It’s been quite a year for Chef Mauro Colagreco–his restaurant Mirazur was awarded three Michelin stars in January and then, in June, elected the best restaurant in the world by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It comes as no surprise that if you want to visit Mirazur you should book your table six months in advance! While waiting and planning your trip to the south of France, you can visit another one of the illustrious chef’s restaurants, Grill 58 at MGM Cotai where Chef Mauro created the menu using the best ingredients with the influence of his Argentinian roots.
On his recent visit to Macau, we sat down with Chef Mauro to congratulate him on his recent culinary achievements and to ask what’s next.
Wow, what a year it’s been! First, the third Michelin Star in January and then, in June, #1 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (Mirazur in Menton, France). How does it feel to be on top of the world?
It’s so exciting and emotional but also tough as it’s a big responsibility. I am very proud of my team, my family, and I am very happy. My restaurant Mirazur is fully booked for six months ahead and it’s a big success.
So now, after achieving top recognition by two of the most prestigious culinary awards institutions, what is your next goal?
It wasn’t really a goal of mine. When I started to cook in Argentina it was just for passion for cooking. I didn’t know about Michelin stars as the Michelin Guide didn’t exist in Argentina. I didn’t know about The World’s 50 Best Restaurants as it didn’t exist at that time yet.
It was only when I came to France 20 years ago that I discovered the world of Michelin starred chefs. Many people have asked me this question and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. For us, this recognition is not the goal. It is an important recognition, but our goal is to make people happy by working better every day, with the whole team.
Do you remember your first Michelin dining experience? How did it feel? Did you know back then that that’s where you wanted to be in the future?
I remember that experience as if it was today. It was a restaurant of chef Santi Santamaria, Can Fabes in Catalonia, Spain. It was my first three Michelin star meal and I thought to myself, “Wow, I want to work in a place like this”. I arrived to study in France in 2000 and at the end of the year we went on a tour to the north of France. I saved money for three months and made a booking. It was truly fantastic, I remember so many things, even the uniforms! That was the first time when I thought I want to work in a restaurant of this level.
And then I started working in France. When I left Argentina to go to France, the plan was for two and a maximum of four years, and then go back to Argentina. It’s been twenty years!
Diners need to book a table at Mirazur for months in advance whereas Macau and Hong Kong are privileged to have access to your creations at MGM’s Grill 58. What should we choose from Grill 58’s menu to feel like we are in the south of France?
The flavors of food and memories can make you travel–the flavor of citrus, the idea of sea and mountains would make you think of Mirazur. But the concept of Grill 58 is different–it’s a steak house. We don’t want to recreate the south of France here but rather, present a Mauro Colagreco restaurant, which speaks for itself. In this restaurant, I like to play with my Argentinian roots–the grill and the meat. Here we have a custom-built Himalayan salt meat-aging room where we bring very special meat from all over the world. We care a lot about the quality and sustainability, bringing a lot of grass-fed meat as well as supporting MGM with the no-plastic initiative.
It’s a privilege to be here in Macau and have this great partnership between MGM Cotai and Mirazur.
To put it simply, Grill 58 is a steakhouse. What makes it different compared to others?
Me (laughs). Firstly, not only is there grilled food but also teppanyaki so we cook meat in western style as well as the Asian way, consistently choosing the best meat available. I also try to bring my own touch, whether it’s something Argentinian, Italian or French–I have a lot of roots! This is where you can really see the difference, especially with the starter dishes and garnishes. There is no recipe for a restaurant; we study the destination, bring different ingredients, and then we develop further. At Grill 58, we’ve created a small garden with herbs and looking at bringing a few more changes. The difference is in the details.
Overseeing Grill 58 restaurant in Macau, you are a regular in Asia. What are some restaurants on your wish-to-visit list?
Oh, so many! I am going to Tokyo, Japan later this year where I haven’t been since 2012, so I am very excited. I’ve never been to Taiwan or Vietnam and it’s very interesting what’s happening there culinarily speaking. I recently went to a vegetarian Michelin starred restaurant in Shanghai, Fu He Hui and it was phenomenal–the technics and flavors were amazing. We are working on opening a restaurant in Bangkok as it’s a great dining destination. And, of course, Hong Kong is always a great city to visit.
As an Italian Argentine living in France, you speak five languages, what dish would you make to connect with a person if you couldn’t speak?
It will most certainly be something from my garden… I am thinking of tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt–real ingredients.
How often do you create new dishes? Where do you get your ideas from?
I complicate my (and my team’s) life with the choice we’ve made to never repeat a dish for the same guests. We have one guest who came more than 120 times and has never eaten the same dish!
We create something new at least twice a week. My team is very cosmopolitan and I work a lot with them–it generates a lot of ideas. I also travel a lot, which is a great source of inspiration.
My restaurant Mirazur is located in a fantastic place, located not only between France and Italy but also on a natural border between the sea and the mountains. The variety of products is amazing. The most powerful aspect of my creations is that I am not from there. I’ve never been to Côte d’Azur before opening the restaurant and it’s been a wonderful source of new ideas.
You have a lot of younger chefs working with you. How do you recognize the rising stars among all that talent?
The talent does not come from technic but from their personality. I love seeing young chefs that are not afraid to work. To become a good cook one needs to work a lot; it’s not an eight-hour job. It’s a job where you learn while doing things with your hands and looking with your eyes. Everything is moving so fast these days and very often young people don’t have the patience to wait. One needs to be a hard worker and there is no way around it.
And, finally, what do you cook for your family on a day off?
Tomatoes, olive oil, and some salt (laughs)!
Normally, my wife Julia cooks and sometimes it’s me, but very simple. I love to cook simple soups. I love gazpacho for summer or now we have squash in our garden and it’s truffle season so it’s time for squash soup with some truffle!