People 2 minutes 14 July 2019

The First Day We Got Our Stars: Beppe De Vito

The Singapore-based chef and restaurateur recalls what it was like to receive a MICHELIN star for his Italian "culinary playground" Braci.

Singapore Chef Interview First Day

Up on the fifth floor of a charming heritage shophouse overlooking the Singapore River is Braci, a cosy 20-seater restaurant that chef-restaurateur Beppe De Vito calls his culinary playground.

“With Braci, I knew I wanted a destination and I also knew that this intimate pocket of space could allow me to have my own private kitchen, an oasis where I can be free to create food without the restraints of a larger restaurant,” he says. “I can experiment with unique and rare ingredients, and I can introduce a new dish on a whim with the day’s freshest seasonal ingredients.”

As a restaurateur, De Vito currently has five establishments in Singapore under the ilLido Group including artisanal pizza joint Amò, classic trattoria SONS, buzzy bar Southbridge and Aura in the iconic National Gallery Singapore. Braci is a passion project of sorts for the chef, modelled after a private kitchen where he is free to exercise his culinary creativity.
Like a private kitchen, Braci is De Vito's culinary playground. (Pic & banner pic: Braci)
Like a private kitchen, Braci is De Vito's culinary playground. (Pic & banner pic: Braci)
At Braci, the food is deeply personal, inspired by the chef’s Italian heritage growing up in Puglia, his Mediterranean roots and his travels through Asia, with an emphasis on ingredient sourcing — think extra virgin olive oil from his family's orchard back in Puglia, wild vegetables foraged by his father and brother in Italy and produce from Japan where he makes four trips a year.

“Here, we take pride in only serving up the best ingredients and are always experimenting with new and delicious ways to showcase and elevate the flavours,” says the chef. “The team and I have been working on some new menu ideas that will intrigue and delight.”

Braci received its first MICHELIN star in 2017 and retained it in 2018. Not one to rest on his laurels, De Vitto has been pursuing a gamut of chef-based projects, collaborating with world-renowned chefs such as Luigi Taglienti of one-MICHELIN-starred restaurant Lume in Milan at Aura and, most recently, Ana Ros of famed Slovenian restaurant Hisa Franko at Braci.
De Vito (left) with Braci head chef Mirko Febbrile (Pic: Braci)
De Vito (left) with Braci head chef Mirko Febbrile (Pic: Braci)
We chat with the chef about how he felt when Braci first received its MICHELIN star.

What was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?
It was during my first year at catering school when I was just 15 years of age. I was curious about the guide but really got exposed to it a few years later when I tagged along on a driving work trip with some relatives. Sitting at the back seat of the car, I found a copy of the Guide and was excited to see all these restaurants listed. I actually made them drive to a few of the recommended establishments for meals. It was such a delicious and memorable trip.

What was it like when Braci first received its MICHELIN star in 2017?
Amazing. Braci was not even a year old when we received our first MICHELIN star in 2017 (we opened in September 2016) and it was a great moment of validation, not just for me, but for the whole team. The restaurant was opened on the night of the awards itself and our guests cheered together with our team at the restaurant when we were announced on stage.
De Vito makes frequent trips to Japan to source for produce like this Tochigi Wagyu. (Pic: Braci)
De Vito makes frequent trips to Japan to source for produce like this Tochigi Wagyu. (Pic: Braci)
How did you celebrate?
With a lot of champagne! Together with my wife Lynn, we threw a big party and had everyone from the various restaurants from the ilLido Group come together and celebrate as a team. We are a tight-knit family and are all very proud and excited about this recognition. Braci's win is everyone’s win.

As a chef, what does having the MICHELIN star mean to you?
It felt like a graduation. We worked very hard to be the best and we were rewarded with one of the most excellent markers of culinary achievement. The fact that we were able to retain our star for the second year running helps reinforce our efforts and is a motivating sign that we are giving quality to our guests.

What advice do you have for young chefs?
Cooking is a philosophy of life where values and ethics are just as important as aesthetics. You must care and respect everything and everyone around you, starting with yourself, the produce, colleagues, environment and your guests.


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