How the Celebrity Chef brought Calabria to Villa Corinthia

There are chefs, and then there are super chefs who have carved their names into the global stage and brought their food to the masses to become a recognized brand, a feat achieved by a few. Francesco Mazzei is undeniably one of those stars. From the rustic kitchens of Southern Italy to the forefront of haute cuisine, Mazzei’s journey embodies the essence of culinary excellence. And the great news is you don’t need to catch a flight to his Mayfair restaurant to make up your own mind about his food.

This summer, the Corinthia Palace in Malta will be graced by the presence of this Southern Italian maestro in The Summer Garden, whose journey from rags to becoming a world-class chef is nothing short of awe-inspiring. He’s been at Corinthia Palace since June of last year, and now the hotel has extended his residency to The Summer Garden, as well as continuing his residency at Villa Corinthia

Francesco Mazzei’s story is undeniably a heartfelt tale of relentless passion and unyielding dedication. Born into modest means in Calabria, Italy, Mazzei’s earliest memories are infused with the rustic, hearty aromas of Southern Italian cuisine. It was here, growing up within the rolling hills and sun-drenched landscapes, that his love affair with food began. In a small, humble kitchen and assisting in a family gelato shop, Mazzei learned the secrets of traditional Italian cooking from his grandmother, a woman whose recipes were as rich and vibrant as the land itself.

Against All Odds

But the path to greatness is seldom smooth. Mazzei’s journey was riddled with obstacles and hardships. He left his home at a young age, driven by a burning desire to elevate his craft. Working in kitchens across Europe, he faced the harsh realities of the culinary world, often labouring in obscurity and enduring gruelling hours. Yet, through every trial, his resolve only grew stronger. Each challenge was met with unwavering determination, and each setback was a lesson in resilience.

“I’ve always believed that the key to success is passion,” Mazzei reflects. “You must love what you do, and you must be willing to give everything for it. For me, cooking is not just a job; it’s my life. I had no option other than to make it work.”

The Ascent to Culinary Stardom

Mazzei’s break came when his undeniable talent caught the eye of renowned chefs and critics alike. His innovative approach to Southern Italian cuisine, characterised by a masterful blend of tradition and modernity, set him apart. His dishes are not just food; they are a genuine celebration of his heritage, something he is exceptionally proud of, putting Southern Italian food on the global stage. From his acclaimed restaurants in London to his numerous television appearances, Mazzei has become a shining example of culinary excellence, inspiring countless aspiring chefs around the world.

As you enter Villa Corinthia’s entrance, Mazzei’s cookbook stands proudly on display and servers with aprons bearing his name are ready to usher you into an extraordinary experience. For those seeking a meal and a culinary adventure, this summer’s collaboration between Francesco Mazzei and the Corinthia Palace is genuinely unmissable. Mazzei has been continuing his residency at Villa Corinthia and has now taken over the reins at the Corinthia Palace’s gorgeous Summer Garden by the pool.

It’s a rare opportunity to be inspired and to savour the brilliance born from a lifetime of dedication and a heart devoted to the love of food. Recognising his culinary achievements, Mazzei was recently invited to the Vatican for a personal meeting with the Pope—an honour granted to very few, reflecting his profound impact on the culinary world.

“Cooking is an art but also a carefully balanced science,” says Mazzei. “It’s about understanding flavours, textures, and techniques, but it’s also about telling a story, connecting with people, and creating memories.” It’s precisely at this juxtaposition that Mazzei excels. He’s keen to visit each table during our lunch experience to ensure every guest is satisfied with the meal in front of them, and his incredible presence only elevates the experience to one seldom found locally.


A Culinary Confluence, Embracing Maltese Ingredients

What makes this collaboration with Corinthia Palace even more exciting is Mazzei’s commitment to incorporating local Maltese ingredients into his dishes, creating a fusion of flavours that pays homage to both Italian and Maltese culinary traditions. As we tucked into freshly made bread, he took no time to explain the olive oil came from his mother’s own hands. “Incorporating local ingredients is about respecting and celebrating the land you’re in,” Mazzei explains. “It’s about creating a connection between the food and the people who enjoy it. Maltese ingredients have such vibrant flavours, and I’m excited to explore their potential in my dishes. I went to the local food market at Ta’ Qali yesterday, and the offerings blew me away.”

With The Summer Garden at Corinthia recently opened, Mazzei eagerly shared, “I’m thrilled to bring my dishes to Malta. The Corinthia Palace is a beautiful setting, and I look forward to continuing my passion for Southern Italian flavours with guests here. It’s going to be an unforgettable summer.”

At Villa Corinthia, Mazzei plans to continue highlighting the unique qualities of Maltese ingredients, such as capers, sun-dried tomatoes, and rabbit, in his creations. His signature Agnolotti al Coniglio (hand shaped ravioli stuffed with rabbit) with an added touch of Maltese capers, bringing a burst of local flavour to this Italian classic. Expect Italian flair with a local edge such as Antipasto di Mare, with the best of local Maltese fish.

“Every dish I create is a piece of my journey,” says Mazzei. “It reflects my past, heritage, and relentless pursuit of excellence. I hope each guest will feel that passion and be inspired by the flavours and stories behind my food.”

What’s the secret? “You won’t find any gimmicks here; I let the food and flavours do the talking,” he adds.

Francesco Mazzei’s journey is one of hope and a powerful reminder that with passion and perseverance, the highest peaks of success are within reach. At the Corinthia Palace this summer, you are invited to be a part of this extraordinary story, to embrace the flavours of triumph and the essence of a culinary legend right here in Malta.