🌟✨ Elevate Your Christmas Eve at Level Nine! ✨🍽️ By popular demand and in celebration of our recent triumphs at The Definitive(ly) Good Guide Malta & Gozo 2024 Awards, Level Nine by Oliver Glowig opens
A Young Master of Culinary Innovation in Gozo
When it comes to combining the new and different, Chef Luke Rapa is a master in the making.
Chef Luke Rapa’s journey began in his hometown right here on Gozo where he developed a love for cooking at a young age. With Australian roots, he trained both in Oz and Scotland and has earned his stripes as a young adult in many a Gozo restaurant. His passion for food, creativity, and attention to detail has earned him a reputation as one of the most talented young chefs on the island and these are just a few reasons why one80 has bagged him in their state-of-the-art, open kitchen.
He has worked at some of the most renowned local restaurants in Gozo and Malta and it was during his time at these restaurants that he developed his unique approach to cooking, which blends classic techniques with modern innovation.
Idolising the likes of 3-starred Wolfgang Puck, who was pivotal in the rise of modern fusion cuisine, Rapa loves to combine classic techniques with Asian influences, using local bounty – as long as it has passion and simplicity at its core.
Luke is cool and calm in the kitchen, which makes for a harmonious environment. Unlike the old paradigm ‘shouty’ chefs, he prefers a softly, softly approach to learning. “It would have to be something extraordinary for me to lose my head.” He smiles. He has experienced the aforementioned and believed that it did not make him a better chef. “Nobody wants to be shouted at, there has to be discipline, yes, but at the end of the day, it’s about keeping yourself happy. If you are happy, your food is happy too.“
Admitting he gains inspiration and his palette from travelling the world and meeting new people, Rapas’ bucket list destinations are the Middle East, Morrocco, Turkey, and Vietnam. Although he now leads a team of 14+ at one80 and does not have much time for that, he has an eclectic and international crew that adds much collective flavour to their menu, especially when it comes to sharing ideas. They love to brainstorm and test things out. ” It’s the only way something becomes new,” Chef adds.
Loving the learning that comes with new techniques and playing with flavour combinations it was interesting to me that Luke focused on the hardships of introducing new things to a local audience. He wishes things were different here as it can sometimes be stifling. Following trends and the market is one thing, but bringing the essence of his and his team’s creativity to Gozo sadly may be a way off.
I for one think his menu is innovative and accommodating. It caters for everyone, and that is no easy feat.
One of Chef Luke Rapas’ favourite things to do is use the grill. He prides himself on his meat-cooking skills and explains the meticulous science behind cooking a good rib eye which I won’t go into now as it was extensive! But still, he laughs, “There are always customers that think they know better!”
A lover of gastronomy, curing, and the simple yet precise French technique of Sous Vide and much the same as his idle Wolfgang, Luke is a simple chef with an approach to life that is much the same.
“I’m not a fan of all the tweezers, and other utensils a good chef is supposed to use.” He says. His chef and paring knives give him all the precision he needs.
When he is not at work he sleeps and eats Pizza (his favourite thing to eat when he doesn’t cook up a treat!).
Luke Rapa is most lifted when the kitchen is busy and the energy of the team is high. He loves the rush and when the orders come flying in and he is most fulfilled when the customers and boss are smiling.
It is clear to see how this young chef’s dedication to his craft and his commitment to the job has earned him a place among the culinary ones to watch on Gozo. He is a true inspiration to wannabe chefs and food lovers alike and will no doubt continue to shape the culinary landscape of the Maltese Islands for years to come. Hopefully here in Gozo!