Fabrizio Marino

Fabrizio Marino

Fabrizio Marino

Fabrizio Marino is the poster boy for an exciting new wave of Italian chefs. His Zen-like approach to food and running a relaxed kitchen comes from his mentor Pietro Leemann, a pioneer of the ‘natural cuisine’ movement.

From charging around on his moped and chatting up girls at the age of fifteen to running a restaurant which makes a daily offering to the god Krishna to purify the vegetables, Fabrizio Marino has certainly undergone a bit of a transformation. Born in Tuscany in 1979, his parents introduced him to two very different diets – his Puglian mother enjoyed using ingredients from the garden to create light, vegetable-heavy dishes, whereas his father liked rich, hearty, meaty dishes – ‘man food’, as Fabrizio calls it.

A bit of a rebel in his youth, Fabrizio was never too far from trouble, and when he got a job in the kitchen at a small restaurant in Florence, he was always being reprimanded for playing around with the recipes to see if the diners noticed.

After finishing hotel school, he started working at Ristorante Cibreo, which is where he became disciplined and professional in the kitchen. ‘Cooking has been a saviour for me; I could have been in a lot of trouble otherwise,’ he says. After a few years at Baraonda in London and Artegaia in Florence, he met the legendary Swiss chef Pietro Leemann in 2008, who invited him to work at his restaurant Joia in Milan. This was the point Fabrizio’s cooking style really began to develop.

Joia was opened by Pietro in 1989, and gained a Michelin star in 1996 – the first vegetarian restaurant to win one in Europe. The food was the founding example of the ‘natural cuisine’ movement (Alta Cucina Naturale), a philosophy that respects nature and pays homage to its flavours. It was quite different to the cooking Fabrizio was used to, but Pietro’s way of doing things hugely influenced his style and he gained a newfound respect for nature and using the very best ingredients.

Fabrizio became head chef at the restaurant until early 2016, and his friendship with Pietro, who still visits the kitchen every day, is stronger than ever. His style of cooking at Joia incorporated Mediterranean flavours with those from all over the world, letting the fruit and vegetables speak for themselves. He ran a very relaxed kitchen, with calming music on the radio, a jovial atmosphere amongst his team and a strong sense of camaraderie. He was always making sure his chefs are constantly learning and generating new ideas, to boost creativity and keep everything fresh. ‘I enjoy being a teacher. I’m thirty-six years old now and it’s my turn to tell people about how cooking can change the world,’ he says.

The restaurant’s philosophy didn't just change Fabrizio’s cooking style; it made an impact on his personal life, too. He’s now a pescatarian, which he believes has made him a calmer, better and happier person, and his respect for the earth and its bounty has opened up his spiritual side. ‘After work I light some incense and say thanks for the day – good or bad – and to the people I work with, or read books on religion.’

In 2017, Fabrizio took on the job of head chef at Papaveri e Mare, on the western coast of Tuscany. Here he continues to cook his incredible vegetarian cuisine alongside some fantastic fish and seafood dishes.

Fabrizio’s favourite part of the job is being creative, which has led to some of the simple sounding but ingenious dishes on his menu, such as Buckwheat with milk and cheese and Butterfly salad. He takes great care over every single ingredient in a dish, and likes thinking of them as the different harmonies in a piece of music: ‘There is a sensibility in understanding nature. Everything should be inspiring on the plate.’ And after seeing some of the food Fabrizio sent out of Joia’s kitchen, you can understand why Pietro passed on the helm of head chef to such a talented young man.