Interview with Andrea Franceschi, Executive Chef at Ultima Collection

Italian Chef, Andrea Franceschi, has an insatiable hunger for life. Over the past 20 years, he has mastered techniques in some of the most celebrated kitchens across Europe – most notably under Joël Robuchon at Le Table in Paris and Gordon Ramsey at The Connaught in London. From perfecting the French’s art for presentation to adopting Japanese methods through his travels, Franceschi, who races motorbikes in his spare time, has gained a reputation as a thrill-seeker in and outside of the kitchen.

You’ve trained in some of the most acclaimed kitchens across Europe. What’s the single most important thing your training has taught you?

Joël Robuchon always said to me, 'Fatigue is in your head.' It was a great inspiration while I trained under him at La Table in Paris, and it’s a lesson that I’ve kept with me today. My training also instilled in me a respect for the products I cook with, discipline, determination, and a desire to always work with people from different gastronomic backgrounds. It allows me to continuously elevate my work.

How do you empower the private chefs that work alongside you?

I lead by example with a love for what I do. If they are obsessed with their craft, no day will feel like work, and instead a fresh opportunity to exceed themselves and impress their diners. I also allow them creative freedom as they are in the prime position to tailor a meal to their guests’ preferences. We handpick each chef based on their communication skills, a wealth of culinary experience, and unique flair. As our properties are visited by guests from around the world, it’s also essential that they speak French and English too. It makes my job that much easier when I’m dealing with the highest calibre chefs in the industry.

How do you break down barriers between the kitchen and guests, making dining an opportunity for connection?

I’ve anticipated the needs of each guest before they’ve entered the dining room or restaurant. That sounds simple, but it’s a considered art that not everyone gets right. It could be overhearing their love of an ingredient at breakfast, or learning about their country of origin, and taking that information to weave those flavours into their meal that very night. It’s how you make each dining experience unforgettable. On top of that, the guest learns about their appointed chef ahead of their arrival. Many let them know their individual requirements so that we can fill their fridge accordingly and start to plan each day’s delights.

What’s special about the dishes you cook at Ultima? How do they surprise guests?

I’m a thrill seeker, and I believe that’s evident in my dishes. Over the past 20 years, when I haven’t been racing motorbikes, I’ve been mastering techniques in some of the most celebrated kitchens across Europe, notably under Gordon Ramsay at The Connaught in London. I’ve also travelled the world to pick up different gastronomic experiences, perfecting French art for presentation and adopting delicate Japanese techniques. Because of that background, each dish served in Ultima Gstaad and Ultima Courchevel Belvédère is fit for an art gallery. For me, providing a visual treat is just as essential to delivering deliciousness.

I don’t have a signature dish, but I do have a statement style. I create delicate dishes with unexpected twists - such as pairing raspberries with slow-cooked salmon, all adorned in flowers and vibrant in colour. From aji amarillo and seared octopus, to Simmental beef and turbot fish that melt away in your mouth, seasonal produce is combined with locally sourced fish and meat to even surprise those that I’ve served many times before.

And how will it incorporate seasonal ingredients from the region?

Sourcing seasonal ingredients is essential to the Ultima experience. I use my position as Executive Chef to explore our properties’ local cultures for the freshest seasonal ingredients and to meet with local suppliers to ensure the shortest chain from farm to fork. No detail is accidental. That blissful moment at the table has been months in the making.

What makes the perfect meal?

The perfect meal goes far beyond the food served. Particularly, I find, with family dinners, it’s about the complementary atmosphere that you’re in; the professionalism of the staff and the little signs of personalisation that you have woven into the dining experience. Of course, the food must be of the highest quality, but so must the butlers who place that dish in front of you. It’s a carefully crafted recipe, which we happen to be masterful at.