb was savoury yet elegant and chimichurri had a fresher, herbaceous element and this brought out the beautiful violet florals and peppery spice of the BIN 150.
ON HIS LATEST VENTURE AND MORE
You’ve also been really busy with the recent opening of Fiamma at Capella Singapore. Tell us more.
MC: Fiamma is a salute to Italian cuisine and spirit. I wanted to create a place for joy, sharing with a sincere atmosphere and spirit, which is also reflected in the restaurant design by Andre Fu. The menu gastronomically transports you to Italy.
As the chef-owner of three-Michelin starred restaurant Mirazur, what do you make for yourself when you’re in need of comfort food?
MC: Pick up a tomato in my garden and have it with toasted bread and olive oil.
What can you tell us about your plans for the near future?
MC: I would like to contribute to the evolution of our profession by bringing it closer to its deep connection with nature. A notion that does not exist in the great gastronomy schools.
I would like a cook, before finishing his or her training, to have had the opportunity to work on the land and to have a circular cooking experience on a farm. This is what I would like to bring to our profession as a chef; cultivate nature with love, and cook in celebration of biodiversity.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.