Cooking in his Mama’s kitchen from an early age and a culinary journey that has taken him around Europe has led Giovanni Pisu to Crowne Plaza Auckland’s award-winning Aria Restaurant & Bar.
The Sardinian-born culinary professional has been working in the restaurant since May this year, and has recently been appointed Sous Chef.
Giovanni, 39, has yet to make his mark on the dishes currently being served, with planning, testing and tasting currently underway for an eagerly-anticipated new summer menu.
And he admits he is almost spoiled for choice when he looks back at his culinary heritage and style.
“In Sardinia we eat quite traditional French-style food, with lots of pork and lamb and fish in the summer, but some of my earliest memories are of making ravioli in the kitchen with my mother and father, with ricotta and saffron, and pecorino cheese.
“I was brought up cooking from a very early age, and was the rebel kid who liked to cook my own food and really enjoyed doing it,” he said.
From the age of 16 he worked as a waiter at a local restaurant in his homeland, before realising his passion truly lay in the kitchen and not front of house. Taking the bull by the horns, he shaved his head as he knew the manager would send him to work in the kitchen, out of sight of customers. It was a cunning plan, which has clearly paid off.
From that moment on he embarked on a long journey through the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland, learning about a variety of cuisines, delicacies and cooking techniques. His favourite was winter seasons spent in Switzerland, working with what he describes as “some of the best chefs in Europe”, then returning to Sardinia for summer work.
A life-changing trip to England came about because of a need to improve on his English.
“I spoke zero English and needed to learn, so although I was already working at Head Chef level I took a job working for Jamie Oliver in Jamie’s Italian in St Albans, largely to improve my language skills.
“I learned a lot in that kitchen; it’s really disciplined, nobody talks, they work really hard and the quality of the dishes is wow.
“I’m Italian but he produced some great dishes which were not traditional but I loved, such as a carbonara with very small meatballs, and a lovely fish dish with banana leaves. I’d love to look at getting some similar dishes on our menu here at Crowne Plaza.”
Giovanni Pisu new Sous Chef at Crowne Plaza Auckland in Aria Restaurant
Throughout his journey he was able to explore his passion for cooking and develop his knowledge of recipes from all over the world, which he’s looking forward to bringing to Aria.
“The competition in the Auckland market is very strong so I’m looking forward to making our mark with more fusion and Asian flavours as well as modern Italian, something just that little bit different. We have a great young team in the kitchen and I’m very much looking forward to it.”
When cooking at home he likes to prepare Chinese, Thai and Indian dishes for himself, although his favourite ingredient is basil. Once an Italian, always an Italian.
In his spare time his other passion is photography, and he’s inspired by taking pictures of his dishes.
Looking ahead to the new spring menu, guests and staff can’t wait to see what Giovanni has to offer.
“We’re very excited to have him in our team and believe his cooking style and inspirations will be well received,” said New Zealand Sales and Marketing Director Franck Hesse.