Mauro Colagreco hails from Argentina, but became a breakout star in France. The Italian-Argentine chef wowed diners with the debut of the French Riviera’s Mirazur restaurant in 2006 — the accolades poured in for his fresh cuisine that gleans inspiration from the sea, the restaurant’s gardens and Menton’s famous citrus.
But the chef is expanding his international reach. In 2018, he opened his first U.S. restaurant, Florie’s, at Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach and Grill 58 at MGM Cotai. And he’s hard at work on unveiling a new Bangkok outpost.
We talked to Colagreco before his featured appearance at Once Upon a Kitchen, a bucket-list epicurean event from the Gr8 Group set for December 1 in Miami Beach that includes other top chefs like Alex Atala, Massimo Bottura and Antonio Bachour. Colagreco dished on his new restaurants, his favorite Menton dining spots and his ultimate comfort food.
What are your go-to culinary spots in Menton?
Pecora Negra. Our pizzeria in front of the old port of Menton. [It features] pizzas made with selected products, of a superior quality by our Neapolitan pizzaiolo, in a simple and friendly setting.
Au Baiser du Mitron. An old-fashioned bakery for four generations [that’s] a historical site with a 1916 wood-burning oven in the heart of the old town of Menton. [It has] delicious breads with natural sourdough and a beautiful walk through the labyrinthine streets of Menton.
Le Paradis de la glace, right next to Menton in Roquebrune. Fantastic homemade ice creams made just like in Italy. With a nice view of the sea. Enjoy a wide choice of authentic flavors.
The Menton market.
Which dishes should people order at Mirazur?
At Mirazur we offer our customers carte blanche. We work from the products available day by day. We like to say that we have 365 seasons! We ask them to let themselves be surprised and we develop a personalized menu taking into account the intolerances or allergies of our customers to offer them a unique experience each time.
Nevertheless, there are dishes that remain because they are very celebrated by our customers, such as beet root and caviar; amanite de Césars mushroom tartlet with Grana Padano aged 36 months; “Green” [made with] peas from our garden, kiwi, wall pennywort; Naranjo en Flor [with] Sospel’s St Joseph saffron, almond foam and orange sorbet.
Why? Because even if they are sublimated by the chef, they are all dishes where you can find the original taste of the products in all their beauty.
What made you settle on Palm Beach to open Florie’s, your first U.S. restaurant?
I find similarities with the French Riviera that surprised me a lot and that I loved: the proximity to the sea, a paradisiacal place, the preponderance of the vegetable universe, citrus fruits. It’s a place that makes me want to go there to create.
What makes Florie’s special?
It is truly a complete culinary experience that includes the discovery of dishes and cocktails in a place.
There is an emphasis on the plant world, with the use of indigenous plants, flowers and grasses.
And an exploration of the possibilities of a wood-fired kitchen using a stone hearth oven, yakitori grill and an à la brochea spit-roasting technique. It allows me to share my culinary philosophy — the one I’m developing at Mirazur — with new communities.
Tell us about your soon-to-open restaurant at Capella Bangkok.
I am very happy with this project. We will inaugurate Capella in the first half of 2020. I find that Thailand is a wonderful destination with a thousand-year-old cultural tradition and a cuisine with an abundance of magnificent products that motivate me to create and that I want to share and make known.
What are your favorite food destinations?
Japan, Bangkok, Mexico, Peru.
How do you like to spend your time outside of the kitchen?
I really like spending my time in the garden, in contact with plants, pruning or picking fruit. It really works to renew my energy, to relax and to share this moment with the family.
What’s your comfort food?
The pot au feu [a French beef stew].
What foods do you crave from your home country, Argentina?
The dishes I think of are family recipes, food linked to stories [like] my father’s asados [Argentine barbecues], my mother’s gnocchi and all the desserts and cakes we shared to celebrate birthdays in my childhood.
Where do you see the future of fine dining heading?
This will surely mark the future of gastronomy: we will be forced to develop our kitchens more in dialogue with the territories and create strong links with producers who are committed to healthy and quality products that respect nature. We must really explore the possibilities of products to face the waste that exists in gastronomy and to further increase our creativity as cooks and as inhabitants of the planet.
What are you working on next?
Exploration of bread. We are in the process of developing a mill project. We will work on old grains that have never been modified to guarantee authentic quality and taste. We then wish to make our own flours in the respect of traditions and feed all our catering points, including the pizzeria. For 2020, we can therefore count on a homemade flour for the production of breads and pizzas.
What do you plan on doing for Once Upon a Kitchen?
Surprise! You have to come to discover.