Parana Vithanage Nishantha – Executive Chef and Emiliano Di Stefano – Executive Sous Chef at Baglioni Resort Maldives

Parana Vithanage Nishantha (to the right) is the Executive Chef and Emiliano Di Stefano (to the left) is the Executive Sous Chef at Baglioni Resort Maldives, a 5* luxury resort with an Italian grace located in the dreamy Dhaalu atoll.

Having worked extensively all over the world, Chef Parana and Chef Emiliano now bring their unmatched culinary know-how and skillset to the team at Baglioni Maldives.

Our team sat down with the chefs to know more about their passion for cooking and delve deeper into how Baglioni Maldives cater to its guests’ tastes.

Tell us a little bit about your careers so far?

Parana Vithanage Nishantha

Parana Vithanage Nishantha

Chef Parana: I started my career, back in 1982, in a small resort as an intern down south in Sri Lanka before moving to Colombo City Hotel. There, I got the opportunity to work with, an international company called Ramada. After that, I moved to Hilton International and after some time I moved to the Maldives in 1996. I started with Baros, then moved to Hilton Maldives, Huvafenfushi, Jumeirah, One & Only, Amilla Fushi, Finolhu and then The Ritz Carlton and now I’m here in Baglioni.

Chef Emiliano: I started doing this work 24 years ago. Studying at a culinary institute is not something I have done but I started working as a kitchen steward when I was 17 for 2 years because I wanted to work in the kitchen. So, I completed all my training and I ended up working as a Chef in Italy. I’ve been through ten regions of Italy so that I can have experience in most regional food and cuisines. Halfway through, I moved to Oman for the first time when I was 30 years old. Then I also worked in Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, and India. And now, for the first time, I’m in the Maldives, and I’m extremely excited about it.

What attracted you to a career as a chef?

Chef Parana: My mother had been an inspiration since she did outdoor catering, banqueting, and other things. She had a unique homestyle cooking in terms of spices and flavour which was delicious. I’d say, then, you know, I simply thought, it would be nice to be a chef. I wanted to be a financial controller in high school, but I changed my mind halfway through to become a chef.

Chef Emiliano: I was 7 years old when I cooked my first dish. It was a type of pasta and it was terrible because I had ended up using a whole garlic clove for just one portion. Cooking has always been a strong passion in my family, especially on my father’s side of the family which is the Sicilian side of the family. My aunts were amazingly talented cooks. I was fascinated with the cooking techniques and procedures they used but at that, but my mother did not approve of me being a chef at that time. So, I had to complete other studies, but the entire time I was still very much interested in cooking and pursuing a career in that field. Finally, I decided to pursue my passion for cooking and I can tell you, it’s the best job in the world.

How does Baglioni Maldives cater to its guests’ tastes?

Chef Parana: The guests at Baglioni Resort Maldives can look forward to exceptional dining from breakfast right through until after dinner, with an array of food and drink that will delight even the most discerning foodies. As an Italian brand we take great pride in offering Authentic Italian cuisine at our Gusto restaurant.with a menu offering traditional Mediterranean dishes with a contemporary twist and a scrupulous eye for the ingredients. Umami is very popular amongst all our guests for Japanese and Tepanyaki cooking. The International restaurant Taste presents its own blend of fine international cuisine at breakfast, lunch anddinner for those with a spirit of culinary adventure.

Emiliano Di Stefano

Chef Emiliano: There is an Italian style input in the resort and from my end, I focus on the authenticity of the Italian food. In addition, we also focus on the authenticity of all the different cuisines that we do here.

Could you tell us more about “Umami” and “Gusto”? What makes these restaurants so unique?

Chef Parana: The gourmet culture of Japan is a perfect complement to the Baglioni Hotels style, as form and substance come together in the Umami restaurant. The consummately crafted dishes marry a love of design with a meticulous insistence on using only the finest-quality ingredients. Tepanyaki is the unique selling factor at Umami. Which gives opportunity to showcase our culinary skills while interacting with the guests.

Chef Emiliano: Offering a feast of authentic Italian cuisine, Gusto is centerpiece of a stay with Baglioni Hotels and an ideal destination for a family dinner under the stars. Gusto is also a proud Regional winner for fine dining cuisine at the coveted World luxury hotel awards 2022

Do you incorporate our local cuisine into your dishes?

Chef Parana: Visit to Maldives is incomplete without tasting the rich Maldivian cuisine. We offer Maldivian flavors in our International restaurant taste starting from breakfast buffet where you can taste the most popular Maldivian dishes like Mashuni, roshi, rihakuru, and Maldivian curry. Our guests also indulge in other dishes served during lunch and dinner. We also organize special Maldivian cooking classes for our guests to learnsome of the typical recipes of Maldivian cuisine and find out more about the gastronomic culture of this country

What are the best dishes you’d recommend from here?

Chef Parana: With the experience, I have gained in the Maldives, there’s nothing like fresh seafood. It’s the best dish that most guests want to try. A nice, fresh seafood dish is my recommendation.

Chef Emiliano: I’m a big fan of fresh handmade pasta. The freshness of the ingredients is simply the best. I enjoy making fresh pasta and that will be my recommendation here.

What advice would you give a newcomer, someone who’s keen on joining the culinary industry?

Chef Parana: The most important thing is to be passionate. You must be passionate about your work. You must also have endurance. In the end, if you are passionate about the chef job, you will have a better chance of becoming a skilled chef.

Chef Emiliano: Being a chef, it’s simply the best job in the world. You need to have some kind of natural attitude towards this job. You are always pushed to the next level, and at the end of the day, you learn something new, a new skill. You can earn a lot of new memories because it’s all about making the best memories.