Australian wins Italy’s ‘Il Ristorante degli Chef’ TV cooking contest

It’s a very happy new year for one Australian living in Italy who beat fierce competition to win Italian TV cooking show Il Ristorante Degli Chef.

Australian wins Italy's 'Il Ristorante degli Chef' TV cooking contest
Valter in the kitchen. Photo: Valter di Cecco

46-year-old Valter Di Cecco was born and raised in Australia with Abruzzese parents. He learned to cook Italian food at a young age under his mum’s instructions, before being inspired by the multicultural food scene in Sydney.

We spoke to Valter back in November, at the beginning of the competition, when he hardly dared to imagine that he’d win.

But at the end of December he took first place, managing to win over judges Andrea Berton, Philippe Léveillé and Isabella Potì with his brand of spicy, internationally-inspired cooking.

On the show, which aired on Rai 2, aspiring chefs are judged by the panel of experts on their ability to run a kitchen, as well as on their cooking skills.

 “It feels amazing. A dream come true,” Valter told The Local Italy.  “Sometimes I pinch myself to see if I'm not dreaming. I feel honored to have represented Australia here in Italy.”

“In the beginning I didn't think I could win. I had some fierce competitors,” he said.

A graphic designer, Valter said he’s used to his work being criticised and, although he was under immense pressure, he learned a lot from the experience.

“The competition has taught me to stayed focused on the prize and to take on any challenge with enthusiasm,” he said. “Staying calm helped me to get through the hardest part of the show. It also taught me to never give up.”

His well-executed twists on Italian classics, like a carbonara made with chorizo, cocoa and smoked paprika, helped him stand out.

But he said his favourite dish of the competion was a cacao ravioli filled with taleggio cheese and black truffle, served on a veloute of sweetcorn.

He started the new year by cooking up a mouthwatering menu for friends. “I made chicken satay and peanut sauce, pulled pork tacos with an Asian salad, prawn dumplings, and a middle eastern pork fillet with a pistachio sauce,” he said.

“I also took the traditional Italian recipe that is served on new years eve, lenticchie e cotechino (lentils with a type of sausage), and made it my own.”

Valter has won a place on a cooking course at course at renowned Italian cookng school Alma, and he’s hoping to do some catering work in his adopted city, Rome.

“I want to take my passion for food and my love of Australia and Italy and combine the two,” he said. “The future look very exciting.”