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Executive Chef Victor Zanotti

Executive Chef Victor Zanotti was born in Peru, South America, in 1984 and adopted by an Italian family from northern Italy when he was a year old. He grew up immersed in family culinary traditions in Varese, a charming green city near Milan. Sundays were special, as his large family of more than 40 people gathered for lunch at his paternal grandparents’ house. His passion for cooking was ignited by these family gatherings, where everything was homemade: from bread and pasta to meats, cheeses, vegetables, and desserts. Chef Victor’s family has always run a farm, which has since evolved into a farm restaurant. He pursued culinary education at the De Filippi Institute in Lombardy.


At 21, after finishing my studies, he began traveling with Princess Cruises, completing two six-month contracts in the USA. His journey took him through the Caribbean, Mexico, the Mediterranean, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, and French Polynesia. At 26, he returned to Italy, working in various Italian restaurants for a decade and welcoming his daughter, Sara, into the world. Her birth motivated Chef Victor to excel further and seek new opportunities.


At 34, he became the Italian Specialty Chef at Vakkaru in the Maldives, managing Isoletta Restaurant and Cabana Pool Bar. This incredible experience led him to spend six years in the Maldives, working at various resorts, including Cocoon Maldives, Raffles Maldives and Sun Siyam Iruveli. Currently, he is working in Bahrain, leading a team on Reef Island, where they are busy re-branding this stunning resort with 39 villas and 102 rooms, blending Oriental cuisine’s spices with local products.


Do you have a favorite time of the year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?

Of course, if I’m in Italy, I love the autumn season as it gives us the best ingredients. Porcini and chanterelle mushrooms must be on the menu, followed by pumpkin, grapes, and, of course, one of the best ingredients in the kitchen: the white truffle! Whether with risotto, pasta, or a nice steak, those ingredients are the pinnacle of culinary delight.


What would you do if you weren’t a chef?

I never thought about what I would do outside the kitchen. I’ve always had a passion for cooking, which is why I became a chef. I constantly motivate myself and my team to cook with love because we are passionate food lovers.

Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?

My preferences adapt to the country and the guests I’m working with. Of course, the plate design will reflect my or my staff’s preferences. However, in terms of taste, I adapt to the guests’ preferences. For example, pasta al dente is not always welcome.


What do you think is the most over-hyped food trend currently?

In my opinion, the most over-hyped food trend right now is molecular cuisine. While it’s fascinating to see innovative techniques and scientific principles being applied to cooking, I feel that we are starting to overdo it with this trend. The use of foams, gels, and unusual textures can be exciting at first, but it often seems to prioritize style over substance. The focus tends to be more on the visual spectacle and less on the actual taste and satisfaction of the food. Personally, I prefer traditional flavors and recipes. There is something deeply comforting and satisfying about dishes that have been passed down through generations, each with its unique history and cultural significance.


Traditional cuisine often emphasizes fresh, high-quality ingredients and time-honored cooking methods that bring out the natural flavors of the food. These recipes have stood the test of time for a reason, and they offer a sense of authenticity and connection to our heritage that modern trends sometimes lack. While I appreciate the creativity and artistry that goes into molecular cuisine, I believe that it should complement rather than overshadow the core elements of good cooking: taste, texture, and enjoyment. Traditional dishes, with their rich flavors and comforting familiarity, will always have a special place in my heart and on my plate.


When are you happiest?

When I’m cooking for my friends and family, especially with my daughter. I love teaching her new recipes and letting her taste new flavors from my trips. She learns something new every time she joins me.

When you’re not in the kitchen, where can you be found?

I was a triathlete when I was 25 years old, and the passion I kept from that is swimming. I love to swim, so you will find me in a swimming pool, lake, or the sea. I prefer open water swimming.


Where is your favorite place to dine?

I love trying Michelin-starred restaurants to get new ideas and experiences. However, I also enjoy the trattoria style when I’m in Italy, focusing on hearty, worker-style meals like polenta, beef stew, roasted chicken, fresh homemade pasta, and warm focaccia from a wood oven.

What’s your favorite takeaway or comfort food?

Recently, I have started to love Asian food, especially Shabu-Shabu. It’s a kind of hot pot with different ingredients and garnishes, very tasty and highly customizable.

What makes the local food scene so exciting?

If you shop at local farm shops or farmers’ markets, you are likely to be introduced to some new foods that are unique to your area. Buying and eating locally allows you to discover new and exciting flavor combinations and sample local delicacies. You may even find a new favorite food or ingredient.


Which is the dish you’ve created that you are proudest of and why?

I revised a recipe from my Zia Maria. She taught me Casoncelli from Brescia and Manzo all’olio, which is beef confit under Garda extra virgin olive oil. I combined these two recipes to create Casoncelli all’olio. It’s a type of raviolo stuffed with beef confit and served with beef jus, olive tapenade, and Parmesan crunches.


