Best of times, worst of times: Andrea Orsini

Categories: Behind the stalls

The likes and dislikes of Andrea Orsini from The Parma Ham and Mozzarella Stand

Fantasy job
I love the job I am doing here at Borough Market, working with excellent food and bringing it to the people. I worked in the food world in Italy for 27 years. I have owned two shops selling salami and cheese, owned a restaurant where I was the chef, and was maître d’ and sommelier at 10 Corso Como cafe in Milan.

It was part of a complex that is one of the centres of fashion and culture in Italy. But if I had to choose a fantasy job it would be as a fighter pilot. Many boys have this dream when they are children, I think, but for me it has never changed.

Favourite city
Today it is London. I come from Pisa in Tuscany, and I arrived here in January this year. My son has been working in London for 18 months and is really enjoying it. It is the most multi-cultural city in the world. You have the possibility to have a wonderful experience in London through the work, the language, the cultural events, the people. The Big Apple is not New York. It is London.

Worst job
When I was young and just wanted some quick money, I worked as a bricklayer for a year. It is a crazy job, I hated it. I look back and am surprised that I stayed for so long.

Favourite film
My favourite film is always the last film I enjoyed. I do not spend too much time comparing something I have just seen with a film from years ago. The last one I really enjoyed was The Machinist with Christian Bale. It shows a man in search of himself.

It is not an easy film but shows that we must also look at the darker parts of ourselves if we want true self-knowledge. I love the way Christian Bale always commits himself completely to the parts he plays.

Favourite holiday destination
The Caribbean. The beaches, the sun, the people. I cannot think of a better place to travel to.

Favourite dish as a child
That was such a long time ago! I cannot remember having a particular favourite dish growing up, but I am sure it would have involved fish of some kind.

Best meal ever
Pigeon stuffed with foie gras and baked with pears. It was extraordinary.

Worst kitchen disaster
There have been too many to mention. I am always testing new recipes and making new dishes, sometimes with other chefs, sometimes by myself. When you do this, many things will go wrong. But I keep going until I get them right. The last dish I got really wrong was breast of duck with orange—somehow I managed to get all the timings completely messed up. It was a disaster.

Favourite book
At the moment it is La Leggenda della Torre Saracena (The Legend of the Saracen Tower) but I’m not sure if it is available in English. It was written by a friend, an old doctor who regularly came to the resort in Siena where I was director and sommelier. It is a historical novel, a mixture of the reality of the time and the fruits of his imagination. The places, dates and names are real, but the story is a creation.

Favourite drink
Wine, drunk at night with friends. For me wine is a social drink—even as a trained sommelier, the people have always been as important to me as the drink. Good wine is a wonderful thing, and for me that pleasure is meant to be shared.

There are some great récoltant-manipulant champagnes, made by independent houses who use their own grapes. I also like pinot noir from Bourgogne and the great wines from Toscana and Piedmont like barolo, chianti and barbera.

Favourite historical figure
There are too many to pick from: Achilles, Dante Alighieri, Alexander the Great, Winston Churchill. I find it impossible to choose.

Biggest sporting hero
That has to be Muhammed Ali. He was the greatest boxer, that is true, but his legacy goes so much further than what he achieved as a sportsman. He was a great man as well as a great fighter.

Favourite album
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. For me it is a very spiritual album.

Best thing about home
Pisa is a beautiful place, and I love everything about it—except the rain and the smog. The pollution there is terrible.

Favourite childhood pursuit
I loved playing football but then as I grew up, I got into motorbikes and started riding motocross. I competed in motocross races for 17 years.

Perfect way to relax
Listening to music, watching movies, lying in the park, reading. At the moment I’m hungry for history and culture. Where are we from, why are we here?

Hangover cure
I don’t need one. I don’t get drunk.