The ‘Mad Chef’ from China to Russia. Ekerè

He started traveling at the age of 19 facing unthinkable bets and he has never stopped. The first time he left for Indonesia his family asked him “ Why do you go so far? “ He remembers that everything was different at the time.

RDF:”At the time it was difficult to go far. But I never stop. I look at the goal, the study, and I get to the end. I moved young. I have traveled, I have also made mistakes but this is part of the luggage. “

He is best known as the “The Mad Chef”, as they called him in China, where he exported traditional Neapolitan cuisine and made himself known for his gourmet fusion. He has definitely left an indelible mark in China and he has been the first chef to bring Neapolitan cuisine to that country. When he landed there for the first time there was nothing Neapolitan food.
“The Mad Chef” is Rino De Feo who left his home as a teenager to travel the world and visit places such as the United Kingdom, Indonesia, China and Russia. In reality, before he made his final choice, Rino was an artist and, obviously, he still is. I’ll tell you the story. The adolescent Rino had two passions: art and cooking. In fact, he was a student of the art institute, and everyone in the family expected him to choose to continue his studies, in which he shone, ending with the Academy of Fine Arts. Even today, in his rare moments of free time, if he is inspired he makes paintings.
As a boy he was a talented artist and loved painting.Later he realized that his passion for cooking was stronger, and that through cooking he was better able to express himself. For this reason he chose to pursue this career.
Since he was a child he always had a propensity for good food, both as a taster of the delights prepared by the family as well as a cook of local dishes. In addition, his uncle Giuseppe De Feo, who was chef in a restaurant in Capri, was a fundamental figure for the adolescent Rino, indeed he almost was a mentor. Both Rino’s grandmother and mother also greatly contributed to strengthening his interest in the culinary art.
He remembers that, with his second sister, he used to mess around the stove. Once they together, even risked sto set in fire the kitchen! He remembers when his grandmother prepared Ragu’ from Saturday evening. And on Sunday morning, Rino with his sister, accomplices, secretly dipped the bread in the Ragu’ to taste that delight that cooked for hours and which emanated an actractive scent throughout the house. The image of the grandmother or mother who, with love, dedicated all of themselves to the preparation of good things for children who are always looking for “’a bella cosa” (the beautiful thing meant as a treat) is a memory that Rino materializes re-proposing the same act of love.
Old memories keep him tied even more firmly to his origins and to his profession too.
He is originally from Castellammare di Stabia which is a renowned thermal town in the province of Napoli, well known to tourists along with Sorrento. It is a paradise in a basin where there are springs of mineral water and is guarded by Vesuvius, our volcano. Believe me, it is such an evocative place from which it is difficult to separate. But in the end, he has never separated from it, because he always carries his land with him and, moreover, he makes it known abroad.Rino De Feo is a creative who sometimes borders on the eccentric. He is an enthusiast and a hard worker who does not stop in front of any difficulty. Was there no mozzarella in China? In his restaurant, in Guangzhou, he produced buffalo mozzarella on the spot, passing from spinning to mozzatura and fascinating the Orientals.
For him, the search for the products and for the primry ingredients is fundamental. By transferring his creativity and his imagination to traditional cuisine, the winning chef creates spectacular gourmets.
His proposal is that of the Neapolitan tradition but is especially linked to the Stabiese one to which he often looks with a contaminated eye.
I have watched him preparing a special and innovative dish that blends tradition and modernity in all senses.
If you are a lover of the Neapolitan pastiera I recommend the Paccheri of Gragnano Integrali(all wheat) filled with pastiera cream. Don’t make that face and try to follow me. First of all the pastiera is made with wheat, and the paccheri di Gragnano are made of whole wheat.
The filling for the paccheri is a cream made by the smashed pastiera and the decorations include also crushed almonds. The pastiera has to be prepared following his recipe. He really makes it really special and with an intense scent of spring!
The fact of being an artist definitely makes him a plus. The Stabiese chef has also published two books.“
Uomini, viaggi e ingredienti”, Areablu Edizioni, is his first book that was published 3 years ago. It is an interview of journalist Luigi D’Alise with the chef. The book includes twenty recipes, those of the dishes that made him famous in Indonesia and China.
The second book is entitled 
Chef sara’ lei “and it is edited by Tonino Scala, published by Edizioni MEA. This book was presented in Napoli, just before the lock down, on February 3, 2020 at the venue “Piazza Vanvitelli” in Castellammare di Stabia.
The title of the book is ironic and it means that cooks are not heroes. The book is an invitation to the chefs, first himself, to not to take themselves too seriously. Rino explains a concept that he always repeats to customers who fill him with compliments and call him hero. He is happy and proud to have achieved such success, yet he remains himself. He will not change and will always remain Rino, a man who loves good food, not a hero.
This he says. A Neapolitan group abroad claims that those who have the courage and firmness not to sell themselves, for business or for convenience, to the standards (and even false standards) that abroad are considered representative of our typical cuisine , can only be a hero. The chef, who writes “Ristorante Napoletano” on the sign of any of his restaurants, prepares ‘O Scarpariello, ‘A Genuvese, ‘A past’ e patane, and also fantastic delights for the finest palates, not the usual lasagna,the carbonara or the alfredo!On the occasion of the presentation of his second book, Rino De Feo returned home but then the covid emergency upset all his programs and blocked him in Italy for a year and a half. First China, then Indonesia, because of the covid, were among the first to close. Furthermore, the mismanagement of covid emergency measures in Italy has worsened the situation. Rino had planned another opening in China and one in Bali and was forced to work from home in Smart Working without being able to reach the locations. So he had to reset all his plans. Anytime he goes to visit Napoli, he is excited and he leaves with a thousand good thoughts. But as soon as he arrives in Italy and confronts reality, he realizes that nothing has changed. Once you live abroad it is difficult to re-settle in Italy, especially for professionals.
When the pandemic was declared, Rino realized how tragic is the situation in Italy and how even more disarming is because the limitations and closures. During the period in which he was blocked in Napoli, Rino signed the menu for a restaurant in his area, and he also did consultancy. He has followed what is happening especially in the catering sector. He is very sorry for the situation that his fellow villagers, cooks and restaurateurs, are forced to support, and he is sorry that the Italian government, instead of helping, penalizes those who work honestly. It is a more critical point however these are the facts and it is quite objective. For this reason he believes that he will return to Italy only to visit his mother and a few loved ones.

