„About us, the Argentineans, people say that we are some kind of Italians who speak Spanish and feel French.“
And this is an intriguing mélange of exotics and elegance that Natalio Simionato is showing not only in his nature but also in the dishes he prepares. Having the cuisine as passion, religion, travel companion and, eventually, as business, Natalio is considered one of the most famous chefs in Paris with his niche project – Chef à Domicile.
How did you initiate this project in Paris?
This concept is not really new, it was launched maybe 5 years ago in Paris and I have arrived in the City of Lights only 3 years ago, but I brought this business with me from Argentina. I was born in Argentina, from a Spanish mother and an Italian father. I’ve started as a lawyer in Argentina then, when I pictured my life, I said to myself that this is not for me so I started to travel to China, United States, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Spain, Turkey and then I arrived in Paris. I used to cook for people in Argentina and in Italy, in Milan, but in Milan everybody cooks, so they were not so interested about Chef à Domicile. But in Paris, I wanted to try. The first year it was very hard because I didn’t know many people in Paris for my business.
How does it feel to go to somebody’s place and cook for the people there?
You touched the real purpose of my business. People are different. If you work in a restaurant, you close the kitchen after 15 hours every day, and this is really hard work and really difficult to get to know the people you cook for. For example, if you go to a restaurant to have dinner with your friends, you don’t know the chef who cooks for you. But when I go to somebody’s place or in an Embassy, I meet the people I will cook for and this is an interesting part for me. I am lawyer, but kitchen is my passion. I travel a lot and it’s very interesting for me to meet every time new people and spread my knowledge about cuisine, to share my recipes and to speak to them face to face.
And after you cook you explain the dishes?
First I meet the clients and we create the menu together. But they have to be open-minded so they can trust me and accept my ideas. Then I buy the ingredients and I spend around 2 hours and a half in their home: I prepare the mise-en-place, I cook in their kitchen and while they have lunch or dinner, I explain to them the recipes. In the end I take everything off the table, I clean the kitchen and I leave. Many times people say “Natalio, come and join us” and I have a glass of wine with them. Sometimes we even become friends.
Who are your clients?
I have between my clients the elite from Paris, London, Switzerland. My basis is in Paris but I travel a lot with my shop, also in the South of France, in Saint Tropez, Monaco and in Italy. The most difficult thing is to make people get to know you. The French people are devoted. If they like your first dish, they will call again and again. My services start up from 65 euro.
You are a mix of Italian, Spanish and Argentinean. How does this mix reflect your way of cooking?
Basically my dishes are Mediterranean. I cook in Italian, Spanish and French style but I always add an Argentinean flavor. I use a lot especially the Argentinean meat, which is famous in the entire world. But I am really open-minded with the client.
For example, I cooked a dinner for a private marriage, an American couple, and they asked for a vegan menu. This is not my specialty but I did my best and made something very tasty and they have been happy with the food.
What’s your favorite part of the cuisine?
One of the best recipes for me is Risotto Champagne, it’s a specialty form Italy. Italian cuisine and Spanish cuisine are closer to me. I got the passion for cooking from my mother which is a very good Spanish chef.
Which are the ingredients you like to play with most?
Olive oil, meat and basil. But it is so funny because every time when I get home I find two or three ingredients in my refrigerator, I imagine a dish then I cook the recipe. So, for me it’s not important to use many ingredients but to be creative. You can create a very good dish with only 3 ingredients. Most of the times I like to invent recipes. Of course, I also read a lot of cuisine books, I follow famous chefs, but 80% of my work is creativity. Cuisine is an art. My objective is to make people happy with simple but tasty food. And I always study and test in order to achieve this goal. For example, when I’m free, I go to restaurants to check their menu and their dishes. I’m a chef nonstop.
Which was the most interesting experience you had with food?
There have been so many, but one of the best happened when I was in Shanghai. I was in a hotel, at 25th floor, having a delicious Chinese food dinner with an amazing view of the city! Or in Argentina, for example, at the country side, I cooked meat out in the open; I made the fire and cooked for 5 hours, super slowly, super relaxed, having a glass of wine…it was like a ceremony for my people.