Life Lessons with… Giorgio Locatelli

He can whistle 35 different bird calls but his motorcycling ambitions remain unfulfilled... London's most dynamic Italian chef bares all

Words by Club Oenologique Editors

Giorgio Locatelli

Born in northern Italy, “in a tiny spot by Lago di Comabbio”, to a family of restaurateurs, Giorgio Locatelli started cooking at the age of six. He’s not strayed far from a kitchen in the subsequent half-century. His career initially took him over the border to Switzerland, and then to London in his early 20s where he worked for Anton Edelmann at the Savoy. After a spell in Paris at Laurent and La Tour d’Argent he returned to London in 1995 to take charge of Zafferano, turning what was a fish restaurant into one celebrating Italian food, and earning his first Michelin star in 1999. He’s been a fixture of the London gastronomic scene ever since.

Locanda Locatelli, which he opened in Marylebone with his wife Plaxy in 2002, earned its first Michelin star the following year. It was followed in 2008 by Ronda Locatelli, a 320-seat restaurant at the enormous Atlantis The Palm Hotel in Dubai – something of an anomaly, as he admitted, for someone who sets great store by his personal touch. Last year the ever-restless chef opened another restaurant at the luxury Amara Hotel in Limassol, Cyprus.

His next project, in March next year, is the delayed opening of Sabia by Giorgio Locatelli at the One&Only Portonovi resort in Montenegro. Described as “a refined Riviera-style restaurant”, the venue will serve Southern Italian cuisine via a menu that “celebrates his Italian roots and the historical influence of his homeland in Montenegro”.

In addition to Michelin stars, Locatelli has won awards for his books, notably Made in Italy, published in 2007. In 2016 he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (OMRI) for services to Italian gastronomy.

What was your childhood ambition?
To travel the world. I think it came from growing up in a small village in Italy – Corgeno, which is a tiny spot by Lago di Comabbio in Lombardy

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were 21?
Don’t impose any limits on yourself – anything can happen if you want it to

"My wife tells me off for saying 'yes' to everyone": Plaxy and Giorgio Locatelli

What exercise do you do?
One hour of Pilates three times a week, and I walk to work every day with my beautiful dog Olive. She’s a six-year-old black cockapoo that we got because our daughter is allergic to other dogs

Which of your character traits would you most like to change?
I wish I was a little less pessimistic

What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought (aside from property)?
A very special gold chain from Pomellato that I bought for my wife, Plaxy

If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
I’d like to live in a different place every six months, or sometimes even every three months. I think it goes back to my desire to travel

If you could do any other job what would it be?
I’d race motorcycles

Next March sees the opening of Sabia by Giorgio Locatelli in Portonovi, Montenegro

What luxury item would you take with you to a desert island?
A Swiss army knife

What haven’t you yet achieved that you want to?

If you were king or queen of the world, what’s the first law you would enact?
For everyone to have the right to a good meal every day

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
My grandmother would be the best dinner party guest. I would love her to see what I’ve done, and I would love it to be in my restaurant because she was the only one who ever believed in me. I would also have loved for her to meet my children Jack and Dita

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Peanut butter or Marmite on toast before I go to bed

Guilty pleasure: Locatelli treats himself to Marmite on toast before bed
Not just a Michelin-starred chef: Locatelli can also whistle 35 different bird calls

What’s your secret talent?
I’m a very good whistler. I can mimic at least 35 different bird calls

When were you happiest?
Whenever I’m with my wife

Who do you most admire?
I admire anybody who stands up for what they believe in. There are a lot of people doing great things selflessly to try and save the environment, or feed the homeless; they’re the unsung heroes

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Pero‘ [‘but’ in Italian]. And my wife always tells me off for saying ‘yes’ to everyone

What’s your greatest regret?
I sometimes undervalue my capacity to achieve things

What time do you go to bed?
As early as I can – but never before 9pm

On the playlist: John Lennon and Lucio Battisti

What album, boxset or podcast would you listen to on a night in alone on the sofa?
Last night I was listening to John Lennon. Another favourite is Lucio Battisti.

What’s your favourite item in your wardrobe?  
A recent addition – a blue Canali suit that I just love

What’s your favourite restaurant?
Ristorante da Vittorio in Porto Palo, Menfi. You couldn’t wish for a more perfect spot – the sea, the sand and the most wonderful food and wine. Also Vittorio and his wife Francesca remind me a little bit of me and my wife, which I like. It’s a family business