Entrevista with chef Paolo Lavezzini, from Four Seasons Florence

Interview with chef Paolo Lavezzini, from Four Seasons Florence


I have just returned from the spectacular Four Seasons Florence, an icon of European hospitality. There are two buildings: the 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca and the former 16th-century convent La Villa, as well as four and a half hectares of stunning gardens. With a Michelin star, the Il Palagio restaurant has been run for a year and a half by chef Paolo Lavezzini, an Italian, but who lived in Brazil for ten years. Of course, I already knew (and loved) the chef's work, who worked at Fasano al Mare, a former restaurant at Fasano Rio, and at Neto, a restaurant at the Four Seasons São Paulo, which closed. Therefore, during my stay, I took the opportunity to do an interview with chef Paolo Lavezzini, which you can see below! He talks about what it's like to work for one of the most renowned hotel brands in the world, and talks about how much he misses Brazil!

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About the chef

Born in Parma, in the Emilia-Romagna region, Italy, Paolo Lavezzini was inspired by his grandmother to pursue a career in gastronomy. His professional career began in restaurants in Versília, in Tuscany, from where he moved on to renowned restaurants in Paris, such as, for example, the Alain Ducasse restaurant at the Hotel Plaza Athenée and the Royal Monceau, and in Florence before moving to Brazil, in 2012. After ten years in Rio and São Paulo, he returned to his home country to head the starred restaurant at the iconic Four Seasons Firenze!

So, check out below how our chat went and what to expect from the chef at Il Palagio!

Interview with chef Paolo Lavezzini

Renata Araújo: How do you define your gastronomy?

Paolo Lavezzini: I've had a lot of experiences throughout my career, so I say it's a bit international. I use Tuscan products, but with international techniques!

Renata Araújo: In your 10 years in Brazil, you brought a little Brazilianness to your cuisine, right? I noticed it because of the cheese bread!

Paolo Lavezzini: Yes, there’s cheese bread! We also make tucupi with potatoes instead of cassava. I bring the acidity, the spiciness… Brazil is in my heart. But, of course, always maintaining a good Italian tradition.

chef Paolo Lavezzini
The classic cheese bread

RA: You've been with Four Seasons for 4 years, what can you say about the brand's pillars?

P.L: Let's talk about the people, who are certainly what make the difference, with their emotions… local culture is also very important. We want to make people happy!

RA: And you were telling me that dinner is a real experience, right, and most of the customers are not guests.

P.L: We have a small percentage of customers who come from the hotel. After all, those who stay here want to walk around the city, enjoy sightseeing, and end up just going to the bar. The restaurant receives many foreigners and non-guests who don't just come for dinner. They stroll around the palace, walk in the gardens, have an aperitif at the bar and then go to dinner.

chef Paolo Lavezzini
Marcelo Castello Branco and Renata Araújo

RA: You passed through two large metropolises, Rio and São Paulo, and now you are in a small city. How does this change your day-to-day life in the kitchen?

P.L: I had already lived in Florence for seven years, so I know the city well. Rio and São Paulo are already changing a lot. I spent six and a half years in Rio, and when I arrived in São Paulo I thought I was in food heaven! Arriving here, I get to work a lot with small producers, I have direct contact with suppliers. Florence is small, so in 20 minutes you are out of the city. Therefore, the food is very fresh. Plus, it's an hour from the beach, and also close to the mountains, so there's a lot of variety of ingredients.

RA: And in less than 1 year you won a Michelin star, right?

P.L: Yes, we already had a star and we managed to keep it. It's a very difficult task, returning here after ten years, and having to get used to it again, or completely, with a different cuisine. But I'm very happy. There are 450 cover charges per day, 45 cooks, 200 to 300 people in the hotel, more or less. There are many events, there is no rest, a lot of adrenaline.

RA: Now, the burning question: do you miss Brazil?

P.L: I didn't expect to come back here, but I couldn't say no to a place like this. In fact, it is a great achievement in a chef's professional life. I never dreamed as big as this place! It's a challenge, but of course I miss Brazil, the people, the climate. I have many friends there. It was difficult at first, but I focused a lot on my work. I want to go back one day, who knows. I've already met clients here, I love seeing them again, and I always want to make them feel at home. Brazil is in my heart, and Brazilians are always welcome!

And I can't wait to go back to enjoy chef Paolo's brilliant cuisine!

Text and photos by Renata Araújo.