Mauricio Zillo: The Idealist
Updated: Mar 6, 2022
Rebelot del Pont | Milan
The Brazilian chef in Milan who's running the kitchen at Rebelot del Pont in the middle of hipster 'hood Navigli, sharing the kitchen with notorious chef Matias Perdomo, at Pont de Ferr next door.
Don’t be fooled by the laid-back, playful attitude of Chef Mauricio Zillo, he runs a tight ship as a world-traveling chef who at a young age has already seen a ton of success. His small open kitchen at Rebelot hardly seems big enough to put out the amazing dishes that arrive at your table, but as he says: it’s all in the prep. In the back of the restaurant and through the courtyard, there is a whole secret kitchen the public never sees where cooks are meticulously crafting and preparing ingredients. Sharing the space with legendary chef Mattias Perdomo of Pont de Ferr next door, there are different stations for fish, meat, and cauldrons of broth brewing the flavorful layers on which these seemingly simple dishes are built.
CGC: Where are you from? How did you get to Milan?
MZ: I’m from Brazil, a tropical country where being a cook wasn’t a profession you could choose. When I was twenty-six in 2006 I decided to move to France and follow my dream to be a chef. I then worked in Spain and also for a Spanish restaurant in Dubai for a Michelin Starred chef named Santa Santamaria.
CGC: What is your approach to cooking?
MZ: My approach to cooking is simple and uses traditional French techniques and seasonal ingredients. I don’t do vacuum cooking [i.e. Sous Vide]. The blood coagulates inside the bag and the meat retains the flavor, I don’t really like it.
CGC: What do you want people to experience when you cook for them?
MZ: I want them to be happy, that’s it. I don’t want to shock, I don’t want to be a genius, I don’t want to prove anything to anyone. I want them to be happy and come back.
CGC: Why do you like being a chef?
MZ: There is a distinction between being a chef and a cook, a chef directs and since we are only three in the kitchen, I consider myself a cook. I don’t have enough staff. A chef cannot touch a knife, a chef doesn’t clean. I have to do everything. I even go to the market at 6:00am.
CGC: If you could cook for anyone in the world who would it be?
MZ: It would be my grandmother and my aunt to show them that I’ve learned something.
CGC: What’s your favorite ingredient to work with?
MZ: Rhubarb. I really like to use it to make a water. It’s really acidic and instead of using lemon juice or vinegar, I use the rubarb water to give acidity. Instead of using vinegrette for acidity I use the rhubarb water because it gives another dimension.
CGC: What do you do in your spare time, if you have it….?
MZ: I sleep.
CGC:When you want to make something simple, quick, and good, what do you make?
MZ: I ring someone to bring me a roast chicken. When I had two days off it was different, now we’re only closed on Tuesdays and I have one day off, so I really want to eat something else.
CGC:What is something people should know about you?
MZ: They can expect me to be crazy here, anything can happen here. I’m an animal.
CGC: Any new “menu item” hints to give us an idea of what’s coming?
MZ: Just this morning, I just got this new vinegar from Slovenia that is made in the same way as wine and vinegar will be the star of the next dish.
CGC: What artist/designer/musician inspires you?
MZ: Jimi Hendrix!
Creator and Host: City Girl, Melissa Lupo
Photography and Art Direction: Simone Martucci
Styling : Nicoleta Alexandra Iliescu
Production Assistant: Camila Salles