Adrian Buttigieg talks comfort food, duck tongues and his mother’s ‘għagin fil-forn’.

What or who inspired you to become a chef?

My main inspiration came from my mother and older brother. My mother always cooked the most memorable and delicious family lunches and dinners, and when she allowed him to, my rother too. My other brother and I were always the happy tasters at the table.

What drives you to continuously create new recipes and new combinations?

Fresh ingredients and my team with no hesitation
I feel lucky to be able to work in a kitchen where I have access to daily fresh ingredients. Both the staples and more uncommon ones. This makes all the difference.
I’m also surrounded by a team of professionals always eager to learn new recipes and techniques, and who are hungry to learn more. Having such people around keeps me on my toes and motivates me to research, read, and develop new methods to keep them inspired and creatively satisfied.

Is your cooking influenced by the countries you have worked in?

Not really. Every chef has his or her own style and mine is quite contemporary. I like classic flavours and modern techniques and I love adding a modern twist to something classical. If I had to pin down one influence however it’s most definitely the timeless French cuisine. Other than a particular country or cuisine, I have been greatly influenced by the work of Chef Ferran Adrià.

What’s the strangest food you’ve eaten and the strangest food request you have had to deliver on?

Strangest food: Duck tongues!
Strangest request: I cannot recall a particular one that has remained in my mind, however, people generally have more of an opinion on what they eat and how they want it served.

Your must have kitchen gadget

Hand-held blender

Your best cooking tip

Simple but effective for everyone: add a pinch of salt when starting a basic fry-up (onions and garlic). Not only will it reduce the possibility of burning them, but they’ll become softer too.

A childhood meal you still recreate or enjoy

My mum’s own ghagin il-forn. In fact recently I included it in one of our events at Taro Restaurant, Revisited Classics

Perfect dinner party menu

Definitely a stand-up event. A selection of cold and hot canapés including some salmon, duck, asparagus and cheeses. For the hot part some delicoius tarts, beignets and brochettes of beef, prawns and chicken. Sweets: Chocolate and berries.

Guilty pleasure?

It absolutely has to be anything that contains sugars and fats. The sweeter the better!

About the chef

In 2007 Adrian won his first culinary award: Junior Chef of the Year. In 2009 he was asked to join the Malta National Team of Chefs participating in various competitions around the world (Dubai, Scotland, Luxembourg, and Germany). His particular favourite was the Culinary World Cup and the Culinary Olympics when he selected as part of the 10 best young chefs in the Mediterranean region, a list compiled by culinary powerhouse San Pellegrino (the creators of the famous list of ‘Top 50 Restaurants in the World). Adrian is head chef at Le Meridien, St Julians

A final word from the chef.

The kitchen environment is rough, but it has always to be kept fun. We work long hours. When other people are celebrating we’re working hard in the kitchen. We work in extremely high temperatures in full uniform. It has to be kept fun on a daily basis, otherwise it drives you crazy and you slowly lose your love for the job. Our job is not just punching in, doing your hours and then going home. In reality it’s all about pride, passion, drive and enthusiasm, and a love for what you’re doing. Our job becomes must also be our hobby, otherwise you won’t survive!