Written by Mika Apichatsakol
July issue ‘Italian’, 2023
Born and raised in a small village just outside of Verona, Italy, Chef Marco Avesani was introduced to the love of cooking at a young age by his father, who was also a chef with his own restaurant. At 15 (an age when many young Italians are equipped with a scooter and an encouragement to start working), he started to pursue his career in F&B, working in restaurants as well as other hospitality-related jobs. Eventually, work would lead him to other areas of Italy and Europe and then to Dubai, where Marco worked as a line cook at Italian fine dining restaurant Roberto’s.
After a little over a year in the UAE, in 2017, Marco decided to move to Thailand at the age of 27. “I had visited Thailand years earlier and loved it. Southeast Asia is really diversified and unique when it comes to food, Thailand especially. We don’t have as big of an international community in Italy,” notes the chef.
In Bangkok, he took the opportunity to further his culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu Dusit with an overlapping internship at J’AIME by Jean-Michel Lorain, before getting appointed as the Four Seasons Chiang Mai’s Mediterranean chef. After two and a half years, Marco rose to ranks of executive chef, first at the Oriental Residence Bangkok and now at Sukhumvit 49’s Italian fine dining mainstay La Bottega di Luca.
Despite being fine dining, there’s a warmth about La Bottega that makes its luxury more approachable and inviting. A big part of that has to do with the chef’s own friendly energy and welcoming nature. It doesn’t matter if you are Thai rapper Twopee, beauty icon Aum Patchara, or anyone else everyone who walks through La Bottega’s doors is treated like family.
Besides engaging with guests, Chef oversees the kitchen and the menu. No one region of Italy is singled out at La Bottega. Rather, Chef is passionate about bringing the best ingredients from the entire nation to the table.
“It doesn’t matter if it comes from around my hometown or not,” says the chef. “In Italy, every place has the best product of something. Italy is truly blessed with the best ecosystem for growing products like tomato, cheeses, cold cuts, wine—our cooking is all about showcasing these fine products.”
Devotion to the ingredients seems to be the indisputable truth, the creed, of Italian cuisine, no matter whom in the industry you talk to. Chef Marco explains further, “My father has been the biggest influence on how I am as a chef. I grew up around his philosophy of ‘product and people’. You need to search for the best product possible, and you need to know how to take care of people and that includes the people who make the product. The food that you cook is precisely based on that.”
Proud of everything that comes out from the kitchen at La Bottega, if Chef had to choose favourites, two simple things hold a special place in his heart: “The focaccia and the gelato. My team and I make everything ourselves, but I’m still so impressed by how good these two always come out! It’s the consistency that makes the difference.”
When asked if there’s anything he would like to see more of the local food scene, Marco calls for a return to our roots:
“I think a part of Thailand likes to be modern and try new things, but I think in terms of food, we should be looking back to where we came from, to what our mothers and fathers cooked, what they ate, what their parents ate and how they prepared it. To me, food is culture; food is where you come from. It’s that simple. Food is geographic, and it’s also historic. There are reasons our mothers and fathers ate what they ate or prepared food in a certain process. For example, in Verona, horse is part of the diet because there was once a war there and people would resort to eating their horses when they died, for sustenance. There is a story there.”
He adds, “I do think there’s a new generation of chefs in Thailand who are doing this beautifully, focusing on traditional, local ingredients and bringing them out in the best Thai way. In Italy, Italians only do what they do, and we try to do it to the best. You would never expect an Italian to make their food in a Thai way or any other way, so you shouldn’t expect Thais to compromise on their food either. You can always elevate food by making it nicer or with bolder presentation, but you have to first know how to make it right. You get my point?”
Marco tells me that as a chef, he is frequently asked what is the most important utensil in the kitchen is? “The answer is a passport!” exclaims Marco passionately. “The passport is the single most important utensil for a chef!”
Chef is a staunch believer of discovering cultural cuisine at its most authentic by seeing what real people on the ground eat. To non-Italians, he likes to implore, “Go to Italy! And go check out what the Italians are eating!” I’m sure any person on the receiving end of his message would be happy to oblige.
You may be surprised to learn that, in terms of foreign foods, Chef is quite enthusiastic about American food, particularly that of the southern states. He is planning a trip to the USA next year, when he hopes to visit places like Texas and Missouri, in addition to the West Coast. “It’s a really weird place, but the food there is amazing!” says Chef. “American food, the American chefs—they are really good at what they’re doing, and there is some really interesting and even some classy stuff coming up there.”
Some of Chef’s other favourite foreign cuisines including yakitori, Korean BBQ, and Northern Thai cuisine. “There is something sharp in flavour about Northern Thai food. I love it!”
He loves it so much, in fact, that he has a second residence there and likes to go up when he has time, especially in the cooler months towards the end of the year, and ride his bike in search of new food spots and ingredients.
As someone who seems so passionate about what he does and invested in the here and the now, I gandered a guess that Avesani isn’t that crazy over stars.
“I measure success by my own happiness. Of course, awards are great, and they can give you a lot of opportunities, but I think if I ever got a Michelin star, I would still be thinking the same: Am I happy with what I’m doing and who I am? I think you don’t have to work at a three-Michelin-star restaurant to be considered successful. You can open a small shop and make it really nice and make it your own, and that’s just as respectable. Doing what you love is success.”
Outside of fulfilling his personal vision of success and eating his way around the world, the chef enjoys working out or getting in a good run in the morning. “I do it to de-stress. I just throw away my phone for an hour and a half, so no one can find me,” he says while miming tossing his phone. Off the clock, you might also find Marco reading or hanging out at some of his favourite bars in Bangkok. “I like Vesper,” he says. “I feel like I’m a part of the joke inside there, and the drinks are always great.”
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