Food and football played a central role when Chef Emiliano Bernasconi was growing up in Lombardy in Northern Italy. He credits his grandmother with his love of cooking and every day after school he would go to her house, sit in the kitchen and watch her cook. It was the sights, sounds and smells wafting from the family kitchen, which inspired him to make a career in the culinary world.

He says he also wanted to be a chef because of the “possibility to travel and discover the world, the luxury of learning more about different countries, the history, their people and the culinary specialties.”

“I believe that becoming a chef is like becoming a priest. You really need to feel that this is what you want to do, your calling. If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life that is a necessary requirement in this career. We are very passionate people and that is what sets us apart from each other,” says Emiliano.

So strong was his calling to the culinary world and so eager was he to get into a kitchen that at 12 he started working as a dishwasher. While not the dream job he imagined, it gave him an opportunity to observe and learn, and eventually he began cooking with the chefs there. “I was always fascinated with food and cooking and couldn’t wait to start my career and go to university, so when I was able to get a job I got the only one available to me: a pot wash,” says Emiliano.

At 18, he was hired as a commis chef at the luxury Hotel Pitrizza, where his efforts to constantly learn and try new things continued.

Emiliano spent the next decade working his way up through the culinary ranks and building an impressive resume with positions in luxury hotels and leading independent dining venues in Italy, Switzerland, England and the UAE, including the Hotel Olden in Gstaad, and Four Seasons properties in London and Dubai. He also put in time with Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, as well as catering for the Arsenal and Chelsea football clubs. He was eventually appointed executive chef of the Armani Hotel Dubai and then later promoted as Director of Culinary, before he took up the position of Group Director of Culinary at Jas Hospitality group, known for its edgy and innovative food concepts.

Along the way, Emiliano has also picked up a raft of awards including a Gold Medal at the Milan Food Expo, finalist on the UK-based Young Chef competition, and Best Italian Restaurant in Dubai for Quattro at the Four Seasons Golf Club, and has also cooked for numerous VIPs, heads of state and royalty around the world.

Today as Director of Culinary of lebua Hotels & Resorts, Emiliano is at a major highpoint of his career. “I like to say that I began at the bottom washing pots and climbed up the ladder to the top of my profession,” he says.

“My goal and that of lebua Hotels & Resorts is to continue to keep The Dome at the pinnacle of the culinary scene in Asia,” he says.