Cooking with Casa Malevo
We had a chat with Leonardo, the Head Chef at Casa Malevo. He tells us about how he got into cooking, what he loves about Connaught Village and more...
1. Who taught you to cook?
My passion for cooking begun when I was a child with my Mum and Granny. We used to spend Sundays together in the kitchen preparing rich meals for the whole family. Our typical Sunday family lunch consisted of kilos of pasta seasoned with delicious sauces or big parrilladas (barbecues) of local meat. I always loved standing on the side of my Grandmother helping to amass fresh pasta.
2. Tell us about your first job…
When I was young I studied cooking in Argentine. At an early age I knew I wanted to be a chef and own my own kitchen, where I could try new recipes and deliver it to the world. My first job was in a bakery my Uncle owned. I used to wake up early in the morning to help him prepare all the bread and patisserie for the day. The love for baking handed down from generation to generation is also what pushed me to open my own bakery when I was 18. With the help of my family I led one of the best bakeries in Buenos Aires.
3. What do you think makes your food stand out from the rest?
The food we serve at Casa Malevo tells a story about Argentine and its culture by offering the great tastes of the country. The focus of Casa Malevo on Argentine traditions makes it a unique place where it is possible to feel Argentine by enjoying an asado (the typical meat barbecue), an empanada and maybe also a good dessert with dulce de leche. Above all, what really makes our food authentic is our love and for good food and the mother country - two ingredients at the base of all successful dishes and a happy kitchen!
4. What is your go-to meal for cooking dinner at home?
When time is short, and I need something to eat my best option is Milanesa, a slice of breaded beef or veal with cheese inside, usually served with a fried egg, potatoes puree and other kinds of vegetables. As the name suggests, this dish has its origins in Milan, Italy. It is a very common dish used for quick, tasty lunches and especially loved by children.
5. Tell us something unique about Casa Malevo…
At Casa Malevo our aim is to create that rustic atmosphere you would find in a restaurant in Argentine and deliver it to people in London who want to get closer to the south American culture. All dishes are homemade and prepared by following original recipes, but they also have an Italian touch as I decided to utilise my 10 years in Rome by linking Italian and Argentine traditions.
6. If you could work alongside a famous chef who would it be and why?
I like to think of myself as a fun Gordon Ramsey. I appreciate Ramsey for his deep knowledge about cuisine and for his ability to run a kitchen perfectly.
7. What advice would you give to new chefs starting out?
To the new entrees into of the world of catering and kitchens, I think the most important thing is to have a passion for cooking. Cooking is a way to express ourselves, our way to be and to make people feel something. Cooking must be a media through which the Chef tries to send a message, translated in a sensation that tells us something.
8. If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Unfortunately, not all people who work in kitchens have a real love for food. Many do the job because they don’t know what else to do, they want to try the crazy kitchen life, or they are blinded by Chef’s pays. For this reason, it is always better to take time before trusting totally in a colleague. It is important to understand who you have in front of you before putting your restaurant in his/her hands.
9. What is your proudest achievement in your career?
For me working at Casa Malevo represents the biggest opportunity in my life because I got the chance to create a menu based on my experience and origin. The restaurant gave me the possibility to put my own touch on Argentine cuisine to make it special and unique. Now, the restaurant is like a second home. It is here that I practice new ideas. It is here that I have to face challenges, but also where I make good memories, like creating a lunch menu or have a laugh with my colleagues.
10. What’s your favourite thing about the village?
Connaught village is a very nice, small and quiet area of central London. I like it because it feels like we are a small community in an enormous metropolis city. The village is full of little private shops where small businesses have the chance to grow giving themselves the shape they want and the people working here all know each other.
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