14 » OpenRoad Driver to purchase the property. But nothing felt just right until I got together with Top Table. How do you see restaurants consolidating these days? For sure there are now restaurant groups, but with the groups each restaurant has its own individuality. No restaurant has ever survived without an ambiance related to the place, because that also brings the type of people that would be interested in that type of place. You’ve written best-selling cookbooks and hosted your own TV shows over the years. I say “Umberto” and people know exactly who that is. What has the recognition or notoriety meant for you? I enjoy the recognition and love that people recognize me when I go out because I’m passionate about what I do in the culinary industry. You’re hosting culinary cruises through the Mediterranean. How long have you done that, and any plans to continue? I’ve been doing it for more than five years and will be hosting one this fall. I enjoy the cruises because it gives me a chance to see a lot of my customers. The Mediterranean in general is where I grew up, and the cruises allow me to revisit places I know. I can see their changes. I get to play the tourist, but I also enjoy sharing that part of the world with cruise travelers - the food, the wine, how people live. I take them to places they wouldn’t be able to go on their own because I have a lot of friends. The cruises for me are a way to connect people, and guests come back so satisfied, so happy. It changes their lives. Your Villa Delia in Ripoli is closed now but you named it for your mom. Tell me about her. Our whole family loved to cook, especially my mother. She was a beautiful cook. The kitchen was always the central part of our home. I grew up on a farm and my mother would cook with whatever was fresh from the garden that season. Her approach was to use ingredients that were fresh, simple and available at that time. When I think back to my childhood, the table was a celebration, a place we met to laugh, talk and reconnect with family. The food helped do that, and my mother would always say, ‘”Happy stomach, happy life.” Away from work, are you still golfing? What courses interest you? I love to play golf. I could sleep, eat and stay on a golf course, but I’m not a good golfer. I’m happy to play, but I’m not going to be the next Italian golf star. I tend to play when I’m on holiday, but two of my favourite courses are Pebble Beach in California and the Kukio Golf and Beach Club on the Big Island of Hawaii. Where would we find you dining and who impresses you lately? Other than one of your own impeccable restaurants! I can go almost anywhere. Many times it is at a restaurant where I know them and they know me. That’s why I’m there. For relaxation when I want something light and fresh with a glass of beer, I love Japanese restaurants like Tojo’s and Zest. If I’m going to the opera I might stop by Le Crocodile, Cioppino’s or Bishop’s, and if I’m driving home and didn’t have time to eat, I’ll stop at La Cucina in North Vancouver for a light pasta dish, a salad and a glass of wine. Didn’t you hire Michel Jacob, John Bishop and Pino Posteraro early on in their legendary careers? Yes, Michel, John, and Pino all worked with me and now each has their own restaurant. It makes me proud because I have a lot of respect for each of them and for their professional approach to the restaurant business. I hear you love to drive BMWs? What do you love about your X5M? I traded in my Porsche Cayenne turbo for the BMW X5M five years ago and it’s a fantastic car! The X5M is one of the most fun machines I’ve ever driven. RAPID FIRE If you had to choose your very last meal… I’d probably be so upset to be leaving, I wouldn’t eat! But maybe some homemade tagliolini with white truffle shavings. Reincarnation as an animal... A Shih Tzu Maltese cross. Red or white? Red. Most proud of? Building a villa and planting vineyards in Tuscany. I opened Villa Delia, a cooking school, so that people from all over the world could have a taste of Tuscany. Most beautiful thing I ever saw? Once, while I was on a cruise ship having a massage, I looked out the window to see the island of Stromboli. At that exact moment there were puffs of smoke emerging from its volcano! The timing was amazing! Last concert I attended? Adele, in Vancouver. You’ll never see me.... Eating bad food! If I could drive anything, it would be… A Ferrari.