[White text on a black screen reads Guy Grossi, executive chef and owner, Grossi Restaurants. In the right hand corner, the logo for Gusto! A culinary history of Victoria appears.]
[On a window above a door, the name Grossi Florentino is painted in gold letters.]
Guy Grossi: It first started as a restaurant way back in 1918, actually …
[A dark-haired man in a chef’s uniform sits at one of the elegantly set tables in a stately restaurant.]
Guy: … and it was called ... It was a restaurant called Café Denat, and it was Samual Wynn of Wynn’s Wines …
[A young man walks through the empty restaurant and opens a cupboard. In a glass cabinet, wine bottles are stored in racks.]
Guy: … and he ran it as Café Denat till about 1928 when Rinaldo Massoni purchased the leasehold from him.
[In a different elegant room, a uniformed waiter sets an empty table. On each table, long breadsticks stand in glasses. In the background, a chef works in the open kitchen.
[Gold writing on a window reads The Grill. Staff work in the empty restaurant.]
Guy: In the ’50s, Leon Massoni and George Tsindos did The Grill downstairs and that was done by an architect called Robin Boyd who was very famous at the time and did a lot of work around Melbourne and also internationally, I believe.
[The walls of Grossi Florentino feature large murals depicting picturesque scenes of Italian life.]
Guy: Napier Waller did the murals with some of his students, and they have quite a bit of a history in themselves, the actual murals that hang on these walls, which are part of the fabric of the building now.
[Uniformed staff work in The Grill.]
Guy: Running a place like this is like running a really big household, times a hundred. You’ve got everything happening – you’ve got linen, you’ve got glassware, you’ve got furniture, you’ve got windows and carpets and everything. It just keeps on going. So it’s a constant maintenance. And it’s also about keeping the essential parts of the restaurant and the spirit alive.
[Low on a wall near the kitchen, a colourful battered sign in a black frame reads, Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.]
Guy: I’m very proud of my Italian culture ... my Italian background, rather, and my Italian culture. But I’m also equally, if not more, proud of my Australian background and my Australian culture because my father chose to come here, he settled here. We thank him as a family for that every day because we couldn’t ... wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. I love going to Italy and getting that firsthand 'whoosh' of culture and you know, just that … that refreshing intensity of flavours and great vegetables and great oils and people just cooking beautiful, simple food and making something really special out of it, but I always love to come back home because Melbourne is home. And I guess, in a way, that is how I look at my cooking on a plate.
If I was an Italian chef living in Chianti, would I use the local wine? The answer’s simply yes. Would I use a local cheese? Yes. Would I use a local salami? Yes. So why should I change that ethos? My ethos is Italian but I’m in Melbourne. So do I use the local vegetables grown half an hour out of Melbourne that somebody grows lovingly and caringly and brings to our back door, the guy who grows them brings them, and brings beautiful heirloom carrots that almost have been lost but now he brings them to us? Well, I say yes because that is a beautiful Australian product, it’s a Victorian product. But if we were in Italy, I’d be doing the same thing. And kind of this is how I think ... for the plate, you know. It’s an Italian way of thinking, it’s an Italian heritage that we put things together with, but at the same time, if there’s a product out there that is local and that perhaps isn’t necessarily a traditional Italian product …
[Chefs work in the kitchen, cutting meat and making salad. Large saucepans sit on a stove.]
Guy: … well, we would be very un-Italian not to look at it at least, and try it and see if it works with our cooking. Funny thing happens when a migrant starts to adapt to a new land – the new land starts to adapt to them. It’s something which you don’t need to think about. It actually happens by osmosis because the influences are constantly being seeded around the place. So as we’re looking for new … for Italian ingredients that aren’t necessarily available, the Chinese are doing the same and there tends to be crossover. There has to be cross-pollination. Is this a bad thing? I think not. It’s not a bad thing because, again, we go back to the psyche of the Italian cook – it is to use the best of what’s available to you and what’s closest to you. So if the Chinese guy down the road is growing the best zucchini, that’s who you’re gonna buy them from, and you’re certainly gonna get influenced by his family and by the things that he does, perhaps. So things can cross over.
[A chef pounds food in a mortar and pestle. He squeezes liquid into his hand and tips it in.]
Guy: Now our food is less structured. It’s more natural, it’s more real, it’s more earthy. I think we’re taking a pendulum swing back to that, away from some of those over-complicated preparations that you have to sometimes question – are you improving the product? You might be adding a bit of wow factor there, but is what you’re actually eating any better for it? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. In some cases, yes. But in many cases, probably not. So, less structure, bit less formal, bit more friendly, bit more hospitality driven. Absolutely. Absolutely. And I would be mortified if I thought any of my guys were looking down and being condescending on any of our customers and being overly pompous in any of our restaurants, especially one where they’re paying the most money for. Our customers need to feel like kings. They’re the ones coming to us. So we have to make them as comfortable as possible when they’re here. If that means making them feel relaxed and letting them take their coats off so they can enjoy their food, well, that’s what we do. And I think it’s still fine dining. And some of our great restaurants that have opened up in recent times are fine dining restaurants but they’re simple and they’re relaxed. That’s great.
[White credits on a black screen:
Senior producer: Andrew Barrie, Lightwell
Production assistant: Fiona McCallum, Lightwell
Editor: Steve McCallum
Direction and camera assistance: Antuong Nguyen
Cinematographer: Gus Kemp
Interviewer: Tracey Judd Iva (Gusto! exhibition curator)
Exhibition manager: Edwina Bartlem
Exhibition coordinator: Eleanor Adams
Guy Grossi, interviewed at Grossi Florentino, Melbourne
Concepts and research: Robert Heather, Tracey Judd Iva, Ann Carew, Edwina Bartlem, Anna Corkhill
Special thanks: Melissa Grossi and Elizabeth Rodriguez, Grossi Restaurants]
[The logo for Gusto! A culinary history of Victoria appears above the words A State Library of Victoria exhibition, 3 August 2012 – 28 April 2013. slv.vic.gov.au/gusto
The logos for State Library of Victoria and State Government of Victoria appear underneath.]
[Three rows of logos appear:
Sponsored by: City of Melbourne, William Angliss Institute.
Supported by: Markets of Melbourne.
Program partners: Bank of Melbourne, Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, The Little Veggie Patch Company and The Sebel Heritage, Yarra Valley.]