Chef Tiziano Gortan worked for years among the stars— both the Michelin stars, which ranked at least two restaurants where he cooked, as well one in Ireland, owned by a quiet band of rock stars who went by the name of … U-2!
In his travels, the Italian native earned his chops working for the only 3-star Michelin restaurant in Milan before jetting off to Dublin to work as a pastry chef in in Dublin’s Clarence Hotel, where the world-renowned rockers offered their culinary performance.
“When you’re in your 20s and 30s, you think you can do anything,” muses Chef Gortan. “But when you reach an older age, get married, have children, you try to give a sense or meaning to your life in a way you didn’t in your youth. And you question the meaning of career, whether you’re a plumber or experienced chef.”
The answers for Gortan came not in the fast lane of European hotspots, but in the mountains of Aspen, Colo., where Gortan balances the demands of his restaurant L’Hostaria with family, friends, and alone-time spent walking his Australian shepherd Ozzy.
Seventeen years since taking over full ownership of L’Hostaria, Gortan manages to have it all: success, family time with his wife and two daughters, and even a walk in the snowy woods on a recent day.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Gortan reveals his secret to success.
Q: What makes you unique?
I think I like to be against the trends. My style is not for everybody, and is very different from what the average person may choose. This is how I approach everything.
For example, I was just talking to a client the other day. He lives in New York but recently stopped in to say hi. For different reasons he’s “stuck” in New York. His life is in a city where people run, run, run all day, making money, never taking the time to slow down and look at the sky. I didn’t want that life. Which is why I decided to live in Aspen, which is a unique and select place that isn’t for everybody.
Q: How does your non-trendy approach influence your restaurant style?
I would say our approach is really sincere. We care about everybody who comes to our restaurant, and we connect with our Aspen community by hosting or helping with events for nonprofits, from the ballet to the fire department.
Our food strives to be simple. So, a homemade, fresh pasta served with a nice tomato sauce and fresh basil is an example of what we do. Our fresh veal, pounded, breaded, and made crispy with good butter is an example of simple food, but achieving that simplicity takes a skilled hand.
Q: After Italy and Ireland, why Aspen?
I came to Aspen in 1994 after someone offered me a job. And when the plane landed, and I walked off and took a deep breath, I had a feeling come over me that told me this is it. I felt I could breathe up here. It was chilly, but it was beautiful. Suddenly I could see all the dreams of my youth coming true here. I worked for several years before becoming a partner in L’Hostaria. And, at the end of 2001, I bought out my partner and took over.
Q: What challenges did you face after taking over?
The first year was difficult. After my partners left, I made some immediate changes, like hiring a full-time sommelier. And I was very mindful of the financial obligations, the payments, the rent, the bills, and my mind was on the money management. It took me about two years to really adjust. I recruited some good managers, one who’s been with me from the beginning, and another two who’ve been with me 10 years. Having good people has made all the difference.
Q: What is your secret to success?
It’s not what you’d think! For me it has been finding balance between my family and my work. My biggest joys are my two daughters and my wife.
It has been vitally important to the restaurant and for me to make sure I enjoy my life. I’m heading out right now for a hike with my dog Ozzy in the snow. I do yoga, and I often ponder the question about how much do I need to make a living. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to have financial success. But, for me, it is equally important to be with my family and friends, eating, drinking, and enjoying life. —L’Hostaria serves authentic Italian cuisine with loving attention to detail. And they use Boxerbrand’s Slenders menu cover line in their table presentation. Thank you!