Breakfast with Aldo Zilli
What a treat this morning to enjoy breakfast at Peck, Armani Hotel, with the charming Aldo Zilli, along with ExpatWoman competition winner June Conner and her friend Marie Ulivi.
Aldo Zilli is an award winning celebrity chef and restaurateur who specialises in seafood, vegetarian and Italian cuisine… not to mention author, TV celeb and dad – with two under 5’s and one over 20. Chatting with Aldo, it is soon apparent that he’s a creative, ideas kind of guy – as you might expect – but not solely in the kitchen. As my Gran would have said, ‘he has many strings to his bow’!
One of nine children – seven brothers and one sister – Aldo reveals “I have been a showman all my life – then I became a chef.” At sixteen he left his native Italy, keen for new experiences. He went to Germany where he started in the kitchens as it was easy work for initially a non-German speaker.
He says he became a chef “because I was hungry” and clearly, he is passionate about good food. He is also a seasoned world traveller. “When you travel you learn – you learn about people, about their needs and habits, and about their food.”
Commenting on the plethora and huge popularity of UK TV cooking programmes, Aldo comments that it doesn’t mean that people cook at home any more than they used to. “TV is entertainment. People enjoy the programmes and we write books.”
Of course Dubai is a whole new market – whole new audience - and Aldo says he is really excited about being here, and about seeing the restaurant industry at first-hand as ‘maybe he has plans…”. Ha! Hear it first on ExpatWoman!! “I proposed to my wife in Dubai so of course this city is a very special, romantic place for us. Pity she’s not here with me…,” Aldo jokes. “Next time… I am looking forward to have a really great time here over the next few days with Taste of Dubai. I want to leave Dubai missing it, so I’ll be drawn to come back.”
June and Marie had a really good time, chatting with Aldo about his UK TV shows. With a veggie daughter, Marie showed particular interest in his new book “Fresh & Green” and was delighted to be given a signed copy by the author. But then that’s an Italian thing isn’t it – warm and huggy and giving….
Yes, Mr Zilli, we would love to welcome you back to Dubai. Dubai restaurant-nightlife is very strong and there’s always interest to experience great cuisine ;-)
Jane Drury for ExpatWoman.com, March 12th 2012
EW's Jane with EW competition winners June & Marie and Chef Aldo
About Aldo Zilli:
Aldo Zilli is an award-winning celebrity chef and restaurateur who specialises in Italian and seafood cuisine. One of nine children, he was born in the small seaside town of Alba Adriatica in the central Italian region of Abruzzo and first learnt Italian home cooking from his mother in Italy and catering college.
His Italian seafood restaurant, Zilli Fish on Brewer Street, is a Soho institution and has been open for over 15 years. It is full of media people, celebs and families on a Sunday.
Zilli Café, which is located next door to the Zilli Fish restaurant, serves delicious lunchtime dishes including handmade pastas, antipasti and salads. Aldo has recently launched L’Aperitivo at Zilli Café, to provide sociable early evening dining and drinking.
The Zilli Café concept with his signature healthy Italian food has proven very successful and is now available in Centre Parcs’ award-winning Aqua Sana spas in Longleat, Sherwood and Elveden Forest. Aldo has also extended his expertise in the kitchen to travel company, Thomson who he has worked with for three years, designing in-flight and cruise on-board menu offerings.
Aldo has written 10 books including two autobiographies, Being Zilli and My Italian Country Childhood, as well as various cook books, with his signature Italian recipes. His book Fish Cook Book showcases some of the fresh seafood recipes that he is so famous for, Zilli Fish and Zilli Light shares his healthy Italian recipes with tips on how to eat well and still eat delicious food. He is launching a new book in January 2012 called Fresh & Green with over 100 new exciting vegetarian recipes.
Great food and Aldo’s exuberant personality means Aldo appears regularly on radio and television both as presenter and chef. Aldo took part on ‘Celebrity Fit Club’, where he lost 3 stone in weight and more recently ITV’s documentary ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ when he mentored a homeless boy, he took him into his home and is still working at his restaurant with him now. As well as regular appearances on ‘Daybreak’ and ‘BBC Breakfast’, he also has participated in chef challenge show ‘Ten Mile Menu’ and cooking show, ‘Perfect…’ on the Good Food Channel – Also his Sicilian adventure is a 13 part series for UK Food and is to be aired in January.
Aldo was a big part of the Kellogs campaign advertising Optivita cereal. His consultancy work includes Prezzo chain VIPizza which has proved extremely successful and has now collaborated with M Kitchen at Morrisons Supermarket nationwide to create a pizza for their ‘Inspired By’ celebrity chef range. His Pizza Calabrese with Nduja – Calabria’s signature soft salami – has quickly become a best seller throughout the stores.
The proud father of three children, Laura, Twiggy and Rocco, Aldo has always taken a keen interest in kids’ healthy eating - and in 2011 he launched an organic baby food range called Baby Zilli, which is now stocked throughout UK supermarkets. Aldo also shares his healthy family eating tips through a monthly recipe section in leading parenting magazine, Mother & Baby.