Mauro Uliassi, one of the pillars of Italian cuisine, the chef patron of the Uliassi Restaurant, 3-star Michelen in Senigallia.
Mauro’s success is based on the search for perfection and his conscious choice to surround himself with respectful and loyal people. Mauro proposes a simple and contemporary cuisine which is deeply rooted in the Adriatic Coast traditions and flirting with other influences. Every year, they add 10 new courses, presented together with the Classic menu made up of historical proposals.
Thank you for welcoming us and let’s start and tell us how your project was born?
How was the restaurant born? yes- the restaurant was born in 1990 and I was lucky enough to buy with my father’s money, at least for 2/3 he financed us, this place that I really liked, It was what I wanted most and I think that only in this place I could have realized all my career as a cook, because this is a beautiful place always, it is beautiful in summer is beautiful in winter is beautiful when there is snow, when there is rain, when there is wind, because we are on the sea, we are near a river, and there are the town that is 300 meters, just behind the restaurant, and here there are different dimensions of life that are full, always full of energy, So in 1990 I opened the restaurant with my sister Katia, and then the restaurant was a shack, a shack that stood with stucco and paint, if you wanted to open a window, you had to call me or another waiter because otherwise you risked that everything could fall, fall on you, we say we closed the place at least twice a month to cover all the clumsy that had, clearly a place, a dump, a bad place , but it was our place, and we started it right away, we were very well accepted by the city and the period that I call pioneering was exhilarating because we were always full of people and in a short time I realized that we were realizing a certain economic wealth, so that there were two things or we immediately bought a Porsche all of us without any problem or reinvest, decide to reinvest on the company, and and that’s what we did, so the restaurant slowly grew, so from a restaurant that had 200/250 seats on the first floor and became a more intimate, more intimate restaurant, we took the first star in 1994, the second in 2008 and in 2018 came the blessing from high heaven that brought us up, has raised us in this extraordinary dimension that is that of the 3 stars, that is a unique brand that makes you really happy, something that all cooks in short aspire to, to have, and from there all the other fortunes, we entered your, in your, in your group, we are in the 50 best, Hh continuously we are made many requests, proposals for work and advice, but we have decided to stay inside the restaurant, to follow, to treat with great attention this very lucky moment that we hold well, well tight.
What made you want to be a chef? Was it something you felt? Did it happen by accident?
Then it was no accident, I always divide talent from passion, because passion and what you want to do but you don’t always have the talent to do it, the talent and what naturally and spontaneously comes to you to do, And then later you can eventually get into it, I had no idea, I had the talent of the cook, but I had no idea I could do the things I did, because I was a cook, I was already a professional cook, But I only worked for later, I also taught at the hotel school, I only worked to maintain my studies because I had enrolled in the university because my aims were other, in my opinion what happened, and happened that I fell in love, I fell madly in love with a woman and when she asked me to cook for her birthday I cooked with a heart full of love and I realized that I cooked in a completely different way, ‘Cause while I used to only cook for an economic reason, for, I used to make so-called marchette I needed money to support myself and I also kept myself quite well I have to say, I was very young I was 23/24 years old, that night at the birthday of the one who then became my wife, there were about thirty boys and I made a sort of lunch of Babette, I remember that the evening were all seduced by what we had realized and were really happy to be here, so I realized that I could have, I had a power that was to give pleasure to others that then became my pleasure, so I realized at that moment that I had the talent of the cook, because what is the talent of the cook? The talent of the cook is very simple, and that of succeeding, is the palate, is like the ear for a musician you can be technical, you can be creative you can be anything but if you do not have a palate that can build tastes that then people can like practically you do not, you have absolutely nothing, and from there I realized that I had this talent that things to other people were things that really liked and so I convinced myself, My wife pushed me very much in this direction and I convinced myself that I could actually do this kind of job and thank the gods for giving me this enlightenment.
How would you define your cuisine?
Our kitchen is a kitchen that lives in 2021 for which it uses the best techniques and technologies that are present today on the market but also a kitchen that has its roots in tradition, that is, we always start from something that is absolutely intimately linked to us, our kitchen I love to define it simple because it uses elements easily available at an affordable cost and at the same time a dish that I realize together with my creative group and then it is possible to make it replicate to all the others, these are the basic conditions for a dish to be simple, then a dish as well as simple must also be authentic, authentic what it means, it means to tell something to you really to you something that you have lived in some way, that may be your land, that may be a journey, that is it may not be something that you have seen you have heard, I always do this example to make bass a fish in Val D’Aosta does not have the same meaning that doing it at sea because in Val D’Aosta the sea is not there , then one the bass there is the also can bring Val D’Aosta, but you do not have the authenticity, you do not have the roots, to be able to produce something that while the sea is deeply authentic, we have the good fortune to live in a land that, the Adriatic coast has this great extraordinary opportunity to cook products of both land and sea, because we have the sea in front of us but immediately after the countryside, You can imagine all the hotels here, but 100 years ago, there were fishermen’s huts with the boat in front of them with the winch, just pull it in from the beach from the sea to the beach, and behind them, they had the pig, they had the goose, they had the pigeon, 300 meters beyond these huts there were marshes, ditches and swamps, then frogs, snails, eels and game, so anything that a cook better you could want, It is clear that this is no longer there because urbanization has created new situations for which there are no more swamps, there are no more ditches, but we culturally come from there so we have a great possibility to draw from these sources.
