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Chef Victor Borg on food and the 1 person he would invite to dinner.

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

Chef Victor Borg, Executive Chef at Grain, talks to OMGFoodMalta about his career as a chef and the many challenges he faces every day.

You may have heard before about Executive Chef Victor Borg. He is renowned in the culinary world for his dedication, skill and talent. He is currently the Executive Chef at Grain, which was recently one of the first three Maltese restaurants to earn a Michelin star.

His first restaurant, Mangetout, deservedly earned the best restaurant in Malta for seven years. Victor Borg has won two WACS (World Association of Chef Societies) gold medals in competitions abroad and has worked for and alongside many renowned chefs, such as Gordon Ramsey.

Chef Victor Borg, Executive Chef at Grain

Through these experiences, his training and his hard work, Victor Borg is surely one who has a lot to tell about his career thus far.

We at OMGFoodMalta caught up with Chef Victor Borg to hear from the man himself.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Maltese and I come from Birkirkara. I have been doing this job for the last 30 years. I haven’t done anything other than cooking in my life. I attended a two-year diploma course at ITS in Food and Beverage. After my studies, I worked abroad in Switzerland, London, Norway – in 5-star hotels, leading hotels of the world, and Michelin star restaurants.

I was part of the Maltese Culinary team for 15 years. For the last 8 years I was national team captain [editor’s note: Chef Borg is captain of the Malta National Team of Chefs]. I competed all over the world, and even judged locally and abroad.

When did you decide to focus your life around food and who was your biggest influence?

By the time I was 15 years old, I knew exactly what I wanted. I decided to be a chef and to succeed in the best possible way. I wanted to have my own restaurant, and be an executive chef in leading, 5-star hotels. I cannot mention one person who influenced me because there have been a lot of people who have influenced me in my life.

I started off with Victor Cassar, who was the executive chef of Dragonara Hotel at that time, Silvio Briffa who was the national captain at that time, and Christopher Farrugia who I worked with when I was sous chef at Christopher’s.

Then, of course, there are foreign chefs that I’ve worked with; Gordon Ramsey in his first Restaurant Aubergine and David Everett from Le Champignon Sauvage, which earned itself two Michelin stars.

Chef Victor Borg, Executive Chef at Grain

Where did the concept for Under Grain come from?

Basically, it was and still is a team effort. We spoke with Ms. Xuereb and the consultants and of course, they gave us a brief of what they had in mind. From there, it was very easy for me to find a concept for both Under Grain and Grain Street (both located at Rosselli AX Privilege, in Valletta).

If I came to Under Grain for just one dish, which one would you definitely suggest?

In the case of Under Grain, it may not the best idea to come for just one dish because Under Grain is an experience. A minimum of three course meal is required. If you came to Grain Street, it is not a problem to have one dish.

However, it is very difficult for me to choose one dish because these are all dishes that are close to my heart. Their influences come from a particular experience or from a different season or colour.

All of them have a meaning for me. One of the signature dishes that I have been making for 20 years and people have kept coming back for is the baked white chocolate cheesecake with passion fruit sorbet. It is close to my heart and has given me so much satisfaction.

Chef Victor Borg, Executive Chef at Grain

What does it take to get a Michelin star?

It is a lot of hard work, dedication and passion. You don’t wake up in the morning and get a Michelin star. It is a build-up of things. I have been learning my craft since I was 15. I have always tried to learn from the best; locally and abroad. It takes a lot of time and thought. Sleepless nights. When you are in my work you wake up in the night, you have ideas and write them down.

You wake up in the morning and work on them. And of course, research, all the time. I always say that food is like fashion, changing all the time. You must keep updating yourself, you have to travel, you have to eat out, including eating at the best restaurants in the world. That is how you build it up.

The secret to a Michelin star is consistency. It is not just about cooking. It is also about the service. It is about consistency and having high standards for everything. That is what it is all about.

What is your go-to meal, or meals, when you’re cooking at home?

