Bruschetta by Chef Nicholas Reina, H&S Chef Of The Month
H&S Chef Of The Month
Bella Restaurant, Dubai
Interview With H&S Magazine
Who Is Nicholas Reina?
I am an Italian chef that has been working around the world, I am 28 and I am the head chef at Bella Restaurant in Dubai, where I prepare Italian fine-dining cuisine.
Type Of Cuisine?
My main type of cuisine stems from my Italian roots, which I believe gives me the common sense to use simple ingredients to bring out the maximum flavours. I also believe in “no wastage” and make use of all ingredients if not in the same recipe perhaps in another preparation. I developed the science part myself by studying about it, so it is easier for me to understand the ingredients very well and be very creative with them. I love cooking because it gives me some freedom to do whatever I have in my mind and to tantalize people’s taste buds & get the “wow” effect!
What Inspired You To Become A Chef?
I always wanted to be a chef since when I was a child, however, my grandmother inspired me and I remember she bought for me a small kitchen where I would pretend to be cooking as a kid. At 10 years of age, I would stand next to my grandmother and cook pasta, risotto, and all the other Italian traditional recipes with her.
What Is The Biggest Challenge You Have Faced In The Culinary Industry?
The biggest challenge has been going to new countries without knowing the languages and getting used to the new lifestyles, I have worked in 5, Michelin stars restaurants, out of which two of them are the best restaurants in the world. “The Fat Duck” Restaurant by Heston Blumenthal, has been one of the most significant experiences I ever had.
I went to London at the age of 21, & I couldn’t speak a word of English but I’ve learned English by putting my head down and believing that I can do it. I can’t say it has been easy, but it has been a challenge & I feel proud of myself for being able to overcome the language barrier.
I always invested in my career, I found myself at times, working for free, only to gain the experience. I have been at “Noma” in Copenhagen, one of the best restaurants in the world, where I was interested and got to learn about fermentation.
I also have good knowledge of bread and sourdough, I fell in love with that during the pandemic and I put all of me to understand the process of fermentation and I even had the opportunity to work in a bakery for a couple of months. I believe nothing is better than bread, bread is life!
What’s Your Biggest Achievement In The Culinary Industry?
The biggest achievement is to become a better version of myself and to not stop believing and dreaming.
Also, one of the things I am proud of is that I was able to build a strong mindset, which helped me grow personally, as a man and helped me think as a leader which then enabled me to push others to grow their talent including myself.
When It Comes To Cooking What Is More Important To You The Technique, The Ingredients, Or The Creativity?
One of the most important things for being a professional chef is to have the knowledge, to know the ingredients, to know the molecular parts, to know how to manage all of them. Only with the right knowledge can you then create any recipe at any time. Creativity comes from the heart so if you have a big passion for cuisine, you don’t need to think about it too much as it comes naturally.
I believe we need to be conscious as a chef, and we need to respect all the ingredients, all the things which surround us, and also professionally we must know how to work with ingredients because every day you may deal with different ingredients just like all humans are different, so you can’t treat them in the same way, so you must know how to work with these different ingredients.
Recipe Of The Week: Bruschetta
• 1kg Roma tomato (only the petal)
• 800g tomato sauce
• 700g tomato heart (from the petal)
• 10g garlic
• 30g Extra virgin olive oil
• 1g thyme
• 200g tomato concassè (from another petal all ready blanched and peeled)
• t.t. Maldon salt
• Sourdough bread cut in squares
The weight of the tomato should be almost double to get 1,100 kg of petals. Do an incision on the plum tomatoes, blanch them in boiling water for 10 seconds and drop them straight in a bowl filled with ice and water, then peel them and cut them in four and remove the heart. Break down the petals in the robot coupe but don’t blend as a paste, keep it chunky. Spread that in a silicon mat and season with a touch of salt and thyme on top. Place this in the oven at 130 degrees only to dry, not to cook. In the meantime, in a pot, place the tomato sauce and the heart from the petals, cook and keep stirring until it becomes very dry, then pass through a chinois. In an aluminium foil, wrap the garlic and roast at 180 degrees in the oven, then pass through a fine sieve. Combine all the three preparations and season with the thyme leaves, Evo and Maldon. In a pan roast the bread squares and serve with it.