Fernando Trocca is one of Argentina’s most recognised chefs both locally and abroad, not only for his unmistakable flair in the kitchen but also for his dapper appearance and distinct style, with his signature beard, coiffed hair and black rimmed glasses. His role as executive chef for the Gaucho Restaurant chain requires him to travel regularly to London, a platform which has allowed him to promote Argentine cuisine to an international audience, introducing exciting contemporary elements to both the food and drinks menu, while still honouring a distinct Argentine identity.
Indeed, he is quite humble when it comes to talking about Argentine cuisine, which he regards as a hybrid of Spanish and Italian cuisine, shaped by the country’s various waves of immigration. Tellingly, Argentina is the only country in South America which uses parsley instead of cilantro in its local dishes.
We interviewed him at his home in a secluded leafy neighbourhood on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, a property which he has lovingly refurbished and designed with his wife Delfina Magrane and close friend Argentine architect Alejandro Sticotti.
How did your love affair with food begin?
From a very early age. I think I was 6. There were two stages, my initial love for food and then the realisation that i wanted to work with it. My grandmother was a cook and we were very close. I ate lunch with her every day for 7 years. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her, at that time she ran a pension in San Telmo. She showed me, taught me and inspired me to want to do this. The second stage was deciding I actually wanted to dedicate my life to cooking and make a career out of it. I wasn’t getting good grades at school, my relationship with my dad at the time wasn’t great, and I dropped out of school 6 months before the end of High School.
Back then there weren’t celebrity chefs, and cooking schools were a novelty. There was a new cookery school opening up in Bariloche. I decided to go to the South but never ended up doing the course, the school was still being built, and ultimately never opened. I got my first proper job there, working in the bathroom of a nightclub. I returned to Buenos Aires and began working in a restaurant called La Tartine. It was in vogue at the time, one of the first to combine good food and a relaxed atmosphere, a mix of bohemians and intellectuals. It was a great experience and my first taste of working in a restaurant. I’ve been fortunate to have work with talented chefs along the way who helped me learn, namely Francis Malmann and El Gato Dumas.
Tell us about Sucre, the restaurant you own in Buenos Aires.
Sucre launched a month before the crisis hit in 2002. It was a chaotic moment but it proved to be a success. We worked well and were able to recoup our initial investment far quicker than we had anticipated. Obviously over the years, there have been many changes, in terms of our vision and the direction we’ve taken.
What are your greatest loves and passions apart from food?
I like to travel. I like music and I’m open to listening to anything. I saw the Berlin Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall on a recent trip to London. I buy lots of cookery books as I like to experiment in my spare time. Lately I’ve been inspired by Lebanon. Israel is my next stop.
What do you love about Buenos Aires?
I love the people. I like where I live. It’s very interesting and culturally rich both in terms of its food and music.
What do you hate?
The violence and not feeling safe, mainly because I used to live without any fears.
Tell us about one of your secret spots in the city.
Don Carlos, a parilla in front of the Boca Juniors football pitch or the riverside in the Vicente Lopez neighbourhood.
Text : Vanessa Bell
All photos by Emma Livingston.
Fernando will be launching a new book in November. For up to date information about his various projects, visit his website.