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Four Seasons Hotel Seoul

  • 97, Saemunan-ro, Seoul, Jongno-gu, 03183, Korea
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Ciro Petrone

Italian Chef, Boccalino
“Since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved the idea of being a chef.”

 

Four Seasons Tenure

  • Since 2017
  • First Four Seasons Assignment: Current

Employment History

  • Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Hong Kong; Romeo Hotel, Naples; Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento; Palazzo Sasso, Amalfi Coast; Bulgari Hotel, Capri Palace, Capri; Splendido Portofino, Belmond; Park Hyatt, Milan

Birthplace

  • Naples, Italy

Education

  • Hotelier School, Naples, Italy

Languages Spoken

  • Italian, English

“The lifestyle of the kitchen is the same as my own – clear, simple and elegant,” notes Ciro Petrone of the inspiration he brings to his role as Italian Chef of Boccalino, the stylish and sizable Italian dining experience of Four Seasons Hotel Seoul.

Leading a kitchen and presenting his own menus for the first time in a very busy career, Petrone is driven by a desire for Boccalino “to be the best Italian restaurant in Seoul,” he says. “I want our guests to leave happy; the tastes to be the same through all bites; and the presentations as enjoyable for the eyes as for the mouth.” He pauses, then adds with a laugh: “They really love to do photos of the food here.”

Petrone was working as the number two chef at a Michelin-starred hotel restaurant in Hong Kong when he learned of the opportunity to lead Boccalino. Invited to prepare a tasting for consideration, he created a six-course menu best described as “Mediterranean in a modern way” – a departure from the restaurant’s initial offering of rustic Italian dishes more in line with what mama used to make.   

“I changed the style of authentic dishes a little bit to something that matches the look of the restaurant,” he says, referencing the gleaming metals, sun-splashed marble, and modern design touches of Boccalino. “The tastes and quality of my food are the same, but the presentation is simpler, more colourful and playful, almost like the ingredients are in motion on the plate.”

The Hotel’s General Manager was immediately impressed – with the food and with Petrone. “We hit it off from the first moment. He told me, ‘this is what I want next for the restaurant.’”

The reception from the team at Boccalino was similarly enthusiastic. The local cooks, who fashion salads, pizzas, pastas and more in an open kitchen that enables interaction with guests, are hungry to advance their knowledge of Italian culture and cuisine. “They give me all the support I need. My style is new to them. If they know they are learning, they want to work harder.”

Petrone grew up in Naples – “the city of the sun and the sea” – along southwestern coast of Italy. He was inspired to the kitchen watching his mother cook pasta, seafood, tomatoes and cheese for the family. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved the idea of being a chef.”

Following study at local hotelier school, Petrone began his career as a junior chef in catering and banqueting before joining hotel restaurants, many of them Michelin-starred, and moving seasonally within Italy in search of new experiences. Eventually, he landed with the one-Michelin-starred restaurant at a luxury hotel in Hong Kong. “It was my first experience overseas and with Asian culture. It was totally different from what I’d experienced in Italy. The more I learned, the more I appreciated it, and I decided to stay.”

Along the way, Petrone met and married Meggie Lee, a native Korean who is delighted to be back home in her country’s capital. “She’s my advantage here,” he says, noting that there is no shortage of restaurants serving Italian in Seoul. “When I cook for her at home and she says, ‘Oh, so this is real carbonara,’ I know I’m giving our Korean guests something they haven’t experienced before.”

Meantime, Petrone is thrilled with the opportunity to experience the booming metropolis around the Hotel – especially hunting for fresh ingredients and meeting suppliers at local markets. “I’m always drawn to the coast and the sea, but they’re a bit far away here. So I just enjoy my time exploring in the city.”