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Saturday, June 11, 2011

6/14- The Il Fornaio Story with Maurizio Mazzon


 Maurizio Mazzon

 Vice President and Executive Chef

Maurizio Mazzon, Il Fornaio’s multi-talented Venetian-born executive chef brings his 25 years of culinary experience to every kitchen, every recipe and every menu served at Il Fornaio, breakfast, lunch and dinner. He also leads the company’s wine program and, coming from a family of bakers, is always coming up with new bread ideas inspired by the traditions of Italy’s twenty regions.

Born in Marcon, Veneto, Mazzon knew he would be a chef from the age of eight when he would cook shellfish caught with his brother off Punta Sabbaioni near Venice.  Mazzon, pursued his dream of becoming a chef by enrolling at Italy’s prestigious Northern Italy Hotel Institute outside of Venice and, upon graduation, his first job was cooking in the Italian Marines. Though he began as a cook for the enlisted men, the officers began sneaking into their tent for Mazzon’s food and it wasn’t long before he was promoted to the officer’s kitchen.

Returning to Venice after his stint in the Marines, Mazzon worked under Executive Chef Claudio de Zotto at all’Angelo, the largest restaurant in the city, seating 750.  He also perfected his catering skills moonlighting at the legendary Harry Cipriani, preparing banquets for notables such as Henry Kissinger, Italian President Sandro Pertini, and Pope John Paul II. 

In November 1985, Mazzon moved to the United States to serve as chef at Donatello in Tampa, Florida.  Four years later, Mazzon joined Il Fornaio to open a new restaurant and bakery in Palo Alto, California, just three days after the Loma Prieta earthquake.  Under Mazzon’s leadership, Il Fornaio in Palo Alto won several awards including “Best Restaurant in Santa Clara County” by San Francisco Focus Magazine

After three years at Il Fornaio Palo Alto, he led the opening of Il Fornaio in San Jose, the company’s most ambitious project at that time. He was promoted to “Gypsy Chef” two years later where his responsibilities included traveling to each of Il Fornaio’s 22 kitchens to work with each chef. 

Today, as Vice President and Executive Chef of Il Fornaio, Mazzon leads regular Giro di Cuochi or “Chef Tours” of Italy; directs Festa Regionale, Il Fornaio’s ongoing menu exploration of the distinct cuisines of Italy’s 20 different regions; and oversees new menu development, new concept development. His presence can be felt in each of the company’s 22 kitchens. He is also responsible for purchasing for the entire company, which is no small task. Few restaurant groups in the US import as much for Italy as Il Fornaio.

Mazzon was also the culinary leader in the opening in 1999 of Canaletto Ristorante Veneto at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and in Fashion Island in Newport Beach. These authentic Venetian restaurants were the realization of a lifelong dream of Mazzon’s: create a world-class dining destination here in the U.S. that would honor the places where he honed his craft. Mazzon’s menu presents traditional foods of the “Tre Venezie” area of northeastern Italy, complemented by the wines of this less heralded part of the world. Canaletto in Las Vegas is situated at the Venetian’s recreation of Saint Mark’s square, and has become one of Il Fornaio’s most successful restaurants and among the highest volume restaurants in the country. Opened in 2008, Canaletto in Newport Beach occupies a prime location at Fashion Island, one of the premier shopping destinations in the United States.

In 2002, Mazzon poured a lifetime of studying various regional differences in Italy onto the pages of his best-selling cookbook, The Il Fornaio Pasta Book: Authentic Recipes Celebrating Italy’s Regional Pasta Dishes from Chronicle Books in San Francisco.

Here you can find the essential food of Italy, pasta, explained in a manner that can be re-created in most any kitchen. It also contains s few of Maurizio’s favorite proverbs that both capture the spirit and mind of this Italian chef.

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