RDF: “
When you live abroad and then you return back to Italy you realize that there are things now that are too far from your point of view. Once again, unfortunately, and I stress unfortunately, those who want to build something are forced to do it elsewhere.”

When he was in China, Russian investors looked for him and offered him to go to their country. All this thanks to the intense work he has done in the land of Red Dragon. The Russians are attracted to our cuisine and those investors were looking for him because he prepares local dishes. Thus the Ekere’ project, to which Rino also gave its name, was born in Moscow.
Ekere’ ‘is the sound of the Neapolitan expression of amazement ”
E cche d’ e’!?!”(What’s that!?!)
And the amazement is the real experience he offers in an area of 700 square meters, coordinating 22 chefs in the kitchen. A wonderful project.
However China always remains in his heart. Currently he still follows two restaurants there via Smart Working.

I left a piece of dime in China. I was supposed to stay 2 years and then I stayed 10 years.”

He mostly speaks English and Neapolitan that his collaborators understand very well.
He tells an anecdote about this.
At his restaurant in China are the house Fabio Cannavaro and Marcello Lippi. Once the soccer manager
stopped to greet him and he heard the chef speaking Neapolitan with the Chinese in the kitchen. The chef said to one of his collaborators:

Miette chhiu’ ‘pummarola’ ncopp ‘a pizza .”(put more tomato on the pizza) Rino’s collaborator immediately carried out.

But did you say that in Neapolitan?”Lippi said
Yes, I only speak Neapolitan with them” Rino replied.

The Chinese among themselves do not all speak the same language. In the locality where the Chef Matto lived, Cantonese is spoken but Mandarin is mostly spoken throughout the state. So to simplify things he chose to communicate in the Neapolitan language.

Besides, in the kitchen you don’t need to talk a lot. Then the sound … They understand faslty. In China I left two Chinese who are genuine Neapolitans. “

And on the restaurant sign is written : “language > Napoletano”.Rino is a nice, energetic and enterprising man. He is a very polite and easygoing person.
He is not a computer enthusiast. He loves art and nature.
In his rare moments of free time, he likes to go out on an excursion in remote villages in search of small artisan companies such as the small roasting factories or the small pasta factories. These things for him are like the amusement park for a child. In the workplace, as a Chef, he admits to be quite demanding.

Mine is a difficult and responsible job and I am almost a soldier in the kitchen.”

He is very meticulous and equally organized. He prepares data sheets, photos, he organizes everything. He personally trains his collaborators. His trainings can last up to 2 months or maybe more, if necessary, before his Grand Opening. The Russian project of chef Stabiese is his umpteenth success. At his side there is Pietro Bulla a chef from Atrano, in the province of Catania, whom he considers as a brother and who has been working with him for almost 3 years. Rino De Feo has anticipated a delicacy of the Menu from Ekere’.
The Caponata Stabiese, the one they sold in the chalets in Castellammare and that features a fresella, slightly moistened, seasoned with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a lupine and a eggplant in oil. The chef presents a gourmet version of the Caponata Stabiese and he dedicates it to his city because

RDF: “the Stabiese sign must be there”.

Once abroad, the first thing Rino does is going to look for suppliers who guarantee Campania’s products such as Pasta di Gragnano, Popomodoro dell’Agro Nocerino Sarnese, Pomodori del Piennolo. If there aren’t products he looks for, he finds an alternative, for example like he did in China when he made mozzarella or even pizza.
Wherever he goes, at home and in his restaurants there is no lack of background music by Enzo Avitabile and Pino Daniele. When he is far away he viscerally needs “Napoletanity”. This is also the case in Russia. Every time he moves abroad, he brings with him postcards of Napoli, small objects, statuettes of the Cassarmonica, all things to make his own corner with the things of Napoli.

RDF:“You always leave a piece of your heart in Napoli”.

Was there no mozzarella in China? In his restaurant, in Guangzhou, he produced buffalo mozzarella on the spot, passing from spinning to mozzatura and fascinating the Orientals.
For him, the search for the products and for the primry ingredients is fundamental. By transferring his creativity and his imagination to traditional cuisine, the winning chef creates spectacular gourmets.

His proposal is that of the Neapolitan tradition but is especially linked to the Stabiese one to which he often looks with a contaminated eye.


Connect with Chef Rino De Feo