Chef Bruno Barbieri is an Italian food god. He’s written 12 cookbooks, earned seven Michelin stars and is a regular judge on Celebrity Masterchef… so he definitely knows his way around a kitchen.
But when Maltese restaurateur Marvin Gauci taught Barbieri his trademark trick – opening a bottle of expensive champagne with one of Napoleon’s swords – the Italian superstar chef soon ended up at Mater Dei Hospital.
In one of his probably not-so-sober attempts, the glass bottle smashed into his hand, leaving him gushing blood and needing stitches on his index finger.
“At least I got to see that you have a very well-functioning hospital,” he joked. “Especially after Marvin made a few calls.”
Thankfully there is also video evidence of a more successful champagne-popping attempt by Barbieri and it’s been shared with his 370,000 Instagram followers.
Barbieri was in Malta for the launch of Upper Food, a new Italian food market in Tal-Ibraġġ which supplies only the finest and artisanal of Italian ingredients for local chefs and households to enjoy in Malta. Upper Food was founded by Fabrizio Crimi.
Barbieri and Gauci – both massive fans of Upper Food – were inseparable during the Italian chef’s visit. Gauci owns three top Maltese restaurants – Caviar & Bull, Tarragon and Buddhaman – and he was described by Barbieri as “the chef with the biggest potential to put Malta’s name on the map”.
“I want to bring him to Masterchef. He’s not only a great chef but also an amazing communicator. He has all the tools he needs,” Barbieri said, pointing out that in his short visit to Malta he tried one of Gauci’s restaurants every night.
However, Barbieri also said Maltese cuisine has a long way to go and requires investment if it is going to make a quality leap.
“Today people talk about Malta only for business or taxes. Nobody talks about Maltese cuisine. And if I ask you for a dish that represents modern Maltese cuisine you won’t even be able to name one,” Barbieri said.
“Your food must tell a story and your chefs are the ones who can do this. You need to invest in people like Marvin, invest in PR, and tell the story of Malta’s food,” he said.
“Today people talk about Malta only for business or taxes. Nobody talks about Maltese cuisine.”
Barbieri pointed out that Spain did not have a big culinary reputation until the country decided to invest in chef Ferran Adrià some 15 years ago. Now, everybody talks about Spanish cuisine.
“The government should organise a big conference and bring chefs from all over: Italy, France, Spain, Belgium… Let’s speak about Malta and create something special.”
Asked why no Maltese restaurants have acquired any Michelin stars, Barbieri said it’s not enough to have a few top restaurants. The Michelin brand will only be attracted to Malta if there’s a lot to see and if Maltese cuisine became something that people were really talking about.
“The problem of the Maltese kitchen today is that it does not have an identity,” he said.
Gauci agreed and told Lovin Malta: “We should listen to Bruno because this is something he lived and experienced himself. He can tell us how to get there because he has done it himself in Italy.”