Chef Antonino Scordo, or Nino as he prefers to be called, is the Italian Chef for The Venice Raytour Hotel Shenzhen.
His pride and joy is Blue Italian Seafood Restaurant on the third floor. This is his passion, his love, and where he spends most of his time while at work. ShenzhenParty was lucky enough to catch him at a less-busy moment to have a conversation and ask him a few questions.
ShenzhenParty: Thank you for speaking to ShenzhenParty. Please tell me a little about yourself.
Nino: Nice to meet you. My name is Nino. I come from Sicily. Sicily is the place of all handsome men, but not me, sorry! Sicily is an island, the famous food there is fish. My family all is a chef, my brother is a chef, my mother is a chef, I am the cooker. I like to take some recipes from my mother and my style of cooking is regional cooking. You look at my dishes, they are beautiful but at least the taste, it is the mother taste, the grandmother taste, it is totally different. Ninety percent of my pasta is all handmade, and not only pasta, the ice creams, some pastries, cannoli, I think ninety percent of all my kitchen is handmade.
Nino: Thank you so much. I like to make my life happy, I like to stay with friends, I like to play with them, but I love my job, that’s for sure, one hundred percent.
ShenzhenParty: How long have you been a chef, or rather a cooker?
Nino: Now it’s already 22 years.
ShenzhenParty: You must have started very young.
Nino: I cannot calculate the sum with my mother. I look very young but it’s not true!
ShenzhenParty: So what brings you to Shenzhen?
Nino: I worked in many places before I came to China – Portugal, Spain, France, Netherlands, Malta, England. When I first came to China I started to work in Foshan in Guangdong province, where I worked in the Hyatt for 6 months. After that I moved to Dongguang where I worked for the Pullman Hotel. After I worked in the Pullman Hotel I came back to work in the restaurant, because I don’t like the way in hotels. I came to live in Shenzhen after this. After 2 months in Shenzhen I won the China Pizza Championship competition.
Some guests come here to eat, and after they eat, they take pictures and send them on WeChat. When they send the WeChat picture for me I’m really pleased, it’s different. My work is to make people happy. When people come to my restaurant it’s like you come to my house and I give you good food and you like and you love it. If you want to pay one million but you never say thank you or never say hi, I don’t get it. People have no need to pay one million, just say to me ‘I appreciate it, I’m very happy.’ It’s my life.
ShenzhenParty: How long have you been in SZ?
Nino: Just 5 months.
ShenzhenParty: Do you like it so far?
Nino: It’s ok, it’s a good place to make something. You can do good here, the people will love you for sure. It’s better.
You know ShenzhenParty Wine and Cheese? I like to make people happy and I think the Wine and Cheese event here was the best one ever. The food is too good. I look at the faces of the people and they are all happy, they all go dancing. Before the chef never comes out, when people finish eating the chef goes away, but I come out and say to the people if you’re not ok I will make you ok, if you like I can bring out another 200 kilo of beef if you like. The Wine and Cheese Event was really amazing. I hope the people can continue. It’s not the place you have to choose, it’s the chef.
In this hotel I have my General Manager and the Food and Beverage Director. These two people really can make me to do something. If I want to do something they support me one hundred percent.
If it’s one person, you think ‘just me I can never change the world’, but when you find the right person who can support you and can give you the power to do everything it’s much easier. Let me introduce you to Antony Tian.
ShenzhenParty: Nice to meet you Antony. Have you always been the Food and Beverage Director?
Antony: Yes, for eight years. I’ve always worked in this group but before it used to be the Crowne Plaza. I’ve also worked in Beijing and other places in China with the same company, but my family are in Shenzhen so I moved back here.
ShenzhenParty: How has Blue restaurant changed since Nino joined?
Nino: Now I don’t want to listen! I will leave you now and come back later.
