Skip to content Skip to footer navigation

Chef Series - Alessandro Cozzolino

3 1655462518.

Hand-crafted, luxury experiences curated by our team—speak to our concierge to learn more

Speak to Our Concierge Concierge avatar.
13th October 2020

The young and passionate Alessandro Cozzolino is the Executive Chef at the beautiful Belmond Villa San Michele in Florence.

Originally from Caserta in southern Italy, Alessandro has trained internationally with Michelin-starred chefs, also spending time in Hong Kong, and his food is a combination of daring modern twists and unique ingredient combinations. The Sybarite speaks to Alessandro to learn more about this young chef’s passions, work and his very bright future.

How has your role of executive chef at Belmond changed since the pandemic? Do you feel the effect heavily?

This year has undoubtedly been a peculiar one for all of us. Never in my career would I have thought I would live to see the days when international travel came to a halt. It may have seemed like everything stopped but in fact, it was quite a complete opposite for us. We spent a lot of time during the lockdown to reimagine kitchen operations, dining experience and how we can continue to deliver seamless service for our guests. Our mission was to ensure the experience our guests would receive when we reopened our doors would be as good, if not better than pre-COVID-19. This meant more outdoor dining experiences, elevated in-room dining offers and training support for my team. It has been an extraordinary year but my team and I are overwhelmed by the positive response we have received from our guests since we reopened. This has given us energy to continue what we love and we look forward to brighter times ahead. 

Where do you see the Italian hospitality industry heading post-COVID? Do you think it will take a while to recover? 

Following our reopening, we’ve revisited our strategy to focus more on domestic clientele and this has been greatly welcomed by those living in Italy. We’ve had a stronger-than-expected summer here at Villa San Michele. This goes to show that although global travel restrictions may have prevented us from exploring further afield, it is evident that these have not dampened our desire to travel. In fact, it may have given many of us the opportunity to explore more of our own “backyard'' and supported local hospitality businesses. However, we know that the road to recovery will be long and it will take time for the business to return to pre-COVID level. For now, we will continue to work hard to ensure that when our guests (whether local or international) are ready to visit us we will be ready to provide them with extraordinary experiences. 

Where did your love of cooking come from? 

I’ve always wanted to become a cook from a very young age. I come from a very large family and I loved watching my mother and grandmother cook on the weekends. It intrigued me. I was so happy to give them a hand, it just filled me with joy. There was never a lack of great dinners and delicious food on the table. 

How has your role of executive chef at Belmond changed since the pandemic? Do you feel the effect heavily?

This year has undoubtedly been a peculiar one for all of us. Never in my career would I have thought I would live to see the days when international travel came to a halt. It may have seemed like everything stopped but in fact, it was quite a complete opposite for us. We spent a lot of time during the lockdown to reimagine kitchen operations, dining experience and how we can continue to deliver seamless service for our guests. Our mission was to ensure the experience our guests would receive when we reopened our doors would be as good, if not better than pre-COVID-19. This meant more outdoor dining experiences, elevated in-room dining offers and training support for my team. It has been an extraordinary year but my team and I are overwhelmed by the positive response we have received from our guests since we reopened. This has given us energy to continue what we love and we look forward to brighter times ahead. 

Where do you see the Italian hospitality industry heading post-COVID? Do you think it will take a while to recover? 

Following our reopening, we’ve revisited our strategy to focus more on domestic clientele and this has been greatly welcomed by those living in Italy. We’ve had a stronger-than-expected summer here at Villa San Michele. This goes to show that although global travel restrictions may have prevented us from exploring further afield, it is evident that these have not dampened our desire to travel. In fact, it may have given many of us the opportunity to explore more of our own “backyard'' and supported local hospitality businesses. However, we know that the road to recovery will be long and it will take time for the business to return to pre-COVID level. For now, we will continue to work hard to ensure that when our guests (whether local or international) are ready to visit us we will be ready to provide them with extraordinary experiences. 

Do you think the luxury hospitality industry will be forever changed due to the pandemic?

I believe that luxury is personal but I also know that the consumer mindset is also changing.  More than ever, consumers will align themselves with brands they can associate their values with. Luxury cannot be purely transactional. It needs to be emotional, conscientious and rewarding. This is something that I think fine-dining scenes have done particularly well over the past few years but we need to do more. Our customers are becoming more and more conscious about their act of consumption - from greater demand for local produce to reducing food waste.  We can also do more to help create local and authentic connections with the communities we operate - to help enrich the dining experience for our guests. At Villa San Michele we work closely with local producers - vegetables are local, our fish comes from the Southern coast of Tuscany - named the silver coast, while our finest meats from Valdarno and Maremma. I wanted to highlight this also in the names of our dishes that you can enjoy at La Loggia, for example the amberjack dish 'Costa d'Argento' or 'Maremma che Agnello', a gently roasted lamb loin.

Have you had to adapt your cooking style due to the pandemic?

Across the portfolio, our food safety and hygiene protocols have been enhanced. We continue to work internally and with third-party experts to reexamine every aspect of our services to ensure that our higher-standards are achieved and upheld. As we already had high levels of standards in place, we didn’t have to adjust our cooking style as much. Operationally we had to consider the elements of social distancing - in the kitchen as well as in the restaurant. We are lucky that our restaurant La Loggia is located outdoors under the arcades of the XVth century monastery which lends itself to a vast space and picturesque scenery. This allows us to provide plenty of space and privacy for our guests, making them feel at ease when dining with us. 

Share this Article

You Might Also Like

Learn more about luxury lifestyle by signing up for free

For our latest experiences and editorials, be the first in the know. You'll learn about upcoming experiences happening worldwide and the secrets and lifestyle of a sybarite.

By registering you agree to our privacy policy and terms and conditions