> Chefs

Francesco Bracali

Francesco eventually got to the point where he wanted to open his own restaurant, and when the opportunity to buy one with his brother (who had become a respected wine sommelier) in his hometown of Massa Marittima came about, he jumped at the chance. In 1994 the doors to Bracali were opened, and Francesco began to truly develop his unique signature style.

Six years later, Francesco became the youngest European chef at the time to win a Michelin star. His reputation spread even further, outside Tuscany and to the rest of the Italy and in 2012, he received his second star, cementing his status as one of the great Italian chefs of today.

Francesco’s cooking encapsulates everything fantastic about Tuscan cuisine. Despite working in kitchens across the country with chefs that took inspiration from all over the world, he has always stayed true to his roots and used the fantastic produce he grew up with as a child. ‘The most interesting thing about Tuscany, with all its traditions and history, is that there are products and ingredients waiting to be rediscovered and developed,’ he explains. ‘You can divide the region into many different areas, each of which has its own flavours, foods and dishes.’

This doesn’t mean Francesco relies on age-old, simple recipes which can be found in other restaurants, however. He combines incredible complex cooking techniques with innovative combinations of ingredients to create a new kind of modern Tuscan cuisine. ‘I know my cuisine is not easy to create – you have to have a complex dish that’s different but you don’t want a mix of ingredients on the plate that don’t work together at all.’

The world of professional cooking has certainly changed since the 1980s, when Francesco was gaining experience. The wealth of information available to those at catering college is massive and the glamour associated with the industry thanks to TV shows has changed the way people view the profession – something Francesco thinks might have a negative impact. ‘Nowadays, chefs can find help no matter what sort of cuisine they want to cook. When I was young, the only restaurants in Tuscany where you could properly learn were Arnolfo and Caino. I think young chefs are always going to become great performers, but I’m not sure if they will always become great chefs.’

Three things you should know

Francesco runs Bracali with his brother Luca, who looks after the wine cellar and front of hours. The pair grew up in the kitchen together and now love working with each other in adult life.

With all the glamorous cookery programmes and high-end food culture in Italy today, Francesco is worried too many younger chefs are going into the industry without realising what sacrifices they have to make. He and other chefs of his generation are always trying to show the hardships they had to go through when they were younger.

Francesco also believes it is very important to take time out to sit around the dinner table with the family every evening – something he worries is becoming more and more of a rarity.