Cooking with a Master: My Journey with Chef Marco Morana

In my culinary journey, I have had the privilege of studying under an incredible mentor, Chef Marco Morana. He stands out as one of the hardest task masters I’ve encountered. His expertise and attention to detail have left an indelible mark on my culinary skills. The admiration I have for this remarkable chef remains steadfast from the first time I met him at the International Centre for Culinary Arts Dubai, in 2018.

 

His passion for food ignited at a young age, inspired by the influence of his Italian and Spanish parents. Growing up in a kitchen environment, he naturally gravitated towards the culinary world. It was in Scotland, where he worked in a bakery, that he first delved into the world of food. At that point, he realized that to further my knowledge and skills, he needed to explore different cuisines and gain experience across borders. Armed with his Sabatier knives and Repertoire de le cuisine, he embarked on a journey that took him to France, Spain, Italy, and the USA, soaking in the flavors and techniques of each unique culinary landscape.

 

 

After twelve eventful years abroad, he returned to the UK only to discover how much British cuisine had evolved during his absence. Determined to catch up, he sought employment with renowned chefs like Marco Pierre White, Pierre Koffman, and eventually Gordon Ramsay. Each experience honed his skills and enriched his culinary repertoire. Finally, he settled in Scotland, where he served as the head chef at a restaurant that would later be awarded a BIB gourmand by the Michelin Guide, earning recognition as one of the crown jewels of Edinburgh’s culinary scene.

 

Hi life as a chef eventually brought him to the Middle East and it was in Dubai where our paths crossed. I had an opportunity at culinary school to learn from Chef Marco Morana, who became my mentor and teacher. I vividly remember the day he taught me how to make my first authentic Italian Risotto. His skill, attention to detail, and ability to turn every dish into a masterpiece on a plate were awe-inspiring. Chef Marco’s dedication to perfection was unwavering, and he demanded the same commitment from his students. I soon realized that the art of being a chef extended far beyond the kitchen; it encompassed an undeniable pride in the uniform, the utensils used, and every aspect of the culinary craft.

 

 

Under Chef Marco’s guidance, I experienced a transformative journey. I moved from being a home cook to an artist, embodying a deeper appreciation for the culinary craft. As I watched my mentor create countless dishes, I developed my unique culinary identity. However, when the time came for Chef Marco to move on, the kitchen at our culinary school felt incomplete without his presence. Although we remained in touch, the chances of us meeting again seemed slim. That is until one fateful day, when he tagged me in an Instagram story on the 20th of February 2024, announcing that he was in Cape Town for an event.

 

A surge of determination coursed through me as I contemplated whether to embark on a 10-hour flight from Dubai to Cape Town to reunite with Chef Marco. Time was of the essence, since he had 1 day free, after the event and would then depart for the UK. With his promise to cook a risotto for me, I couldn’t resist the urge! Reminiscent of Liz in the movie “Eat Pray Love,” who booked a ticket to Italy, I booked a ticket, to Cape Town, South Africa, to bring a dream to life.

 

I cannot describe in words the impact that experience had on me and then too, to be able to cook with him at Constantia View, in the Penthouse Apartment! The view is breathtaking and the kitchen a chef’s playground. I watched chef Maria cook but also articulate what teaching me meant to him. This was an experience of a lifetime and I am reminded of the invaluable role that mentors and teachers play in shaping our lives, in this instance, our culinary journeys. Their guidance, expertise, and unwavering pursuit of excellence fuel our own creative spark. Cooking with a master chef like Chef Marco is not just about learning techniques, but also a celebration of the shared love for food and the culinary arts. I am eternally grateful that I could reconnect with him and that I could cook with him.

 

I watched him take the flight back home and for some reason, the kitchen and my heart felt empty. I wish I had more time with him and as we both continue to learn, create, and inspire others on our culinary paths, he remains one of my culinary role models. I am the sum of all of my parts.

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