Many of us have dreamed of running off to a villa in Tuscany while basking in the perfect sun-dappled views while the wine flows and with no end to the classy Italian cuisines for you to taste. Unfortunately, that dream is usually rudely interrupted by the alarm clock. While we may not be able to do much about the lack of gorgeous vistas, Le Méridien’s Chef Emiliano Di Stefano is one such individual who brings a rich understanding of authentic Italian cuisine to your table.

Chef Emiliano Di Stefano

What kind of cuisine will you be introducing at Le Méridien Dhaka?

Emiliano: I am here to offer my speciality, Italian cuisine. I have worked in various parts of the world as an Italian chef, Bangladesh is not going to be any different. From a very early age, I started to learn the process of cooking Italian dishes, and I honed my skills throughout the years. I have been in this business for more than two decades, and I made it my mission to change people’s perception of Italian food. Many still think that only pasta and pizza defines Italian food. But our cuisine is far more vast than that. As an ambassador of Italian cuisine, I want to eliminate this misconception. I aim to deliver authentic Italian dishes wherever I go. I believe that the people here have a palate for good food and authentic Italian food is not going to disappoint them. It is not only delicious, but it is also one of the healthiest cuisines in the world.

What is your understanding of the food culture and restaurant scene in Dhaka?
Emiliano: I haven’t had the chance to go to a lot of places yet as I am very new to this country. However, I do know that people in this country love spicy food. I have already tasted the local cuisine in the hotel, although I am yet to try the homemade food. As I roamed around the world, tasting homemade food is a must for me. They always carry the real essence of any country’s cuisine.

What made you want to leave your former role and work at Le Méridien Dhaka?

Emiliano: Le Méridien holds a very high standard all around the world. They are known for their excellence in service. They never compromise with customer satisfaction. When I was working in Rimini in Italy, one of the earliest properties of Le Méridien in that region was our biggest competitors. Life is full of circles, and sometimes you need to close them. As of right now, I am closing one of those circles by working for Le Méridien Dhaka. I have worked for Marriott before, and they put themselves in such standards that I feel fortunate to work with them.
Besides, Bangladesh is a young country with a lot of opportunities, especially in the food sector. Unlike other countries, including the ones I have worked in, it has already explored and excelled in various sectors, including food and hotel. Bangladesh is still at its beginning. The vast opportunity felt alluring to me.

Are you planning to use and work with local ingredients in any way?

Emiliano: Mediterranean food is very much related to the local ingredients. But fresh ingredients can be found all over the world. Therefore, when you are outside Italy and preparing Italian dishes, you need to choose your ingredients from the right places. In Bangladesh, there are lots of farmland, offering fresh hand-picked cooking components. As per government rules, seeds can be imported as well. With research, you can mostly grow or find the proper ingredients to cook whatever you want. The weather in Bangladesh is somewhat similar to the weather in the southern part of Italy. Whether its Tomato or basil, you can find it all here.

Do you have any experience in cooking or eating South Asian food? What is your take on it?

Emiliano: While I was working in India, I had the opportunity to taste South Asian food there. People over there loves hot and spicy food, similar to the people here in Bangladesh. And as I said before, I love spices as well as spicy food. I also tried the homemade food there. I am keen on tasting the homemade food in Bangladesh as well.

What are the ingredients you never use? And why?

Emiliano: In different parts of the world, people use a lot of toppings over pizza, which necessarily destroys the taste. Toppings are acceptable to some extent, but I would never use pineapple while making a pizza. It just doesn’t go.

What is your signature dish? Can you cook it with a blindfold on?

Emiliano: I love to make pesto, which is a sauce made from fresh basil, a hint of olive oil, crushed garlic, pine nuts, and cheese. Not only my guests but my family members, as well as my friends, love my version of the sauce. I also love making fresh pasta everywhere I go.

How is your Bangladesh experience so far?

Emiliano: I have been here for only two months, and it has been amazing. The people here are very good-natured. They have an appreciation for good food and are also willing to try different dishes. Hence, we are getting incredible feedback from our guests. But as I spent most of my time in the hotel, I don’t really know about the lifestyle or the general food of choice of the people. I am excited to learn about the general lifestyle here. You can never know a culture fully unless you meet the locals and eat street food, and I am eagerly waiting to experience that.

K Tanzeel Zaman, Staff writer of ICE Today Magazine. He is an avid traveler, aiming to fill up his passport and express his perspective of the world through his write-ups.