Foodie Confidential

Fun and laughter in the kitchen

Entrepreneur Giulio D'Erme recreates the energy of his family kitchen in his cooking studio

Coming from a traditional Italian family, cooking is at the core of family bonding for Mr Giulio D'Erme, the co-founder of cooking studio CulinaryOn at One Raffles Place.

The 44-year-old, whose father taught him how to cook, says: "The kitchen is the place for us to share experiences, it is always alive and pulsing."

The energy from his family kitchen has translated into the studios at CulinaryOn, which is known for its fun classroom environment. Students can learn how to cook Western or Asian cuisine, or bake tarts and bread, in an informal and interactive atmosphere with pop music blasting, instructors cracking jokes and group work.

CulinaryOn started in Moscow in 2012 while he was living in the Russian capital and there are now two outlets there. In September, a new outlet will open in Bucharest, and there are plans to expand in Asia. Singapore is currently the only outlet outside of Russia.

Since it opened in Singapore in October 2015, CulinaryOn has been popular for corporate team-bonding sessions.

With plenty of food options available, Mr D'Erme - who has worked in various countries such as Switzerland, Belgium and Russia - is concerned that people have stopped cooking. He says: "I hope they get back to cooking as it is important to have healthy food, and ensure quality and quantity control. It is good for children, and even between husband and wife.

  • WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?

    Fresh mozzarella from a mozzarella factory in Naples, of which I have fond memories. When I visited it, I wanted to buy 1kg of mozzarella, but was told that it was made 30 minutes ago and not fresh anymore. It was against their ethics to sell it to me.

    In the end, they gave 2kg of the cheese to me for free, since it was “not fresh”. Mozzarella is clearly a religion there and going back there for my last meal will be my last trip to paradise.

"At CulinaryOn, you see chief executive officers and their teams cooking together for team-building. Once everyone wears an apron, they are the same. There is no rank in this informal environment."

He is married to a Russian housewife, and they have a 17-month-old daughter.

The frequent-flier notes how cultures are defined through food. He says: "Food brings people together, and gives people a sense of belonging."

At CulinaryOn, have you ever met anyone who really cannot cook?

No. The full meal we teach can be made by a five-year-old child with no problem. Under the right guidance, everyone can cook.

What do you cook?

Pasta cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and pepper), I like this dish the most and cook it well. I could eat pasta every night. I also do salads and roast chicken. My wife makes a typical Russian breakfast of blinis and syrniki (cottage cheese cakes) with sour cream and jam.

What are your favourite local foods?

Chilli crab, which is tasty but messy - all part of the fun. I don't have a sweet tooth, so I love pandan chiffon cake, as there is a balanced flavour of pandan which is not too sweet. The cake goes perfectly with Milo ice cream, which is how we serve it at CulinaryOn after participants have baked the cakes. These dishes are also taught in Moscow's CulinaryOn and it is extremely well received.

Is there something you can eat every day?

Pasta, if I'm not on a diet. My father could eat it for almost every meal.

What is your favourite tipple?

A nice glass of Italian Sangiovese wine, for its balanced flavours. It also pairs well with many foods.

What are some must-eat foods in Italy?

Real carbonara which has no cream, only eggs. Meat lovers should head to Florence for the best thick-cut Fiorentina steak, and pizza and mozzarella from Naples.

What about food that you must have in Moscow?

Beef stroganoff as well as the combination of caviar and vodka.

Where would you go for Italian food in Singapore?

Etna Italian Restaurant in Duxton Road. The foccaccia with cheese is amazing. The quality of food is the closest to what you find in Italy, complete with the atmosphere.

Any other favourite restaurants?

Modern European restaurant Cure in Keong Saik Road, where chef Andrew Walsh is experimental without crossing the line. Some young chefs focus too much on being innovative that they forget about taste and portion.

Do you have a dream foodie destination?

I would love to dine at the three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana by chef Massimo Bottura in Modena, Italy. I usually don't believe in star-studded restaurants, but that's because the chef is usually not at the restaurant. Bottura is an exception.

If you could pick someone to have a meal with you, who would you choose?

Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk, one of the most innovative brains in the world who is always pushing boundaries. I would talk to him about singularity - when machines become smarter than humans - and artificial intelligence. I'll ask him how to get my daughter ready for the new world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'Fun and laughter in the kitchen'. Print Edition | Subscribe