Mauro, what’s your view on the situation now? Does anything ischanging in the catering/food business? We know that last year and this year as well have been quite difficult for everyone?
Yes, the Covid has recreated, has redesigned things a bit, then not for everyone was lived in the same way, for example who has seasonal premises like ours that you keep open 9 months a year and last year had the opportunity to work 4 months and a half, 5 months during the summer and the Covid was lived in a completely different way than those who instead have a restaurant in a city of art where throughout the year they have always been almost closed and so have worked almost nobody, We did the little year paradoxically we did more 30% compared to the summer before, because ‘they all rushed this way and this year and more or less the same thing, I believe that if everyone is vaccinated if everyone understands the importance of continuing to live well things will certainly improve considerably and there will be a great economic rebound for all, we are already talking about a 4/5/6 % and almost twice as close, I am sure that after this situation of grave difficulty there will be the possibility of resurfacing and giving good things again.
What are your plans for the future and how do you see your development?
Then there are many directions we can take at this time, we are very, very, very focused only on the restaurant because anyway do 40/50 seats at lunch and 40/50 seats at dinner every day for 5 days a week with a group of 35 people who is focused all day there, and already a great immense effort, keep everyone on a goal, everyone very happy to do what they are doing and they are doing it for you, so this is already a remarkable commitment, we have as I said before many opportunities because the third stars, the three stars are a brand of excellence that puts you on par with many other brands of excellence for which the requests are many and in addition to we have acquired a great knowledge of what can be just the food for which if we wanted, I don’t know, open a trattoria or a gastronomy or street food like we did in the past, we did several things in the past, we did banquets, we did street food we opened a restaurant abroad in Hong Kong in 2008, then we abandoned everything because we understood that if we wanted to ascend further, that is to put all our energies in the restaurant we would have just had the opportunity to be able to greatly improve our position and our condition as cooks, This has happened, now we try to keep and understand well how to make this thing work and then and then in front of it there is everything that one has desire to do.
And just going back to what you said, about your brigade of young people, what do they give you? What do you give them? How do you live the relationship with the new generations?
We have, we try to better organize the work and this and always given by, the three stars gave us the opportunity to exit from a market no, then to be a separate market and then to enjoy other economies, these allowed us to be closed two days a week even in the middle of summer because with the rhythms that we have, with the crazy concentration that we put every time and every day on what we do, over 5 days you do not go because you go so crazy, last year to recover a little we decided to work an afternoon, an extra evening so not on Mondays and Tuesdays but on Tuesdays we were already open and we arrived in September we were really exhausted, So I realized that in order to get the most out of people, you have to give them the chance to have their own lives, and so once I come from that band of cooks who felt like heroes when they worked seven days a week for months, for 12/14 hours a day a bit ‘Anthony Bourdain are these extreme situations that made you cool a lot ‘because you were a c and did, now it is no longer so, in fact it is not even fair to say work in this way, I met a cook who came here to see me called Juan Amador, who is a 3 star in Vienna, the first thing he asked me is, did he tell me how many days you work? I said five days and he did, he gave me a big smile and he told me we three and a half days, he told me happy wife, happy kids, happy kids, all happy kids, he said you’ll see that if you do something like this you will work a lot, much better, because then in fact and so, that is, if you tighten the work period if you have a great demand anyway you will always be full in those days there and then you can create savings to be able to stand, then the high catering, when one is well placed he really does not have any kind of problem to be able to do other things.
How important is the presence of the chef in the restaurant? because we know that now many travel, etc. etc.
