Chef of the Week: Chef Mirko Febbrile, Chef de Cuisine, Braci, Singapore
It’s one of those incredible career stories – a young Italian cook hustling at his local McDonald’s to pay his way through college and just two years later winning the highly coveted Michelin star in cosmopolitan Singapore.
Let’s hear it from Mirko.
1. What inspired you to become a chef?
I always loved to create and plan special moments for my loved ones since I was very little, I had to learn how to cook for my brother while my parents were out for work all day long.
To me, food is what we truly are. It is our history, our joy, our pain — an expression of ourselves. Food is conviviality, it is union, it is exchange, it’s the power of bringing together the diversity of the world to savour its true taste. Food inspire and surprises me, this is the reason why I’m a chef and I’m so in love with my job.
2. Tell us a bit your work at Braci? What’s the concept and what’s the inspiration for this season’s menu?
I’m the Chef de Cuisine at Braci since day one (just celebrated our 4th birthday) love the open kitchen very much and the interaction that I can have with my guests. Is fascinating how I can easily recognize expressions or notice if they’re enjoying the experience or if they need something.
Braci is Italian for ’embers’. Inspired by wood, Braci’s menu draws upon one of the world’s most primitive forms of cooking to re-define and uplift Italian cuisine, through the use of the Josper oven and the shichirin grill. Essentially Italian, Braci’s food is real, passionate and fresh.
Will be launched in just over a week, the brand new autumn menu at Braci is focused on going back to simplicity, finding new flavors and keep it dynamic by having always surprises going on around the palate. Game will be at the center of it but lots of vegetables and fruits too. I want to give an important play role to bitterness and acidity but also lots of smokiness and umami.
3. What’s the most popular item on the menu?
Braci works pretty much with only degustation menus (4 or 7 courses) is Omakase style, no fixed menu is prepared but instead is a totally customized experience in order to please people taste and diets.At the beginning of the meal guests are called to view a long list of ingredients that is updated daily and then I’ll plan a menu out from them.
Right now a dish that lots of people enjoy is the “Scampi miso and nuts” a dish created in April 2019 for fun and somehow we can’t change because lots of regulars came in just to have the chance to try that dish again.I wanted to use an ingredient that is an icon in italian cuisine and scampi popped into my mind right away.
Then I wanted to use ingredients that represent the best of this world and lots of cultures too, so we use the sweetest scampi from the North Atlantic, we gently chard them over the charcoal for few seconds, an emulsion with the scampi heads is done in order to avoid waste.
The sauce at the bottom is a combination of reduced coconut milk, lime and Amalfi lemons plus the best white miso from Kyoto.The crunch on the top is rolled Vietnamese rice puffed under hazelnuts oil from Turin and seasoned with aged kombu and bitter cocoa from South America.Is a dish that employs every single taste bud in your mouth.
4. You won your first Michelin-star at a very young age. What did that mean to you?
2017 after only 9 months from the opening. It was a reward for all the hard work the blood the sweat and the tears. Such an emotional and great day!
It’s never easy, nothing is easy but perseverance and lots of positive motivation always bring good results. I feel that every day is a new challenge and definitely the Michelin guide brought us lots of good things but you don’t need that to make it better and search for the better every day.Chef Mirko Febbrile
5. You started your culinary experience working at McDonalds in Italy, which is unusual for a Michelin-awarded chef. Was your experience at McDonald useful in any way?
McDonald’s was my job for many years while I was studying to the University around the corner. I always wanted to go away from Italy and explore the world but as well I wanted to have in my hands all the instruments to make it work and study languages was definitely one of them.
I had to pay my uni and the big crisis of 2008 kickoff. McDonald’s not only give me the chance to work for little hours and keep studying but taught me a lot regarding consistency and costs and management and guests relationships and hygiene. Is an healthy place to grow and work.
6. Tell us about the food scene in Singapore. What’s cuisines are popular and what are this year’s food trends?
Singapore is a multicultural amazing place where you can make the lucky choice to dine in a different restaurant every day for a year without repeating it. Is impressive the amount of places that we have here, the variety of cuisines, the local hawkers which are the heart of the city. Chinese, Indian, Malay cuisines are the most popular because the population is a good mix of these beautiful cultures but Japanese, Italian, French, Spanish and Vietnamese are among the favorites too.
Singapore food scene is exciting, is colorful and most of all is full of quality in terms of ingredients, techniques, creativity or simply full of soul and love.We had quite a difficult year like most of the places in the world vegetarian places are very trendy now, the fact of being more conscious about what’s going on in the world in terms of wastage or productivity or simply caring more is a trend that I wish and hope will last forever.
7. Talking about 2020, how did the pandemic impact Braci and the local restaurant industry?
If I have to describe it in one word is:” A DISASTER”. We are still recovering from big losses, lot of places are no longer open and still many people lost their jobs. One positive thing is that the industry community here in Singapore is very close and very strong together so we created movements and platforms to help each other, to promote local small businesses and to cooperate to come out from this together as one.
8. What’s your source of inspiration?
Art, music, nature. These are the things I look up the most. I love to transport a song or a concept or a philosophy into a dish.Chef Mirko Febbrile
9. Do you have a signature dish?
The foie gras semifreddo and the tagliolini with sea urchin and caviar are our signature dishes and the dishes that since day one are part of the experience and we keep changing with the ingredients available during season every time.
Foie gras semifreddo is a cold delight that opens the experience with a small bar made from the best foie gras from south of France marinated under Marsala, sprayed with white Chocolate and topped with my hometown Figs Vincotto. Accompanied with a slightly sweet jam of kumquats and served with a warm brioche bread chard on the charcoal. Naturally buttery is a combination of the best foie gras taste and the most velvety ice cream.
The pasta with sea urchin is inspired to a typical dish that is originally coming from Puglia my hometown region in the southern part of Italy when durning summer we cook spaghetti with uni pulp and garlic and parsley. We turned the dish a little bit more modern by using two varieties of sea urchin coming from Hokkaido. The bafun sea urchin or red uni that is generally available durning winter and has a defined sweetness, we preserve it and turn into a paste that we will have all year long.
The murasaki sea urchin or white uni season is summer and taste is creamy and fresh.The combination with the sauce and the fresh uni will deliver the best of the taste. Topped with ossetra caviar and kinome the umami is for sure not missing. The tagliolini are prepared with 32 Japanese egg yolks for every kilo of semola.The chickens are fed with terragon, beets and Sichuan pepper. The taste and the color of the eggs is incredible.
10. What’s the best meal you’ve ever had.
Blue hill at stone barns in New York, Alain Ducasse in Paris and Narisawa in Tokyo. LIFE CHANGING.
11. Most underrated food destination.
Osaka. Such a culinary gem! So much choice from outrageously extravagant eateries to bustling food markets and budget-friendly comfort food.Best ramen for sure.
12. What advice would you give a chef who wants to transition to food consultancy?
Keep it real at all times.Chef Mirko Febbrile