You’re having friends over for dinner tonight. What’s on the table?

I would like to let them taste different dishes from my travels, which they always appreciate. They enjoy tasting small, fine dining bites rather than one large meal course. These are, of course, always served with a very cold bottle of prosecco.

Name your favorite city that has it all: food, culture, and nightlife.

My favorite city that truly has it all is Manama, the vibrant capital of Bahrain. The culinary scene in Manama is exceptional, offering traditional Bahraini dishes like Machboos, a spiced rice dish with meat or fish, alongside a wide array of international cuisines. The local markets, or souks, are filled with exotic spices, dates, and sweets, providing an authentic taste of the region’s flavors.


Culturally, Manama is a treasure trove with numerous historical sites and museums that showcase Bahrain’s rich heritage. The Bahrain National Museum and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Qal’at al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) are must-visits, offering insights into the island’s storied past. Additionally, the city hosts various cultural festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating everything from music and art to literature and theater.

When it comes to nightlife, Manama offers a lively and diverse scene that caters to all tastes. From trendy rooftop bars and chic nightclubs to traditional Arabic lounges and live music venues, there is always something happening in Manama after dark. What sets Manama apart is the sense of equilibrium and safety it offers, making it possible to explore the city’s vibrant nightlife, culinary delights, and cultural treasures with peace of mind.

Can you tell us more about the cuisine at your restaurants?

At the moment, we have five outlets in Reef Boutique Hotel in Manama. These include:

  • Japanese Restaurant ‘Ronin 47’ with an Omakase concept, handled by Chef Iwan from Indonesia
  • An Oriental Restaurant and Shisha lounge with Arabic cuisine, managed by Chef Amer from Jordan
  • A Chocolaterie with pastries and desserts, led by Pastry Chef Hero from Indonesia
  • An International Restaurant, Pool Delight
  • Opening soon: One Pizzeria with Pinsa Romana and a South American Lounge with Latin vibes.


Recipe of Lomo Saltado : 


Ingredients Unit Quantity
Beef tenderloin MB 6-7 kg 0.220
Fresh Roma tomato kg 0.090
Red Onion kg 0.040
Potato Agria kg 0.040
Violet Potato kg 0.050
Sweet Potato kg 0.050
Lomo saltado Demi Glace kg 0.100
saltado sauce
Red onion kg 0.080
Black garlic kg 0.015
Soya sauce lt 0.030
Worcestershire sauce lt 0.030
Sesame oil lt 0.011
Beef Demi-glace kg 0.100
Balsamic vinegar lt 0.040
EVO lt 0.040
H2O lt 0.600



  1. Cut the beef across the grain into roughly 1/2-inch-thick strips.
  2. In a wok or large cast iron or stainless steel skillet, heat 30ml of oil over high heat until heavily smoking.
  3. Meanwhile, season the beef all over with salt. Working in batches, add just enough beef to the pan to sear it heavily without steaming in its own juices.
  4. Spread the beef around so the pieces are evenly spaced apart and allow to cook until very well seared and charred on one side, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Stir and toss the beef so that it cooks all over, about 30 seconds longer. If you are working over a gas flame and aren’t afraid of some fire, toss the beef near the flame so that the oil briefly combusts in big bursts. (If this makes you nervous, don’t allow it to catch fire. Instead, manage the heat to prevent flare-ups.)
  6. Using a spatula, transfer the beef to a platter to rest.
  7. Repeat with the remaining beef, always getting the pan smoking-hot before the next batch and adding more oil if needed.
  8. When all the beef is cooked, return the empty pan to high heat.
  9. Add 15ml of oil and heat until smoking. Working in batches, add just enough red onion to the pan so that it sears and browns rapidly without steaming, about 30 seconds. Toss a few times until the onion is crisp-tender. Using a spatula, transfer the onion to a platter.
  10. Repeat with the remaining onion, always heating the pan until smoking first and adding more oil if necessary.
  11. Add 15ml of oil and heat until smoking. Add the tomatoes to the pan, allowing them to sear on one side for about 30 seconds. Try not to let the tomatoes grow too soft and pulpy; it’s better that they retain their shape rather than brown to the point of becoming mushy.
  12. Add garlic and ginger and cook, tossing and stirring constantly, until lightly sautéed and fragrant, about 15 seconds.
  13. Add demi-glace, sesame oil, soy sauce, and vinegar, and toss to combine.
  14. Return the beef and all accumulated juices to the pan along with the red onions. Toss over high heat to combine well, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Remove from heat and serve with violet and yellow potatoes that have been boiled in advance.



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