Antony: Before Nino was here the guests would just come in, they eat, they leave. Now they come for Nino. This is loyalty. Because he’s Italian, he likes to make friends. He also works very hard, so sometimes he’s very tired. Every day he works from morning to evening and he does a wonderful job. A lot of people think his ideas are amazing. He always gives me a surprise. He has a lot of contacts and has a lot of relationships, and he uses his own way to make promotions. Next month we have the Alaska seafood night promotion. All the themes are done by him. In July he will bring eight chefs from different countries and together they will make a special banquet, chefs from France, Italy, America, places like that. I like his food presentation; it’s a new style, new blood, he likes something new. Also some people speak to him about something they want and he will always agree; he’s not like some other chefs who disagree and always think they are right. I’m lucky to work with Nino. I really appreciate him.
ShenzhenParty: Wonderful. Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about Nino?
Antony: Since Nino has come to work at Blue, business has doubled. Last month, I put him as the Executive Chef for the whole hotel, so now he is in charge of the whole hotel. I like him because he understands my meaning, because we have the same ideas, we have a lot of things the same because we are young! He likes to change. I like to work with him because his mind is new. He can follow something that is popular, and afterwards he’s always looking for something new, and also some decoration and some new ideas.
ShenzhenParty: Thank you very much Antony. It was nice to meet you. Nice to see you back, Nino.
Nino: Nice to meet you again. What were we talking about? Ah yes. I can work 24 hours, it’s true. I can work 24 hours. People think I’m crazy but it’s not like this. I love my work. I try to change something in different ways. When I first came here I said, you can eat everywhere, you need to make this something different, not just for eating. When the guest is here I go to play piano, they say who is that? The chef? Yes it’s me! The guests care about it, you come here you already know me, drink some wine with me.
ShenzhenParty: Do you have a plan for the future of this restaurant?
Nino: I don’t know. I think about each day at the time. Every day and every time I try to do my best to make something special. Tomorrow I might not be well, I might die, but I would die happy. Because I do everything one hundred percent in my life.
ShenzhenParty: How long have you been in China?
Nino: 5 years.
ShenzhenParty: Which has been your favourite city in China?
Nino: Shenzhen. It’s a beautiful place and it’s got an open mentality, this place can make you every day to do more and more, every day you need to think about it and do more. I already make something in my menu, I already checked other menus and mine has already passed. Everything changes so fast.
ShenzhenParty: Tell me about Blue restaurant.
Nino: At this moment I am the Executive Chef for this hotel, but this restaurant is my life. I love this restaurant. This is the first restaurant I come and I make something special here. Every day I need to stay in all of the hotel and my office, but every day I stay here. It’s like love. This restaurant after two or three months will be one of the best restaurants in SZ, for sure. This restaurant is fine dining; never in your life you go to fine dining and you have pizza there. Never. I am the person who brought the pizza, I just started making pizza.
ShenzhenParty: How do you decide what to put on your menu?
Nino: Seventy percent of the dishes on my menu are typical dishes that come from Sicily, the rest from Italy, like carbonara is famous in Italy, and bolognaise, lasagne, all famous in Italy. My menu is all real Italian style, really mama style. For making the seafood linguine, the tomato sauce recipe is 100 years old. In Sicily you take the fish from the sea and you clean it by hand. Here I don’t have frozen fish just fresh fish. I make my own ice cream, it’s called parfait; the recipe is already 150 years old. I don’t like to speak too much about my life. My food speaks my life.
ShenzhenParty: You must know so many different dishes.
Nino: Not so many. The menu has ten or eleven appetisers, fish and beef, seven to ten pasta and five, six or seven second course. Here my guests never check the menu. They talk with me, I open my fridge and I look what I have and what I make. Here my guests come here for a degustation, I prepare ten dishes and you can try ten different dishes made by my hand, one by one, it’s different.
ShenzhenParty: Do you have a favourite dish to make or to eat?
Nino: Fish, always fish to make. All kinds of fish. To eat, beef. Not to cook just to eat. I think I eat fish for such a long time, and I eat so many fish. The dishes here are amazing but it’s not the same as the fish from Sicily.
ShenzhenParty: Your food all looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it. Thank you so much for your time and for speaking to ShenzhenParty.
Semifreddo croccantino dessert