Last summer Malta was having its moment. And in time to welcome all the intrepid travelers came the new face of this sunny, culturally rich island nation—Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour. The gastronomical concept here draws on Malta’s history with a modern representation, much like the hotel’s itself. Taking inspiration from the Maltese language, the menu is a taste of history derived from the island’s Mediterranean-Semitic roots, with a contemporary twist, created using high-quality seasonal produce from the area. The restaurant, which was recently named best Luxury Heritage Restaurant in Europe at the 2019 World Luxury Restaurant Awards, is run by a multi-award-winning team and directed by 24-time award-winning chef and restauranteur Chris Hammett. We had a brief catch up with him on all things culinary and beyond…
Q: When are you happiest?
As part of a big family, my entire life has been spent around food and children, therefore, I’d say my happiest place is having a barbecue with friends and family on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Q: What is your vision for the restaurant at Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour?
At Hammett’s Macina Restaurant, we wanted to concentrate on tasting menus that reflect the historical place we are in. We took inspiration from the Maltese language, which is a Semitic language with Lebanese, Arab, and Latin influences. We’re also launching an outdoor terrace cocktail and tapas bar serving bites of what we offer for dinner as well as wine tasting sessions in our cellar and cocktail masterclasses.
Q: What is the one thing that working in a kitchen has taught you about life?
This is a very difficult question. I feel the kitchen has built my character and made me the man I am today. Although it took a lot from me, it gave me much more and it is hard to attribute just one thing that it taught me. If I had to say just a couple of things, it would be respect and loyalty as well as that sacrifice and perseverance with the right attitude will get you where you want to be.
Q: What would you say your food philosophy is?
Without sounding too cliché, quality without shortcuts.
Q: Your favorite Maltese dish?
Definitely the classic fenkata, a traditional rabbit meal with the family. My kids love it! We usually start with some snails, bigilla (bean paste), and arjoli (tomato garlic dip), then the rabbit, followed by a little helwa tat tork (a sugary sesame fudge) with coffee.
Q: What is the best advice you ever received?
I am lucky to have a great network of support through my family, friends, and skilled colleagues who give me top advice on a day-to-day basis but the best advice, I think, has been to be emotionally intelligent and empathetic in every situation.
Q: What would your Last Supper be?
My mum’s roast chicken and lots of bread to dip in the fat.