A passionate leader and culinary genius with over 20 years of experience in multi-Michelin-starred luxury restaurants and hotels around the world, Heros De Agostinis – Executive Sous Chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain oversees all aspects of operations culinary at the hotel. This cheerful chef, an ardent ambassador of Italian cuisine, is determined to take the hotel’s dining experience to new heights. He demonstrates his exceptional skills as a chef at the hotel’s Italian restaurant – Primavera. It was an exciting and educational experience for me to interview Chef Heros while immersing myself in a flavor journey through Primavera’s new menu items.
You have worked for more than 20 years in 9 countries. When did you start your career as a chef?
I started my culinary journey at the age of 14. I studied in a hotel school where we were asked to do a project. So, during the summer holidays when most of the children were enjoying their free time, I chose to train myself by working in the kitchens of starred hotels.
Being a chef was not glamorous in the 1990s. My family thought I would overcome the urge to be a chef, but I was determined and they supported my decision. Therefore, at the age of 18, I graduated from culinary school. After graduating, I worked in different countries to learn about various cultures and cuisines.
Why did you choose this career line? Has anyone inspired you to become a chef?
During my childhood, I had the chance to spend time with my two Italian grandmothers. One of my grandmothers was born in Eritrea, Africa, while the other grandmother was born in Italy.
My grandmother in Africa passed on the knowledge of spices while I learned Italian cooking from my other grandmother. The concept of sharing and eating with family was prevalent in my house.
The aroma of the food that was cooking still filled the house. Being the first grandchild, I was showered with unconditional love and good food. My grandmothers showed me their affection through food. Food is an act of love.
Did you use any of the recipes you learned from your greatmothers in the restaurants where you worked?
Well, let’s talk about Middle Eastern countries. People here have a different palate as they are used to more spices. Customers pay attention to the food they eat, as the lifestyle is different from decades ago. They are concerned with how food is prepared, the ingredients used, and the source of the ingredients. We are interested in sustainability and healthy eating. The food prepared by my grandmothers was lovingly prepared without counting the calories while using traditional cooking methods and a generous amount of organic ingredients. Therefore, we try to develop the flavors of the house using different techniques to ensure that the food served to our customers is light and healthy while being authentic and delicious.
Can you share interesting facts about Italian cuisine with our readers?
In my opinion, Italian cuisine is the most complete cuisine in the world; nutritionally complete. Italian cuisine is not just pasta and pizza as everyone describes it. Italian cuisine has developed over time. Italian cuisine is a guide to the Mediterranean diet because it is rich in all proteins, carbohydrates, fibers, vitamins and minerals. We have a wide variety of products thanks to our vast ecosystem. We have mountains, seas and lakes that provide us with different types of products that make up Italian cuisine. We have the best fish, game and poultry, the best vegetables, fruits and nuts. For example, the best langoustines come from the Adriatic Sea, you can find excellent chestnuts in the north while kiwis are found in the south. All of these products are found in a variety of Italian dishes.
We discussed the fact that you have worked with several Michelin starred restaurants. How does that compare to working at the Ritz-Carlton?
I have always been curious about hotel businesses run in the United States. I heard they are good at training, motivating and helping their staff grow and the Ritz-Carlton is very famous for that. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to join the team here, I was very keen to learn their management style, as I am already a qualified leader.
Name one ingredient that you should always have in your kitchen.
Olive oil – I always use olive oil for cooking and dressing salads.
Tell us about some of the ingredients you use in the kitchen that come from other countries.
We airlift some of the ingredients we use from Italy. Flour, tomatoes, olive oil, parmigiano cheese, garlic and celery are some of these ingredients. We source some of our meat products from France and Australia. I don’t believe in importing fish, so we buy locally the best seafood available. We get good prawns, hamur and sea bass in Bahrain.
How do you meet the expectations of Primavera guests?
We use original/authentic Italian ingredients and elevate the flavor of these ingredients to awaken the senses of our customers. 70% of our ingredients are flown in from Italy. The concept is to offer customers the true Italian experience in a contemporary style. Our mission is to make our customers happy with our food. Whether it’s a date for two, a business meal or a family reunion, Primavera is the perfect place to indulge in the true flavors of Italy.