Global | Meet the Chef | Stefano Manara, Le Foote

With infinite family celebrations and festivities that revolve around food in Italy and having been surrounded by excellent and abundant food from a young age, Stefano Marano couldn't deny that food would soon become a big part of his life and, ultimately, one of the things he loves the most.

His passion and love for cooking, and hosting people were passed down by his grandmothers, who he said were incredible cooks in their different ways. Marano soon realised that cooking was not just about eating; instead, it represented a coming together, full of laughter, being in the moment, and bonding.

Marano is head chef at Le Foote, a Mediterranean grill restaurant in one of Australia's oldest pubs. He said this creates an atmosphere that is unique and rare to any other venue in Sydney. With three different areas to dine at La Foote, Marano said it feels like a beautiful old maze set in a different time.

The menu at Le Foote is a combination of various cuisines you would find in Europe, including Spain, Greece, France, and of course, Italy.

“We wanted to create a menu with familiar European flavours but not too defined to fall into specific traditional dishes. We want the food to be flexible and playful, with a big focus on Australian produce,” said Marano.

Marano loves to cook Mexican food, with a passion specifically for tacos and tortillas. He said that Mexican food sums up his favourite cooking things: fresh, textural, seasonal, fun, and sharable.

Last year, Marano spent a few months in Copenhagen, and worked with chefs such as Rosio Sanchez and Richard Hart, which was something he had always wanted to do, and an experience he would treasure forever.

Staffing is one of the biggest concerns for Marano, who said that the recent years could just be a taste of what is yet to come. 

“Post covid, many people have reconsidered their jobs and careers and moved to more stable and sustainable industries. I guess we all have to work hard to shine the light and bring the charm back to what is, in my eyes, one of the most fun and interesting industries to work in.”

Marano said there is a lot of choice and opportunity in the hospitality industry, and suggested that those just starting should be careful of their first steps as the foundations installed in them may shape them as a professional in the long run.

“I have always been fortunate to find good teachers and mentors on my path. From my time in England between brasseries and Michelin stars to my years at the Apollo with Jonathan Barthelmess, the time spent in Denmark and the most recent adventure as Head Chef at Le Foote, it has all been an incredible learning rollercoaster.”

Manaro has taken up pottery recently and has found a passion for how engaging it is and its ritual process. He said that it requires great concentration but also turns out to be super relaxing once you find your groove.

Manaro hopes to continue learning in the future and looks forward to perfecting his craft. He said he wouldn’t describe himself as a ‘Spring Chicken’ anymore and would like to open his own restaurant one day.

Although things have been challenging for the hospitality industry, Manara believes it has bounced back and will be stronger than ever.