In the kitchen with Sopra's head chef

Watching his mother create Italian treats at home kicked off a love of cooking for Michael D'Amico, head chef and owner of Sopra Ristorante & Bar in Shellharbour Village.

What is the thing you enjoy most about cooking?

I enjoy the creativity that comes with being a chef. To create something from scratch that people can enjoy gives me such a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

What is the secret to the perfect pasta?

I am taking this question to be in relation to making actual pasta - I believe the secret is to work with exact measurements. Do not take short cuts and make sure you give enough attention to the dough when working it together.

Do you prefer tomato or cream-based pasta sauces?

Neither. I personally prefer oil- based. It is lighter on the stomach and allows for a much wider array of produce and products to be incorporated into these types of dishes.

What is your favourite pizza topping and why?

Pepperoni and chilli, because it is simple, flavoursome and, in my opinion, it is what a pizza should be, specific and simple. Let the flavours speak for themselves.

What is your perfect meal to cook at home with your family?

A quick oil-based pasta which I can rummage through the fridge and throw in whatever takes my fancy on the day. It is quick and easy and allows me to get in more quality time with my family.

What is a dish you have been too nervous to create?

Definitely soufflé because I have no specific training in this area and it has always been something I wish I could do better - there is still time to learn!

How do you relax after a busy day in the kitchen?

I like to come home and relax with my beautiful wife and daughter, Genova. They are the reason I work as hard as I do and their happiness is all I need to make me happy.

If you had 30 minutes to prepare a meal for an unexpected guest, what would you make?

I would treat my guest to an onslaught of antipasto. I have a deep passion for Italian cold cuts (I have been making prosciutto, salami, coppa and pork belly with my family since I can remember), marinated vegetables in oil or vinaigrettes, fresh cheeses and Italian breads.

I like serving these to my guests as I feel they really display and highlight my cultural heritage and they don't require my being stuck in the kitchen too long.

Other than Italian, what is your favourite cuisine?

I really enjoy eating sushi. I enjoy the freshness and the creativity of it. I feel that it is a very innovative way to present and prepare food and it is a cuisine that couldn't be further away from what I do.

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