Italian cook Paolo Verzini on how he debuted in the culinary business and raising standards of local cuisine
Managing customers is a tough job, managing chefs to bring a taste of brilliance in culinary is even tougher. Meet Paolo Verzini, a chef who heads a total of 200 chefs from five restaurants at a local hotel in Islamabad. Hailing from Italy, Paolo has worked across five continents in 18 countries and possesses over 40 years of experience.
He speaks to The Express Tribune about his debut in the field of culinary, encounters with different cultures and why Pakistan is among the two best places to have worked in, with the other being the Philippines.
“Pakistani people are full of humility and passion and, at the same time, are very cultured,” Paolo tells The Express Tribune. “When I was told about the job opening in Pakistan, I was apprehensive but when I walked in the lobby of the hotel, I instantly felt content.”
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From kick starting his profession at the Savoy in London, to the Plaza in New York City and Four seasons in Canada, Chef Paolo has ample experience on his plate. “I wanted to raise the standards in Pakistan and so far, it has been an extremely fulfilling experience. Within seven to eight months, I have gained more experience here than I ever have in my entire career.”
He exclaims that the humble and passionate personality of most Pakistanis is what drives them to achieve great heights. “Pakistani chefs have a deep hunger for learning and growing. You will not find the same kind of hunger in chefs from the West. They would think they know everything.”
Paolo started off at the age of 13 as a helper in a restaurant in Milan and hasn’t looked back since. “I would peel potatoes, do the dishes but what really got my attention was the way the food was cooked. The images of fresh pasta being cooked, potatoes being sliced in a certain style and fruit salad being tossed deeply intrigued me.”
It was then that Paolo Verzini decided to be a chef but his family had no money to afford a culinary school. However, Paolo’s sister noticed his interest in cooking and took him to work at an upscale restaurant in Milan.
“We had to cook 20 different types of pastas and risottos and I didn’t know how to cook. But like a person who is pushed into the water, I learnt how to swim. The chef of the restaurant offered me the opportunity to study in a culinary school, which I would attend in the evenings.”
Despite having a very strict and conservative father who frowned upon Paolo’s decision to become a professional cook, Paolo went on the journey of his passion with his sister and mother’s support.
“It was not easy living away from home. The kitchen I would work in was dirty, filthy and sweaty. Living away from my family was another source of pain and suffering for me.”
Paolo is currently planning to redefine Pakistani fine dining in line with Michelin star style, so that it can reach a bigger international market. He didn’t disclose the cuisines he would be using to do so.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2015.
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