By five years old, already well-schooled in the gastronomic delights to be found in fresh ingredients, Claudio Facchinetti knew he wanted to be a chef. His inspiration was his grandparents’ ability to effortlessly whip up delectable dishes from the island waters near their home in Grado, Italy.
Those lessons remain with him to this day, and show in the dishes he serves up in the award-winning Delmare restaurant during elegant meals enjoyed by guests of Eclipse at Half Moon in Montego Bay. Each is an artful blend of Italian and Jamaican flavours.
See Chef Claudio create one of his signature dishes.
As chef de cuisine, Chef Claudio, as he’s fondly called, is the one in charge at Delmare. He heads a team of seven young Jamaicans — the oldest is 31 — whom he is sure will shape the future of the country’s cuisine. He and his team are well on their way, adding this year’s Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards ‘restaurant of the year’ and ‘best service’ awards to Delmare’s already impressive list of accolades. “Now we are number one in Jamaica but we want to be at least in the top five in the Caribbean,” Chef Claudio tells LetsTravelCaribbean.com.
It’s been a long journey getting to this point. He started off working as an assistant waiter in a bar called Lucy during summer break when he was in college. His mother was his boss and, so there could never be any complaints of favouritism, she gave him all the worst shifts. Not one to quit, he worked his way up to being in charge of the bar until, in 2000, he got a job as line chef in a restaurant. He began making a name for himself in Italy, and by 2013 was an executive chef. That’s when a friend told him about Jamaica. Disillusion with the performance of the European economy, it didn’t take a lot to convince him to leave an island of less than 9,000 people and become the Italian sous chef at Sandals Whitehouse. He arrived in 2014 and his next move was a two-year stint at Sandals Montego Bay. Then in 2018 he became Delmare’s chef de cuisine.
Along the way he got married to a Jamaican and they now have an eight-month-old son, Liam. His roots firmly planted in Jamaica, Chef Claudio loves finding new ways to fuse the flavours of the two countries he calls home. He uses Jamaican produce as much as possible, continuing the lessons learned from his grandparents.
One of his dishes pairs watermelon, risotto and oysters; he sings the praises of his spiny lobster and scallops freshly caught from the sea; lately he’s been using touches of edible gold; and now he’s taking it to the next level: molecular.
He wants everyone to know that, just as Italy is more than just pasta, Jamaica is much more than jerk chicken.
“We try to do a little bit of different types of cuisine,” explains Chef Claudio. “We’re going to start to use liquid nitrogen and all these things that are a little bit on the molecular side. We want to make Jamaica known as even more of a food destination.”
Photos: @chefclaudiofacchinetti on IG