Eric Testa is a self-made chef who creates the most gorgeous plates of food you could imagine. His creations are now served in a luxury hotel in Kiev – but his beginnings were very humble.
Testa began his journey into the world of catering at age of 15, when he took a job as a waiter in a three-star hotel in Malta. He’s now Head Chef at the Opera Hotel where he’s rubbed shoulders with cuisine such royalty as Michelin star chef Massimo Bottura.
“I took a summer job as a breakfast waiter so I could pay the school expenses that I needed to enter ITS, but I haven’t returned to school since then. The hotel business was something that was attractive to me in many ways – it was fun, challenging, hard – an adventure,” Testa tells us.
“While I was a waiter I showed interest in working the kitchen, and just from that one of the chefs offered me a job in the kitchen of a five-star hotel. I accepted, but ended up cooking junk food for the pool bar and night bar. I soon decided to leave.”
After a year working in an Italian restaurant, Testa applied for an open position at a five-star hotel that was due to open in Malta and he was accepted.
“That’s where my culinary life started to gear up, and I began to find my feet and the path I want to take. I worked under some amazing Expat chefs I – German, Singapore, Italian, French and American, as well as very talented Maltese chefs and sous chefs,” Testa said.
Testa was soon was asked to travel to Berlin to assist the hotel catering staff in a very busy gala dinner where the whole hotel was transformed in a huge buffet!
“The Germans really know how to cook, and are especially good at presentation. While I was there I was spotted by one of the chefs because of my interest in a technique that was new to me, and that I had never saw or heard of back home – molecular gastronomy. I returned to Malta and worked hard in the job I was in, and was awarded and promoted as result. After 9 years I decided I wanted to try to work in a restaurant where I could try molecular cuisine.”
The chef who spotted Testa in Germany eventually got in touch. He offered him an opportunity he couldn’t refuse – to study molecular gastronomy in Donetsk Ukraine in a five-star hotel.
“I accepted and left,” he said.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Testa’s team eventually changed and instead of working under the German chef, he became part of a team led by a French chef with Portuguese roots and a strong Michelin background.
“It was tough working for him in the beginning, but after a few months we started speaking the same ‘kitchen language’. He helped me to raise my own standards and polish my skills.”
Testa now works for the same hotel group but as Head Chef for another hotel in Kiev. But his sights are set on returning to Malta.
“I have a dream that one day I’ll open my own gastronomic restaurant and achieve a world-renown award for my restaurant, bringing prestige to my team, myself and the country I work in – which hopefully will be Malta.”
Despite his avant-garde plates, and after all the glitz and glam of the hotel world, his favourite thing to cook is still a very down-to-earth dish:
“My favorite will always be a risotto dish… it’s so delicate yet so versatile.”