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Pino Cuttaia

Pino had always dreamt of combining the techniques he’d learnt in Piedmont with the fantastic ingredients of Sicily, believing it would suit his original approach to food perfectly. Soon after arriving in Licata he began working with Nino Graziano, a Sicilian chef renowned for preserving and spreading awareness of the region’s traditional dishes. Pino regarded Nino as a visionary, and with his help discovered how to implement the classic spices, herbs and flavours of Sicily into Michelin-starred cuisine. At the end of 2000, less than a year after he left Piedmont, Pino opened his first restaurant, La Madia.

Six years later, the restaurant received its first Michelin star and in 2009 gained a second. This was thanks to Pino’s ability to take classic Sicilian dishes such as arancini, couscous and cannoli and transform them into something truly unique. He comes up with new dishes by focusing on a simple idea, applying his expert culinary technique and then unleashing his artistic, creative side to present them in vibrant, impeccable ways. Just by looking at dishes like his ‘Anchovy painting’, Cloud of Caprese or Squid and tinniruma ravioli with anchovy sauce, you can tell his mind is full of ideas, images and different ways of thinking. ‘I never watch cookery programmes on television because I don’t want my style to be influenced or contaminated in any way,’ he says. ‘There are other dishes which I can see are genius, but I’ve never felt envious of the chef who’s created them.’

Pino believes Licata is the only place in the world where he can cook exactly the way he wants to. Judging by how the locals and international critics rave about his food, it looks like he’ll be a popular figure there for many years to come.

Three things you should know

When he was working in Piedmont's Michelin-starred kitchens, Pino was also helping a friend of his run a pizzeria, as he has always believed human interaction is the most important thing in life.

In one of Pino's dishes, he always makes sure a lemon pip is left on top. This is to pay homage to the home-cooked dishes Sicilian families enjoy every day, where the mother of the household would never be judged for letting a pip slip through.

Pino believes education is of the utmost importance in his kitchen, and will regularly sit down with his brigade over a meal to discuss and debate food culture.