I really admire people like Massimo Bottura who is my brother, a great friend of mine and I don’t know how he does why and extraordinary, another and extraordinary is Niko Romito who has different activities and still manages to keep them all going, I’m a little older than I am 63 years old and so I need a little ‘I measure my energy, I like it very much anyway I have to say, since in the past we have already done many things so we say that everyone also, As it turns out, business ambitions somehow we’ve already developed and then abandoned just to see what we could do by putting the maximum concentration on what we were doing, I have this kind of energy and this kind of ability beyond maybe I can’t go but for me it really is very important to be here at the restaurant because I enjoy it and I enjoy my work group, being together and feeling them quivering with me when we succeed, I enjoy it when I go between the tables and I realize it is an excellent is an excellent job because people smile and and happy to be here and this already seems to me an extraordinary thing that the gods have granted me, so have also, as I can say, the, having the right feeling for the success that one has is really very important, because success can lead you in many directions, Most likely if I had this kind of success at 40 years I would have been more arrogant I would have been more presumptuous and I would have wanted more maybe from my job now I’m very happy so.
Italian cuisine – how is its present and what its future is going to be?
Italian cuisine in my opinion is from a beautiful who is experiencing a great moment, in my opinion at some point with, after the teachings that the great master, that everyone listened and followed and took as an example that was before him Gualtiero Marchesi and then this great discovery that there was with the Spaniard Ferran Adrià who was the, with his extraordinary message of freedom to be free, it can be considered a message above all that Ferran Adrià gave to cooks in the world, since that time the Italians have not, maybe co may have been some situations in there were a bit of imitation regarding the Spanish cuisine but it lasted really long, very little, because everyone took the maximum from the teaching of Ferran Adrià that was precisely this, this message of great freedom, they learned the techniques and then everyone took his own path with the pleasure of doing things as they were in his feeling, in Italy at the moment there are many young people, let’s say that there was a moment made by about fifteen twenty cooks including me, Moreno Cedroni, Massimo Bottura, Alajmo, Crippa, Carlo Cracco all those, Davide Scabin, Gennaro Esposito, Cicco Sultano now I hope not to forget anyone that really created a wave, a wave of will and positivity and desire to do well, now there are at least thirty cooks young in their 30s, 35 years who have extraordinary possibilities, of the great abilities that have assimilated the teachings very well and that are ready to create a new Italian restaurant for which in my opinion the Italian restaurant will have nothing to grow from here to come.
Any advice to the new generations?
To the new generations of those who do this job advice which precisely to try to understand well if what he is doing corresponds to their wishes to their dreams and if it is fundamentally their talent because to know that your talent and fundamental ‘Cause if that’s your talent, then everything that moves will come true, between simple quotes, because it will depend only on how much energy you put on it, how much passion but if you do not have the talent you have and you only have the ambition to become a cook because ‘maybe you saw Masterchef or because’ cooks are on all the covers, They make videos, they’re famous all over the world, they make a lot of money, they’re definitely not the right model, the right model you create it inside you are you have the awareness of being inside you a cook, that is to have this ability to be able to build a thing, It’s a good thing, so if you’re going to do this early, you need to understand this.
Did success change you in a personal way?
Success has not changed me in the personal sense because it is in the success that we have built very slowly, we have taken 30 years and I must say that I have always enjoyed all these and 30 years, I enjoyed the first 5 years the pioneering period because ‘we were a band of kids who kept the rock ‘n’ roll throttle music every day so every day was a great party coming to the restaurant that was always full of people and with the people of Senigallia that he greeted you in such a nice and kind way, it was nice when the first star arrived almost unconsciously, it was nice when the second one arrived and then when the third one arrived we seemed, it seemed that at Senigallia they had won the final of the cup of champions, People used to stop me on the street and say, “Yes, we won” without even knowing what we were talking about, but there was a really extraordinary adhesion, but all my colleagues, so I have to say that these 30 years have been lived in an extraordinary and wonderful way. How is that the original question I don’t remember?
Did the success change you?
Ah.. all this in my opinion has not changed me, it has improved me because the work has this prerogative, that is you have the possibility through the work of, is a concept that had expressed recently ‘Massimo Bottura that I liked very much, that is it is possible through what you make yourself better, improve the people who are close to you and inevitably also improve everything that surrounds you, why before Senigallia, the restaurant Senigalliese was a fairly anonymous restaurant with Moreno Cedroni and we who have had this type of success over time all the restaurant in Senigalliese has made a leap forward because’ to emulate all wanted to make their better, so we somehow try to better ourselves
In our work we improved everything else in the city, I say it without presumption because that’s exactly what happened, then other excellences came out, there’s a girl who makes bread and is one of the best in Italy, there’s a gentleman named Brunelli who makes ice cream that has been awarded several times as best in Italy so here’s Senigallia definitely has a very lucky geographical situation but our work, the desire to do well has improved us because it has brought us to live in the world and has brought us to know many people to have new reactions then to constantly change our thinking about life and values and about what is good and what is evil, but at the same time it also improved the city itself.