It is amazing how food can take people to different corners of the planet to grow their talent. I was aware of the impressive number of local talent in the food industry working in different corners of the planet, yet would have never imagined to learn about the story of a Maltese chef working in the Swedish city of Strömstad. I came across Chef Vidal through some work he recently posted on a social media platform which encouraged me to contact him, and get to know his story better. His work is amazing and highlights his sense of creativity and eye for detail. During our conversation, Chef Vidal shared his journey in the world of food and what attracted him to the home of ABBA.
What attracted you to the world of food?
My connection with food started at a young age. I always enjoyed watching my dad making cakes for special family occasions in Canada. When we moved to Malta my dad started working at my uncle’s confectionary in Luqa, and after school and on weekends I always used to go and help him with pastries, cakes and making ravioli. That’s when I realised that I wanted to work in the food industry. At first my thoughts were to work solely with pastry, but after starting at the Institute of Tourism Studies I realised that I wanted to be a chef and work with all types of dishes along with pastry.
In what way did the Institute of Tourism Studies help you develop your culinary skills?
The Institute of Tourism Studies was a really good way to achieve my goals within the industry. If I was going to be a chef I knew that I wanted to get the proper knowledge
of the basics of cooking. A lot is learned in the restaurants and hotels that one works in, but I still believe that chef school is important to understand all the theory behind
cooking, and to do the practise how it is meant to be done. The school also gave me great opportunities to compete both in Malta and abroad.
What encouraged you to choose Sweden as your next destination?
It wasn’t a hard choice since my wife is Swedish, but of course being one of the best countries to live in didn’t do any harm either. What encouraged me also was that at the time I moved I was following certain food competitions, where Sweden were always around the top of the list of teams winning medals. When reading about certain restaurants I thought that the standards must be pretty high.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
My cooking tends to be Mediterranean with hints of Swedish cuisine. When I started to work in Sweden I was still choosing to cook Mediterranean food whenever I got the choice to decide what was to be cooked. But after a couple of years working here, I started to use more and more Swedish ingredients. I like to use different textures in my dishes as I think
that’s a very important part in cooking.
What are the major challenges of leaving your country to pursue a career abroad?
When I left Malta to work in Sweden I was a bit nervous. The first challenge which comes to mind is the language. I think it’s very important if you are planning to move to a different country is to try to understand and speak the native language. It makes life much easier. Another challenge was the cuisine. It’s important to keep your influences which you were brought up with, but to also keep an open mind and be able to adapt to different
types of cuisines and techniques which might not be so common in kitchens that you started out in.
Why is it important for local prospective chefs to look beyond local shores?
I don’t really think it’s important, as I believe that by staying in Malta you’re able to have a good career in the catering business. I would see it more as a way to see other things, and learn different stuff. It’s a good learning block to have, that you have seen and worked in different places. If anything I think the question of ‘why abroad instead of Malta’, would come down to working conditions.
In what way has the current young local talent in Malta and abroad helped to develop further the Maltese culinary industry?
Young chefs are the future for the culinary industry in Malta. It’s a bit of a hard question to answer from not living there, but from my recent visit I do think that Maltese pastry shops are keeping tradition, whilst at the same time looking at other things done abroad. For example, I visited Busy Bee in Mrieħel, it still keeps the traditional pastries that we are used to, but also has started to introduce new things seen more in pastry shops abroad. This is down to chefs wanting to develop something different, but also keeping the traditional. You should never forget where you come from.
How do your Maltese roots fit into your work?
I try to keep my Maltese roots in the flavours I use. I do like to use Scandinavian flavours and tend to use them also, but I fall back a lot on flavours from my childhood that I was brought up on. I think Maltese cuisine is underrated sometimes, the usual cuisines gets a lot of recognition from around the world, but Malta being a small country is usually looked past. I truly believe that we are just as good, and we should be proud of our cuisine.
What should we expect from David Vidal?
For me, the next thing this year will be doing courses around the world, which will probably continue onto next year. Mostly all around Europe, but also places like Indonesia and U.S.A. In between that, I’d like to maybe start writing a book and who knows, maybe one day open something of my own.
© 2019 – VIDA Magazine