Valentino Cassanelli, head chef, Lux Lucis

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th February 2019

Valentino Cassanelli is the founder and head chef of Lux Lucis at the Principe Forte Dei Marmi. He told The Staff Canteen about his love for Tuscan cuisine, telling stories through food, and how getting a Michelin star has affected him and his team. 

Read our interview with Terry Laybourne, Chef Restaurateur, 21 Hospitality Group  

Watch our video of Anne-Sophie Pic, chef patron of La Dame de Pic

- Read more of our The Staff Canteen Meets features 

What made you decide to become a chef?

I have always loved food and the gastronomic world. I grew up helping my grandmother and mother in the kitchen, making tortellini and lasagne. It was at the point that I began to appreciate the happiness you can get from cooking for others, which is the main reason I decided to become a chef.

Top five restaurant meals

Alinea 

Osteria Francescana

Ryugin

Disfrutar

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

 

Five most influential chefs in your career

Carlo Cracco

Giorgio Locatelli

Nobu Matsuhisa

Marco Pierre White

My team

 

Top 5 comfort foods

Well toasted brown bread with ham and cheese

Tortellini from Modena

Hummus with pitta

Sushi

Pizza

Can you give us a short overview of your career until now?


After studying at the catering college in Serramazzoni and completing work experience Floriana in Beauchamp Place, London, and a more traditional restaurant in Modena, I was keen to begin my culinary career back in London.

My first kitchen job was at Mosaic in Mayfair, which was followed by Locando Locatelli in Marylebone and later Nobu on Berkeley Street.

In 2007, I returned to Italy to work under Carlo Cracco. I stayed at Cracco in Milan for three years, and worked my way through the ranks to Junior Sous Chef, before joining two friends in Sangal restaurant in Venice.

I moved to hotel Principe Forte dei Marmi in February 2012, and the following month, we launched Lux Lucis.

How would you describe your food/what is contemporary Tuscan cuisine?

My cuisine is a reflection of myself and an expression of the story behind each plate. I am constantly researching new and old flavours, gaining a deeper knowledge of traditional techniques and ingredients, combining them with my creativity to form my own style of cuisine.

My menu encompasses the Tuscan region in every way, using fresh fish from the Tyrrhenian sea and and local ingredients Apuan Alps. 

Where do you find inspiration to create new dishes?

The inspiration behind each of my dishes is never the same, but I always tend to follow the seasons when thinking of a new dish.

I imagine the specific location I want to represent, along with the emotion I want to transmit to the palate, and build the dish up from there.

The composition of my menu at Lux Lucis tells a story, so I combine the ingredients available and the techniques I have gained from my experience into the dish to form another part of the story.

Smoked potato bread

How important is tradition and legacy in your work?

At Lux Lucis, we are constantly researching, trying to bridge the gap between tradition and the contemporary. For me, tradition is important because it’s embedded into Italian culture, but it’s also essential to have the creative freedom to be able to develop and create something new.

What is it like to work with Sokol Ndreko and how involved are you in each other’s work?

Sokol is the Maître Sommelier of Lux Lucis so it’s important that we both have a mutual understanding of the components that make up a dish in order to choose the best combination, with the drink pairing acting as an ingredient and enhancing the flavour of the food. We are both constantly researching products and ingredients, and often begin dishes with the flavours of a particular wine. 

Can you tell us about why you chose Forte dei Marmi to set up your restaurant? Would you ever return to your birth town of Modena?

I love Modena and Emilia-Romagna because it’s a gastronomic paradise. Although I was born there, I consider Forte dei Marmi my home, so Modena is not in my plan at the moment. 

When Cristina Vascellari, GM of Principe Forte dei Marmi, introduced me to the project of transforming the hotel's food and beverage offering, I decided to give it 100 percent.

She has a very modern approach to hotels and restoration and is passionate about evolving, so I had a good feeling about it right from the start. I am also very lucky because the location of Lux Lucis is great: it’s close to the sea and the Apuan Alps, near the quiet of the countryside but also close to everything we need.

Crispy morello cherries%2C violet cream and white chocolate   Lux Lucis
Crispy morello cherries, violet cream and white chocolate 

What experience are you trying to create by allowing guests to sit at a ‘chef’s table’ and a ‘kitchen table’?

Our kitchen table is just two meters from the pass. We have an open kitchen so the approach enables guests to communicate directly with me and the other chefs. They can observe the preparation and plating of the dishes, enabling them become fully immersed into our world.

The chef’s table is directly on the pass so dishes are served by me and my kitchen team, allowing guests to have an exclusive dining experience. 

Have you changed the way you work since you were awarded a Michelin star? Has your customer base changed?

My philosophy and the way I work has remained the same. My team and I continue to work hard every day to find new ways to tell our story.

The customer base has changed in the sense that they seem more curious than before and they also anticipate a high standard. Because of this, I expect my staff to remain focused, motivated and above all, passionate. 

Lux Lucis kitchen

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th February 2019

Valentino Cassanelli, head chef, Lux Lucis