Michelin-Chef Denis Lucci On His Journey From Lombardy To Singapore

The Italian chef, who is the founder of Michelin-star restaurant Buona Terra in Singapore, talks about his inspirations and lets us in on a terrific pasta recipe
Italian Chef Denis Lucci shares a quick recipe for a cheese and butter Alfredo pasta that will have you asking for more
Italian Chef Denis Lucci shares a quick recipe for a cheese and butter Alfredo pasta that will have you asking for more

What made you choose the culinary arts Did you always know you wanted to cook

I chose the culinary arts almost for fun. Coming from a very touristy place surrounded by hotels and great restaurants, I was inspired to pick culinary school. I guess cooking is something you can love or hate, and it was definitely love for me. Although not instantly, as soon as I stepped into a professional kitchen and started to live and breathe in the culinary world, my passion grew. 

Why did you decide to open your restaurant in Singapore and not elsewhere

Singapore was again a coincidence. I trained overseas for some years, and this period truly helped me open my mind in many ways. After my training, when I returned to my hometown, I felt lost and wanted more. Singapore landed on my plate when a previous chef of mine told me one of his friends had a restaurant in the city and asked me if I wanted to try it there. I was apprehensive about my choice at first, but that changed when I saw how fast this city and the culinary scene were developing. Now, at this current moment, I&rsquom very happy to be here, and I think Singapore is the place to be in Asia as a chef.

How difficult is it to source fresh ingredients for your Italian menu in an Asian country like Singapore

Sourcing of ingredients is where we spend most of our time and what we give more importance to in our restaurant. Choosing the best product is the key to delivering the best quality. Sourcing ingredients now is more accessible, as compared to earlier. Now you can find great quality ingredients all over the world. We always source the best products, not necessarily from Italy, but we always use them in the Italian way, following my Italian roots.

Have you thought about incorporating some Asian flavours in your menu, or is the authenticity of your Italian roots a non-negotiable

Yes, I did think of that at the beginning of my career in Asia. But gradually, I understood the importance of identity over showcasing my ability, so I decided to stick entirely to my roots. Even when I pick up raw materials from all over the world, our dishes and how we prepare them are always rooted in authentic Italian culture.

Cooking is like any other art form that requires consistent inspiration. What inspires you

My main inspiration is my different experiences. Maybe a holiday I take, a memory, a dinner out, or even a book I read. With an open mind, inspiration is everywhere.

Share a recipe for our readers.

A quick recipe that everybody would love is a classic butter and cheese pasta called &ldquoAlfredo&rdquo. The name is from the restaurant in Rome where the recipe originated. So it&rsquos a simple pasta that, in the end, could be mixed with Parmesan cheese and butter to create a creamy emulsion. In my case, I will give you a few tips to do it slightly differently.


- Boil some salt water and cook some short pasta (fusilli, rigatoni) for 2 min (check on the box the cooking instructions, if it says 10 min, cook for 2 min and then move to a smaller pot)

- After cooking for 2 min, move to a smaller pot and keep adding the pasta water bit by bit for another 10 min (like we do for a risotto)

- This way, the pasta will cook, releasing all the starch in the sauce and creating a creamy texture.

- Taste the pasta to check it&rsquos fully cooked. Adjust salt as needed.

- Once fully cooked and with the right amount of salt, remove it from the fire and add some butter, some good parmesan cheese, fresh pepper and chopped mint ( I love the flavour of mint combined with butter and cheese).

- Let it rest for a minute, and then mix everything until you see the sauce stick to the pasta.

- Serve hot.

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