Alberto Rossi is the executive chef at the 5-star InterContinental Hotel in Dublin, a job he never thought he would have.
Born in Italy to an Irish mother and an Italian father, a “great combination” according to Alberto, he laughs remembering the odd name pronunciations his siblings were subject to: “I have two brothers and a sister (Stefano, Liam, myself and Ashling) and I can’t tell you how those names were distorted in the village we come from. We still laugh about it now.”
Remembering his childhood, Alberto was always drawn to food and recalls the intoxicating smells wafting from the kitchens of his various family members, something that he believes had a “profound impact” on him:
“In Italy, life revolves around food and it’s part of the culture. I would visit my granny and she would be making gnocchi in the kitchen, then up to my aunt and she might be working on making a lasagna from scratch.
“And my grandad would be working in the garden, tending tomatoes and all sort of vegetables. In the summer most people in the village would be cooking tomato sauce in big caldrons and doing sun-dried tomatoes in the streets.”
From those childhood memories, Alberto let his passion guide his career, working in a number of restaurants around Ireland and the world, before finally finding his place in Dublin:
“I have worked in a few good restaurants in Italy and then the Four Seasons here in Dublin, the Skyline Restaurant in Wellington, New Zealand, a short spell in L’Ecrivain, Gordon Ramsay Restaurant in Ritz Carlton Powerscourt, Oliveto in Dun Laoghaire, then back in the Four Seasons Dublin (which became InterContinental in January 2015), briefly in Brasserie66 and finally back here again!”
Focusing on his time with the InterContinental Dublin so far, he added: “I joined the Hotel in 2002 and stayed until 2005. After moving around a bit, I came back in 2011. I’ve been in my position since 2013. I work with a team of 26 chefs and look after 3 outlets and the banqueting.”
Describing the food in Seasons Restaurant at the InterContinental, he says: “We offer contemporary Irish cuisine using great Irish products. We just started offering a Tasting Menu based on seasonality and market availability, so we change the menu constantly.”
At the moment, some of Alberto’s favourite dishes on the menu include Thornhill Farm Duck Breast served with Butternut Squash and Parsnip and a Potato Gnocchi using Ballymakenny Violetta Potatoes.
With Christmas fast approaching, guests at the InterContinental and Seasons Restaurant can expect “great food in fantastic surroundings” with the hotel looking very festive, especially now that the Christmas menus have launched, with Alberto aiming to “exceed guests expectations”.
Describing his own personal cooking style, Alberto states that his style is inspired by the Italian flavours of his childhood, all while remembering that perfect mix of Italian and Irish culture: “My style is classical and traditional with an innovative contemporary twist, which is inspired by Italian flavours and Irish style.”
In his cooking, supporting local producers is very important to Alberto, who aims to utilise as much Irish produce as possible: “It is vital to support local produce because it gives an identity to any kitchen.
We aim to use as much Irish produce as we can. At the moment we use Ballymakenny Farm, we cook with Newgrange rapeseed oil, all our meats are Irish and we work very closely with Kish Fish and McKenna Fish for all our seafood.
A chef’s lifestyle is notoriously demanding, especially with the current chef shortage in the food industry, and like many, Alberto finds it difficult to achieve a work-life balance: “I can get sucked in working all day long and still I would feel that I could do more. My wife Katie reminds me that I have other things in life than just work, so I’d have to thank her for that.”
Despite the job’s difficulties and trying to cope with the chef shortage, Alberto maintains that he loves his work: “I always wanted to become a cook and count myself lucky that my job is also my passion.”
When I originally joined this hotel, I would never have thought that one day I would be the Executive Chef. I love the challenge that this job gives and at the end of the day, I am surrounded by food and people that love their passion like me.
Outside the kitchen, Alberto is a member of Euro-toques Ireland, the community of chefs and cooks dedicated to real food. Joining this community has been one of the highlights of his career as a chef: “Joining Euro-toques was a definite standout moment in my career and cooking for my peers at the Food and Wine awards was another highlight. Hopefully, there will be plenty more to come.”
With his years of experience, Alberto has learned what to do and what not to do in this industry. Offering advice to aspiring young chefs, he said:
Do it for right reasons; for passion for the job, for the love of food and for the camaraderie in the kitchen. But do not think for once that it’s going to be an easy task. It’s a very demanding career, both emotionally and physically.”
However, Alberto is highly impressed by the young up-and-coming talent in the food industry, especially with regard to the Euro-toques Young Chef of the Year competition: “I am excited to talk to any chef because the chance of sharing ideas and experiences with someone else is fantastic. I am also excited by the passion and talent on display this year at the Young Chef of the Year competition with Euro-toques – that’s the future!”
Turning to Alberto and his plans for the future, he joked stating his immediate plan was to get a good night’s sleep. But looking to 2018, he added: “Watch this space. We have big plans for food and beverage at the InterContinental next year!”
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.