Meet chef Oliver Glowig
German chef Oliver Glowig helms a two-Michelin star restaurant in Rome, Aldrovandi Villa Borghese, which rather unusually won both stars within eight months of opening – an accolade it has consistently maintained since 2011. He has now been appointed the consultant chef for The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain’s revamped Italian restaurant Primavera which he describes as “a modern trattoria – an authentic Italian kitchen using local ingredients.” The restaurant’s name draws inspiration from spring which is reflected in the delightful motifs on the handcrafted plates, in stark contrast to the minimalist interior. Primavera may be a more casual ‘tavern’ concept but there’s not a pizza in sight!
So voila, grab a limoncello and read FooDiva’s interview with Oliver:
- Why Bahrain and why this restaurant? I am good friends with the general manager Christian Zandonella as I worked with him before in the Ritz-Carlton Toronto [Chef Oliver is the consultant chef for the hotel’s Toca restaurant]. So I came here, saw Bahrain and liked it. It’s a new market, ripe for an authentic Italian restaurant. It’s unlike Dubai where there are too many imported restaurants, and where many of the Italian restaurants are not very good.
- How was the Primavera menu developed? I developed it with my resident chef Alfonso Ferraioli who is from Naples but worked with me in Capri, and knows what I want. I come here every two to three months to check the control. We are in contact daily and he always emails me photos of what he is cooking. The menu has a few signature ‘O’ dishes which are a little bit different, and a step away from tradition.
- What produce is sourced from Bahrain? It makes no sense to import fish from Europe. It’s much fresher here. I’ve been twice to the fish market and the choice is very good; they have everything. Our sea bass and hammour are local. We create dishes based on what we can get here. Tomatoes and spinach are also local – good quality. Our ricotta is local and we make the caciotta cheese [stuffed in the ravioli] in-house using fresh local cow’s milk and rennet.
- Why is hammour on the menu given it’s largely believed to be overfished? We source our hammour locally every morning. The team also visits the Bahrain fish market twice a week in order to inspect what is sold. Both the local fishing authorities and our company policy ensure the fish on sale is deep water fish only, and most importantly, that it is not overfished. We are lucky that Bahrain is one of the rare destinations in the region where the culture of food and the respect of ingredients is deeply anchored. [Note; for more on this issue you may like to read a review of Seaview restaurant in Dubai here where I and the subsequent comments address the confusion around the sustainability of hammour].
- Why out of all the cuisines in the world, do you think Italian has been affected most by globalisation? It’s because of the freshness, seasonality and access of the produce. It’s light and not so heavy like French cuisine. We don’t use much cream but more olive oil – in particular in Capri where I worked for nine years.
Left photo, clockwise from top: a traditional vitello tonnato; grilled octopus, potato, green bean and pesto salad; a blue fin tuna carpaccio with pasta and basil yoghurt. Right photo: A signature ‘O’ dish of risotto with locally sourced tomatoes, burrata and anchovies.
- What’s the latest food or dining trend you are seeing? Eating healthy. Customers are demanding it, and are more informed than ever before.
- Are you working towards earning a third Michelin star or would you rather not have the pressure? Why not…but I don’t work for the Michelin stars. I work for my customers.
- Describe a vivid food memory that has impacted your career and cooking. Lots of disasters in the kitchen! But that aside, I left Munich for Italy where I met my wife who is from Capri [his good German chef friend Heinz Beck also married an Italian – from Sicily]. When I went to my mother-in-law’s house, I loved her traditional kitchen which has given me a lot of inspiration. She showed me how to make the ravioli which is on the Primavera menu.
- And lastly one fun question, if your kitchen was burning down what three ingredients would you take? Olive oil, tomatoes and basil.
What would you take with you? On a more serious note, I’d love to know your favourite Italian restaurant and dish.
Note – I was a guest of Ritz-Carlton who flew me into Bahrain with Gulf Air to interview the chef. For more photos of my visit click here.