Tuesday 24 April 2018

Jamie Oliver pays tribute to ‘charismatic’ former boss Antonio Carluccio

The chef – who has died aged 80 – had more work in the pipeline, his representative said.

Antonio Carluccio
Antonio Carluccio

By Lucy Mapstone, Press Association Deputy Entertainment Editor

Jamie Oliver has led tributes to the “charismatic charming don of all things Italian” Antonio Carluccio, who has died aged 80.

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Carluccio died after a fall at his home on Wednesday.

The chef, dubbed the Godfather of Italian gastronomy, had more work in the pipeline and was planning a trip across Italy’s Amalfi Coast next year, his representative said.

He was also working on a number of books and was in talks to appear on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen.

“He was my first London boss at the Neal Street restaurant 25 years ago which was an institution and Mecca of wild mushrooms where I had the pleasure of working for him.

“He was such a charismatic charming don of all things Italian!! Always hanging out the front door of the restaurant with a big fat Cigar a glass of something splendid and his amazing fuzzy white hair.”

Oliver credited Carluccio for getting him “hooked” on pasta and that he found him “so very inspirational”.

“I also had the pleasure of making and producing his TV show the Two Greedy Italians with his life long best friend and partner in crime @gennarocontaldo who were hilarious together!!” he added.

“He was an amazing food ambassador that will be sorely missed.

“My love goes out to his partner Sabina his family and his dear and close friends on this very sad day. Viva Antonio Carluccio. Cook a feast up there mate.”

Former Saturday Kitchen host James Martin said in a statement: “It was a privilege and an honour to have met and worked with Antonio, one of the true greats of TV chefs.

“His passion and commitment to both the restaurant business and to television was lifelong. He was a giant in the food world and he helped bring Italian food to the masses around the world.”

This Morning chef Gino D’Acampo wrote on Twitter: “I’d like to dedicate tonight’s episode of ‘Italian Coastal Escape’ to my good friend Antonio @CookCarluccio.

“Sending all my love to his family. I will remember the good times we had together xxxx.”

Nigella Lawson tweeted the Italian for rest in peace for Carluccio: “Riposi in pace.”

Food writer William Sitwell said he was due to work with his “wonderful friend” Carluccio next week at an awards ceremony.

The saddest news. One of the loveliest people, and a really wonderful friend, Antonio Carluccio, has died. He was due to stay with me next week to help present the Northants Food and Drink Awards and I was so looking forward to seeing him and giving him an illustration I just had framed. It accompanied the last piece he wrote for me, a beautiful memory of his war years, and the illustration depicted him at his bedroom window above the station-masters house where he lived as a child. He loved the picture and said it showed exactly the scene in his own memory. I was so lucky to get to know him well over the years. I often visited him at his home in Wandsworth chatting over the big wooden table where he would write - always by hand in pencil. And he never stopped writing books. When one ended he simply started another. In one corner of the room were huge numbers of walking sticks - he would whittle in his spare time. And everywhere there were mushroom related ornaments. He was famous for his love of funghi so every damn person thought a mushroom-related piece of art would make a great present. He came to London in the wine business after working for the Italian typewriter firm Olivetti and through Terence Conran and his sister Priscilla - who he married - he got into the food business starting a cafe in Covent Garden. The rest is history. I will so miss him. His filthy jokes, his amazing array of expresso machines, his collection of chilled and jarred mushrooms, his wonderful conversation, the strong Italian accent that never left him. How lucky Emily and I were over the summer when we saw him ambling through the Chelsea Arts Club and he joined us both for dinner. 'I don't drink anything these days,' he said as I offered him a glass of wine. 'Only whisky.' Then that grin, that laugh, the shock of thick white curly hair. He had such warmth and at 80 great energy. He was only working in Australia very recently. It is so sad but what an absolute joy to know that he really was a friend. Every mushroom growing quietly beneath a pile of leaves in one of the secret woods that only he knew about might shed a little tear knowing he will never pick one of them again.

A post shared by William Sitwell (@williamsitwell) on

Sitwell added, in a post on Instagram, that he will “so miss” Carluccio’s “filthy jokes, his amazing array of expresso machines, his collection of chilled and jarred mushrooms, his wonderful conversation, the strong Italian accent that never left him.”

French chef Raymond Blanc tweeted: “Heard the sad news of a dear colleague’s departure & a truly dear friend, possibly the most loved italien man in the country by his team-the nation.”

Chef Michel Roux Jr tweeted: “So sad, true gentleman, mighty fine cook, with an infectious laugh, crafty poker player as my old man knows too well RIP Antonio.”

Chef Lorraine Pascale praised Carluccio as “an incredible man”.

Carluccio was known for his restaurant chain Carluccio’s and for appearing on BBC Two series Two Greedy Italians along with chef Gennaro Contaldo.

Carluccio opened the Neal Street Restaurant in Covent Garden in 1981, when he was named runner-up Sunday Times Cook of the Year.

The restaurant was patronised by the Prince of Wales and Sir Elton John, and launched Oliver’s career before it closed 10 years ago.

He co-founded the high street restaurant chain Carluccio’s in 1999 and was awarded the AA hospitality lifetime achievement award in 2012.

He later sold his interest in the restaurant chain but maintained involvement from a distance.

Brought up in the country’s north-west region as one of six children, Carluccio briefly worked as a journalist in Turin before moving to Vienna and then Germany, and eventually to London to work as a wine merchant, before devoting himself to restaurants.

Carluccio has written more than a dozen books based on Italian food.

He received the Commendatore, the equivalent of a British knighthood, from the Italian government in 1998 for services to Italy.

In 2007, Carluccio received an OBE from the Queen for his services to the catering industry.

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