ANGELO CICCONE: Gelato Pastry Rock’n’Roll

ANGELO CICCONE: Gelato Pastry Rock’n’Roll

Fascinated by music and culinary arts since he was a kid, the Italian Angelo Ciccone is now the Executive Chef at Regent Singapore. Chef Ciccone loves being hands on and he rocks in heading all the hotel’s culinary operations. If one wants to get impressed by Italian Style Frozen Desserts in Singapore, Basilico and Dolcetto (Regent Singapore) are among the most popular destinations. Frozen Art Chef decided to interview Angelo Ciccone and discover the secret of his success.

  1. When did you start wishing to become a chef? 

At a young age I was enthralled with cooking and top singers (like Freddy Mercury, Jimi Hendrix and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and I also liked Ludwig Van Beethoven and Giuseppe Verdi). I dreamt about mesmerising thousands of people and to enlighten them with my compositions. As I grew older, I realised that my passion for food surpasses everything else. The success that I have achieved thus far can be traced back to the nurturing support and love I have received from my parents. They were the ones who instilled in me the love for culinary arts. I am from Locorotondo, in Puglia (southeast Italy), a region famed for its healthy, amazing cuisine. 

My mother is one of the best chefs I know. The preparation for lunch would start as early as 6 a.m., with the slow cooking of tomatoes and beef ragout. Daily meals at home always felt like a celebrate affair. On the other hand, my father was a vile food critic, with his dose of daily “helpful suggestion” with regards to mother’s culinary skills. I grew up in this whirlwind of awesome food and critical reviews. I believe that is why I am inspired to always strive for perfection. 

I enjoyed being in the kitchen since I was five years old. I remember getting in trouble when I sneaked into the school kitchen without permission, propped myself up on a stool in front of the daily soup pot, and added some ingredients of mischief such as a whole bag of salt or sugar. Of course, I messed up everything, I got caught and was from then on, barred from the kitchen. No one in their wildest dreams would believe that the kitchen would go on to become a fundamental part of my life. I loved being around good food, whether it was helping my grandmother to pick up persimmons for her homemade marmalade, creating panettone at the local pastry shop, or working at my uncle’s butchery shop – where I learnt how to portion beef steaks from a 300kg piece of meat. 

2. Tell us about your education and the start of your career.

I studied Culinary Arts and Nutrition at the Hotel and Tourism School in Castellana Grotte (Puglia), working at the same time (in the evening, for free) at the Michelin-starred restaurant “Il Poeta Contadino”. I was eager to learn the latest and most sophisticated cooking techniques. 

I went to work in different hotels and luxury restaurants all over Italy, where I learned to appreciate the unique difference and diversity in each of Italy’s regional cuisine. At 19 years old, I had my first experience abroad, at the Four Seasons London. I was working in pastry and I decided to continue my studies at the University of Surrey (London, England). 

In 2006, I moved to the Four Seasons in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was a luxurious fine dining Italian Restaurant where my first seafood risotto was created. It has since remained as my signature dish till this day. I also had the opportunity to work with many Asian Chefs. Drawn by their culture and cuisine, I decided that Asia would be my next stop. 

3. And here comes Singapore!

Yes, I’m at Regent since the start of my adventure in Singapore. The Lion city has got many Italian restaurants, but very few with real Italian taste. Many Singaporeans are “foodie experts” in many ways, we are in a Food Capital as New York and London. Most of my guests are well travelled and they know authentic Italian food. I believe that the authenticity and accurate representation of Italian cuisine through choice ingredients and proper cooking techniques is the reason for Basilico and Dolcetto’s success. Some of the authentic Italian dishes that are loved by my guests through the years are Semifreddo Torroncino, Granita “Espresso”, Sorbetto Basilico & Limoncello and Torta Pralina (Chocolate and Hazelnut).

4. Tell me more about your relationship with Frozen Desserts. 

I am personally very fond of pastry, from the emotions it evokes to the precision involved. I also love the fact that pastry making is a canvas for chefs to express their creativity in a form that others can appreciate visually while enjoying how it tastes. I recall fond memories in my early days as an apprentice in Pasticceria Lisi, which was also one of the oldest and most famous pastry shops back at hometown. I also recalled the days working in pastry arts in London for two years. 

Frozen Art is very trendy now, especially in a hot city like Singapore. At Regent Singapore, we have an extremely strong pastry team. The dessert selection at Basilico, Dolcetto and Tea lounge is one of our fortes. Our Bronte Pistachio Gelato in Dolcetto is something incredible that you would have to taste for yourself.

5. Can you share with us one of your latest creations?

Lately, I have been experimenting with savoury gelatos to add contrasting  textures on a plate together with warm and frozen components. Some creations include burrata gelato, tomato and basil sorbet, gorgonzola and walnut gelato, truffle mascarpone. One of the biggest successes has been my Mosaico di Mare with sea urchin gelato (click here to discover the recipe)! 

6. Last but not least, which are the Frozen Dessert Trends you foresee and what would you recommend to aspiring chefs? 

There is much untapped potential in Frozen savoury food and it will likely become even more popular in the future. Just as humans evolve, flavours do too. I’m very excited to prototype Frozen recipes that I have dreamt about and getting to taste them. It is akin to creating a a musical symphony. You first conceptualise it in your mind and bring that idea to realisation.

Not forgetting to mention of course, that anything healthy, organic, or touted as a “super food” will be increasingly in the spotlight on our menus. I’m now in the process of creating new flavours that  include Kombucha, Spirulina, Milk thistle, Matcha, Red Quinoa, Amaranth seeds, Turmeric, Coconut sugar, Goji berries and the list goes on. 

My advice to young chefs? This is an emotionally rewarding career that will also be your ticket to travel around the world. You will learn to make the impossible happen with the food you love. Don’t be afraid to experiment a new recipe or take an unconventional approach. Your creations will always taste authentic if you know your role and respect the fundamental as a Chef.