As a global culinary apparel brand, we dress the most talented Chefs across the world. Each month Chef Works features a different Chef with their answers to our Culinary Questions. This month we meet Robert Cassar Chef Patron at Root 81.
From when it all started?
I graduated with a Diploma in Food and Culinary Arts from ITS. Following this, I started working abroad at the Vineyard Relais & Chateaux - one of the most prestigious 5 AA Red Star Restaurants in Berkshire. Back in Malta, I continued working in the Catering Industry for over 14 years at some of the leading 5***** Hotels. These experiences made it easy for me to work with local top Chefs whilst opening my mind to new concepts and helping me learn more. In November 2017, I opened my very own Restaurant: Root 81 at Telgha tas Saqajja, Rabat. This project was a dream which I never thought would materialize. Nonetheless, sheer determination combined with my passion for the art of food has infused this unique culinary project. My role here is technically the Chef Patron, however, I literally do everything from placing orders to ensuring that the restaurant operates efficiently and that every single customer has a positive experience when dining at my restaurant.
Who was your greatest cooking inspiration?
Chef Heston Blumenthal. He is the owner of one of five restaurants in Great Britain to have three Michelin stars, which was voted No.1 in the World's 50 best Restaurants. He promotes scientific understanding in cooking and sensory cooking.
What is your favorite cooking dish?
Local pork assiette which consists of braised pork belly, pork cheeks, pork fillet, apple puree, hazelnuts, and wilted spinach.
Who would you most like to cook for?
I love cooking for each and every guest who has the pleasure of visiting my Restaurant. I believe that every patron is special and should get true value for money, be happy and satisfied when dining at Root 81. That is my ultimate aim and this is what truly makes my day at the end of the service - seeing patrons satisfied.
Last year which also happens to be the first year of the opening of my Restaurant, I won a number of awards. I feel truly appreciative of all the people who believed in me and in what I have to offer. These awards are judged by numerous diners who are knowledgeable and who love to dine, so being voted by such people is exciting and overwhelming. I won the Definitively Good Guide Best Food Award which is obviously an award I aimed for since I opened the Restaurant, and it shows that patrons really appreciate the taste and quality of our dishes. I have also won the Definitively Good Guide Top Restaurants Award, and jumping to number seven in the first year of the opening was beyond my belief and I feel so excited to be standing with other top Restaurants in Malta which offer such brilliance in the Culinary World. Another two awards which I am so humble and excited about are winning the Best Chef of The Month Competition and placing third in the Best Chef of the YEar. To have my name alongside the past winners, all of whom are Chefs I have always looked up to, is something that I will always be hugely proud of.
What do you enjoy doing most when you're outside the kitchen?
I like to spend time with my family and friends and I make sure that I spend good, quality time with them. I love dining at different Restaurants and trying out different dishes, traveling and trying out different cuisines.
Weirdest Food you ever ate?
Simple pan-fried crocodile meat.
Your favorite Cookbook?
The Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal. In this book, you learn the history of his Restaurant, from it's humble beginnings to its third Michelin Star. Something which really impressed me in this book was that the day Heston received the news of this, he had been wondering how exactly he would be able to pay his staff that month.
What is your favorite Chef Works Item?
Chef Jackets, a particular favorite one is the black Valencia Jacket. They are all made of good quality fabrics, soft and comfortable. Also, the Berkeley Urban aprons which have impeccable styling and add that unique touch to your look.
Your biggest achievement?
It has to be the opening of my Restaurant and the awards that came along. All this is possible if you love what you do and do it with passion.
Your best Culinary tip?
Keeping the motto of Root 81, my philosophy is and will always be that good food starts from its roots. I believe that dishes should be made from only the freshest ingredients that our local island has to offer, from which Chefs can create wholesome, hearty meals. Also seeking to take all the learning opportunities that come your way is important, as this is the fastest way to expand knowledge and acquire a broader understanding of techniques, ingredients, and ideas in the kitchen. Great Chefs keep updated with food trends. They study the cooking methods and cuisines of other cultures and spend time experimenting with different dishes. Doing so means they are constantly discovering new skills and recipes they can incorporate into their dishes.