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funterview: matteo the italian stallion chef

who are you? who am i? i am matteo, i am a nice traveler. i like to travel, and i am in antiparos because it is one of the best places i have ever seen in my life, in europe i mean. do you have a lighter?

i’m sorry, i don’t. all the girls here have a crush on you. how do you feel about that? a what? i don’t understand. what girls?

the girls on the retreat, a crush. they like you. ah! okay! i just try to be myself. when i am myself, people appreciate me and how i am.

i think it’s also your face. why?

everyone likes your face. maybe it’s because i smile all the time. that is something people tell me, usually, that i smile a lot.

smiling is contagious. “smiling’s my favorite.” – that’s from a movie, elf, with will ferrell. i don’t know.

anyway. you were in culinary school from age 13-18. did you just happen upon this or was it something you wanted? i wanted to. when i was young, like 11, something like that, i was very good in mathematics, but i wanted to become a chef. i spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and she was cooking a lot of stuff for us, classic Italian stuff. i was living with her, so i was all the time in the kitchen with her, so i started to study and i was also working in a restaurant.

where are you from? rome. my school was in trastevere. it’s an amazing place. a lot of artists from italy, in general, are in trastevere, and they fall in love with this amazing area. it’s magic.

you work in paris also, yes? the last three years, i’ve worked in paris. when i finished school, i spent one year in rome working, and then left immediately to go to paris. and i decided to stay there and work, first in an italian restaurant, then i got that it was not what i wanted. i wanted to get into the french world and in the kitchen. it was f-ing amazing,

 i hear that the paris restaurant in which you work has a michelin star. septime. its very nice. michelin star restaurants in paris are normally so straight, and they do everything perfect, but [at septime] they do things different. the chef is very nice and a cool person, and he wanted to give to us who were working there what he learned in the past and all the philosophy of his restaurant. an amazing philosophy, about vegetables and local meat, about not wasting stuff, not wasting water. how to work with products, use everything from all the products that you have in your restaurant.

does that happen often, the waste? in michelin restaurants it happens a lot, because to get perfection, they must waste something. if they want a diamond shape, they have to cut it that way and throw away the rest.

whats your favorite thing to cook? i think in this island, because there’s a lot of fish, my favorite thing is fish.

how about your favorite thing in general, not just on this island? all types of fish. fish in general. fish everything! seafood.

everyone was dying over lunch today, it was sooo good. (we had greek salad, pacchero with a preserved garden cherry tomato sauce, slow-cooked pork with red wine sauce, potatoes “grandma-style”–called grandma-style because it is exactly how the grandmother of the original chef made them in umbria–and spinach.) really? it was so simple.

let’s talk about your relationship. i’m not sure how it is in other parts of the world, but for reasons justifiable or not, it’s suggested in the US to not date someone you work with. sometimes things just happen, and you cannot control it. i met cristina last year at the end of the season here, and i didn’t know if i was supposed to come back this year, so i just said, let’s try. [after the season] i was in paris, and she was in athens. she came three times and i went there two times. so every month, we see each other. and we had also an amazing new years in amsterdam smoking weed and enjoying amsterdam.

working here in the summer, how long are you together? from june to october. and after that – she doesn’t usually work in a restaurant. and this is my job, so i know that we are gonna stop working together for a while. it’s a good thing. there’s a lot of pressure and stress when working in a restaurant, so it’s better to get a break.

your first language is italian and hers is greek, so you have to meet in english. sometimes she puts italian and i try to do greek, but i don’t speak greek yet unfortunately. i have to learn it.

does it have an effect on you, speaking in your second or third languages? i find it fascinating and realize i probably take it for granted as someone who doesn’t have to translate things into another language in my mind with my significant other. of course. sometimes you cannot explain what you want, for me. for her, it’s easier because she speaks very well in english. me, sometimes, maybe i don’t know how to explain what i want to say. before it was hard, now i can find a way. also because i know her and i know how she is and everything.

what’s an example? i don’t know, maybe little things that happen when you go out. maybe she sees something weird and i don’t know how to explain what i’m doing (laughs).

i think people in general have that issue. how old are you? 22.

do you think about the future a lot or …? the main thing of my life is to, around 40 years old, i don’t want to work. i want to be safe and do something easy. like own a restaurant.

where? who knows? we are going to thailand so we are going to discover another side of the world. max, i went to the middle east, but i’ve never been on the east side of the world, so i want to discover this side.

you have a one-way ticket. is there a chance you might not come back? i don’t know. i said the same thing when i went to paris. it’s closer than asia, but who knows, i said okay i’ll go there 6 months and come back. but i stayed there for three years.

yeah, who knows, you could learn how to cook in an eastern style and fall in love with it and want to stay there. or i’m not sure how culinary school works, if you learn the basics of everything. i’m open to learning new stuff. i learn stuff every day. that’s what we do in general, human beings, learn stuff every day. also, every culture is completely different than in europe, so maybe i will be super fascinated or just hate asia (laughs). and i will come back because i don’t like the people or something. in general, i’m okay with people. up to now, everywhere i went, i like the people and i have a nice connection with people.

what did you learn today? today, i learned that in these islands, its not super easy to find what you want to find, what you can find somewhere else.

like what? it could be something from the post office or supermarket or food or everything.

you just learned that today? yes, because i woke up late.

(laughs) what were you looking for? i was looking for some products that i need for tonight. i didn’t find it.

so what are you gonna do? i dunno, i will find a solution in the fridge. i will create something.

how do you want to die? i don’t want to die.

i’m the same. if i could, i would live forever. i dunno, all of my life, i don’t know if i will have enough time to travel and see everything, so maybe if i’m not gonna die, i will travel and travel and travel to discover all the places that i cannot see.

what happens after you see everything? then i will come back to antiparos and i will sit right there, and i will look at the sea, and –have you seen avengers the end game?—i will just sit like he did: he did the work, and now it was just waiting to die.

what would you want your tombstone to say? a tombstone?… ah! a tombstone. i really have never thought about that. never never never.

(laughs) this is the first time i think about that. really, never in my life. why do you think you think about that all the time? death, dying and tombstone?

maybe because i’m american. in their mind they have the concept of dying?

maybe it’s the news and what we’re exposed to. but i also went to a religious school where i learned at a young age about death and what supposedly happens after that. that’s why i don’t follow these things. me too, i went to private religious school, and maybe that’s why i don’t follow a religion and stuff like that. but it didn’t stay in my mind these things about hell and paradise and die.

that’s nice you don’t ever think about it. what would you have [on your tombstone]?

i don’t know. i’d have to think a lot about it. elena said, “no shame, no regrets.” is it bothersome to think about death? … no, i don’t think so. you want to think about long time. me i think about today. and today, i don’t think i’m gonna die. so i’m gonna think about something else, for example, what i’m gonna do now. i’m gonna go to the beach. i don’t know.

i like that. yeah, me too.

any closing remarks? …i’m not very good with that, you know. i’m sorry for that.

no need for sorry, that’s fine! i don’t have the fireworks for the end.

one of my favorite poems is by t.s. eliot, the hollow men, and the end of the poem is, “this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” hmmm. very nice one.

what would you want your legacy to be? i think i’m just living my life to be what i’m gonna be. i don’t want a point in my mind and say it’s that. i just want to live and see what’s gonna happen and see what i’m gonna be. i follow some rules, but i prefer to see what life is expecting from me.

that’s yoga. i don’t do yoga, but i follow the philosophy. i understand from that, i like.

*originally posted on


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