When you’ve got a grandad who not only cooked for the queen but also rock n roll royalty, it figures that cheffing might just be in your blood.
Damien Ruggiero still cites his grandfather as his greatest inspiration in a culinary career that has already spanned two decades. Queen Elizabeth enjoyed her very first taste of spaghetti carbonara at the hands of Damien’s grandfather whilst she was on her honeymoon in 1947. His muse can also lay claim to being Michael Jackson’s private chef during the performer’s stay in Sicily. Inspiration indeed for a youngster to follow in those footsteps with his own career in the kitchen!
Commencing an apprenticeship at Neil Perry’s renowned Rockpool Restaurant in Sydney, it wasn’t too long before Damien felt the pull of his Italian heritage. He rolled up his knife kit to seek experience abroad, sharpening his skills across Italy, England and Sweden. Working numerous roles Damien sliced, diced, sautéed and sous-vide his way around all kinds of establishments from fine dining restaurants and five star hotels to catering companies and community pubs before a change of pace and personal circumstances brought him to tropical beaches and the bustling Bali food scene in 2016.
With an Italian family heritage and undeniable connection to that country’s cuisine, Damien secured the Executive Chef’s role at long time Bali institution and firm favourite among food lovers – La Lucciola in early 2017 – sharing his skills and passion for the flavours of the Mediterranean with his charges in the kitchen.
Damien joined what’s set to become another of Bali’s best restaurants – St Tropez at Finns in 2019. Yet despite donning his chef’s apron for twenty years, he still insists he is most at home among the frenetic pace of a busy kitchen surrounded by blossoming cooks who are eager to learn from his global experiences. “I don’t see myself as a chef just yet…. I’m still a cook and I love the service line!”