That’s a very good question! I do not cook at home unfortunately because I work all the time 6 days a week, 14/15 hours a day. The few times I manage to cook at home is always a simple dish. Normally I will do a spaghetti Napolitana maybe, with fresh tomatoes and basil.

What is your guilty food pleasure?

I have a lot of those! I am a chocoholic. So, I think it is chocolate.

Is there any international cuisine you are fond of?

I love all cuisines as long as they are producing good and honest food. Tasty food. But of course, the cuisine I like the most is the cuisine is that I cook – French/Mediterranean

What do you consider to be the sexiest food?

That would be very difficult to say, but I think I will go for Japanese food.

What was the strangest food you have ever tried? and did you enjoy it?

I always choose the restaurants, so I never chose anything that was too strange. Something strange perhaps would be Crocodile, but normally I stick to my guns. I normally go to restaurants where I like the food and the style of the chefs.

On trips, I might go for 4 days, yet eat in 7 different restaurants for lunches and dinners. I research all the restaurants I go to and choose on the basis of the chef and the type of cuisine.

Are there any foods that bring back special memories to you?

Yes of course! A case in point is the ‘Black lasagne’ we make here. I remember when every Sunday my mum would prepare us lasagna as a starter dish. It is one of my favourite dishes so I try to invent different lasagna dishes based on the concept of classical lasagna. In this case, it is completely black.

We make this lasagna with squid ink, a ragu of calamari and ‘Nduja, which is a dry, spicy sausage from Calabria, and which is another signature dish of mine. It is very famous and always on the menu. I used to make lasagna bianca with Parmesan cheese, chicken and pancetta, which was very popular. I still make it from time to time.

Chef Victor Borg, Executive Chef at Grain

What is the one type of food you could not live without?

I would say pasta. I love cooking pasta, and I love eating it. I am chef, I like food and I eat everything, but yes, pasta is my favourite!

What do you think about restaurant critics and food bloggers?

You cannot generalize. Some of them are very good and they really know their job. You cannot just wake up in the morning and call yourself a food blogger or critic. You need experience. You need to taste different types of food. There are food bloggers and critics I respect. There are also some that I don’t because they do not know what they are saying. You have to live it.

Everyone can criticize, it’s their right. It is a matter of taste and a very subjective topic, but there are very technical criticisms and those are the ones I am interested in. They are the ones who know what they’re talking about because they have lived it, they have experienced high-end food and high-end quality restaurants.

That is what it’s all about. It is not about reading on the Internet that you are a critic. It takes time, and a lot of years of research, reading and experience; different experiences.

Do you believe that ‘we are what we eat’?

Definitely. Yes, I agree that we are what we eat.

If you could choose any person to have dinner with, who would it be?

That is a very difficult question. I think I will choose to have dinner with Nicole Scherzinger!

What is the most rewarding thing about being a chef?

It is a very hard job. It is not easy. You have to work hard every day. It is very rewarding to see your clients come back for your food year after year and leave the restaurant happy. Most rewarding of all though is when I meet clients who had eaten at our restaurants 10 years ago yet can still remember and explain a dish they had eaten.

This is the biggest satisfaction. To remember a dish after 10 years is no joke. Even I struggle because I make so many dishes and I am continuously evolving.

Chef Victor Borg, Executive Chef at Grain

What is your food philosophy?

Use the best ingredients you can get. Fresh ingredients. That is the start. And keep it simple!

What is your final message to our readers?

Food is one of the pleasures of life. It is nice to go around to see what is available. The local food scene has improved a lot in the past 15 years, and we have some interesting restaurants around. We have some interesting talent as well. So, let’s support them and why not, let’s make this little island the food destination.

We at OMGFoodMalta thank Victor Borg for his availability and help. We had the pleasure of again interviewing him during our visit at Rosselli AX Privilege.

You can check out Grain’s website here and you can check out their Michelin Star winner, Under Grain page here.


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