The joy of cooking and eating a meal together is a pillar of any Italian family. And for none more so than Martino Pulito. But what inspired the Executive Chef of Cucina Porto’s love of food? His mum, of course. Here, he reflects on his favourite childhood dishes and the authentic flavours of Puglia that are still infused in his menu today.
Family – as well as food – is everything to Martino Pulito, who was born and raised in Italy and grew up in Puglia in the country’s south. Martino says his mum is a special pillar in his life, having taught him the power of empathy, how to try and find the positives in a situation, and the importance of having respect for others.
“Mamma Anna has always been there for me. Growing up my mum was always supportive of me whether I was acting, singing at church during mass, or playing basketball or soccer. She stole my dad’s car and was brave enough to teach me how to drive, and was happy to taste test my dishes when I was experimenting at home. She loves me and my family unconditionally and will do anything to make others smile.”
Martino adds that one of the best things about his mum is that she is a wonderful cook.
“I know everyone says this, but my mum really is the best cook in the world – well, definitely the best that I know! Birthday cakes were her specialty. I still remember the beautiful cakes that she used to make for my sister and I (we’re actually born on the same day two years apart!). She’s also famous for her Sunday meatball lasagna, her rabbit stew with potatoes and olives, and my favourite, poached chicken wings.”
And while these days Martino is an Executive Chef of The Star Sydney’s Cucina Porto, he recalls one of the first times he cooked for his mum and family it didn’t necessarily go to plan.
“It was Christmas and I wanted to attempt to cook at home for the family. I had just started culinary school and at the time I was shown how to make a chicken consommé and a potato gateau. The problem was I reduced the stock too much and then burnt the meat. To make matters worse, I made the potato gateau, though I followed the recipe from school and the batch was using 10ks of potatoes – and that’s what I did for four people. We ended up eating potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days. That was the last time I ever made that dish.”
Martino didn’t let his mishap with potato gateau stop him from following his passion with food however, as he says, food, cooking and eating with family is part of his DNA.
“As an Italian, eating with family is very important to us. We love to sit down together and share the experience. My mum was always the first person to wake up and would start cooking early in the morning, so when it was lunch time she was able to sit down with us and enjoy it.”
“My mum is also a very generous person. So when it comes to food, from her view it was the more the tables were full with plates of food, the more love she was giving to us. This is something I have taken from my mum and would love guests to feel when they come to Cucina Porto – passion and generosity.”
While Martino has had many wonderful mentors throughout his career, Martino credits his love for food and cooking to his mum.
“From a young age I loved to watch my mum cook and enjoyed the smells from her cooking dishes, like onion sweating in oil. She showed me the world of making bread, focaccia, and panzerotti. There was a place in my town that made the best focaccia, and I wanted to have it for free. I was only 10, but I went and asked for a job, not really knowing what that entailed other than I got to eat free focaccia and pizza. I learnt pretty fast and after being there for a while my mum saw my dedication. I was studying, getting good grades and working in the shop until late, but many people in the town talked about me. My mum always supported me, even going against my other family members. From that experience I learnt responsibility, dedication, accountability and to follow my passion, and, I still love focaccia.”
“My mum is a strong woman with old-school values. When I was a kid I thought she was too tough on me, but now I am thankful and grateful for her unconditional love and support – she made me the person I am today.”
Taste some of the authentic Italian dishes Martino learnt from his mum in Cucina Porto’s indulgent Mother’s Day menu. Book your table now at Cucina Porto.