Executive chef brings international inspirations to the Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis.
Martín Morelli now calls Plymouth home, but it’s been one of many over an international career with Four Seasons. Originally from Montevideo, Uruguay, the chef has traveled through South and Central America up to the U.S. to bring a distinct perspective to the Four Seasons’ Riva Terrace, an alfresco Italian restaurant that opened this past June on the hotel’s fourth floor.
Morelli’s history in the kitchen started with family. “Food is at the center of every reunion, every holiday, every time family gets together,” Morelli says. “It’s the one subject everybody discusses first—what we’re going to eat. So it started there.”
This passion brought Morelli to culinary school, but it was what he found there that stoked the flames of his early career. “It’s about so much more than just food, right?” Morelli says. “That’s what I fell in love with; the adrenaline during service, working with people and meeting people from all over the world. Cooking is just one part of working in a professional kitchen.”
Carmelo, Uruguay; 2003
Morelli first started working for Four Seasons serving as commis chef at the former Four Seasons Resort Carmelo. He says when he first transferred to a new Four Seasons location outside his country, he wasn’t met with a single hegemonic culture but rather several coexisting ones.
“I went to a destination hotel for Four Seasons, and there I connected with people from all over the world, not just people from within the country,” Morelli says. “I worked with so many people from different backgrounds and that changed me a lot. It opens your mind a lot.”
Morelli says that what drives him now is the people, or, more specifically the culture of people taking care of people. “We strongly believe in the golden rule: respecting everyone and putting yourself in their shoes,” Morelli says. “I find myself in a spot [as a leader] that I have to provide that. I feel that responsibility, and it challenges me every day. It keeps me going.”
Touring the Americas
From Uruguay, Morelli’s work with Four Seasons took him to Costa Rica, followed by California. In each location, staple ingredients, popular dishes and cooking methods changed to reflect the local culture. Since Morelli has traveled the Americas through kitchens, we asked him to take us on a tour via our plates.
- Carmelo, Uruguay: “Cooking whole lambs on the open fire and baking empanadas in the wood-fired oven.”
- Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica: “My wife is from Costa Rica, so I still cook Costa Rican food every day. Costa Rican breakfast is really, really good—rice and beans, eggs, fried cheese, plantains, avocado. Of course, they don’t have lunch after that!”
- Silicon Valley, California: “I grilled a lot. Power lunches. Every Wednesday, we would roll the grill out on the patio. We had an alfresco section, and we would prepare a special meal entirely from the grill. We would change it every week.”
With 19 years of experience under his belt, Morelli was an ideal candidate when the Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis was beginning to plan its culinary team. He was tapped to lead the hotel’s Riva Terrace restaurant, which looks to bring the flavors of the Italian Riviera to the Mississippi riverbank.
Morelli says he wants the Four Seasons to be a hub of hospitality and great food. “We are excited to be here,” he says. “The amount of energy that is in this hotel is amazing. All these people come in every day, and they want to be the best. If you ask someone in banquets about their goal, it is to be the best banquet event team. If you ask someone in Mara, it’s to be the best restaurant. If you ask someone at Riva, it’s to be the best alfresco offering. The same with pastry. Nobody’s going to give you a different answer.”
Culture shocks aside, Minnesota also offers one glaring difference from the rest of the places Morelli has worked: a harsh winter.
“Since I arrived, I’ve loved it here,” Morelli says. “The landscape, everything looks so beautiful. I’m learning that I really look forward to the changes in the weather. It was something I never really paid attention to before. Here, you see the process; you sense it.”
We asked chef Martín Morelli to share a recipe from the terrace. He chose his tuna crudo recipe, which makes a seasonal appearance on the Riva Terrace menu. “I love this dish. It is simple, fresh, tastes great and was the first item I created for this project,” Morelli says. “This recipe means a lot to me. Every time I cook it, it connects me with the time when I arrived here in Minneapolis; the hotel was still getting built, and we were dreaming from the office next door about the restaurants.”
In professional kitchens, measuring in metric is standard. If you don’t want to break out the kitchen scale, convert the gram measurements to cups or tablespoons using inchcalculator.com
Albacore Tuna Crudo
- 2, 1 lb. loins of albacore tuna
- 300 g kosher salt
- 150 g raw sugar
- Zest from 2 oranges
- Zest from 2 lemons
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted, crushed
- 1 bunch fresh dill
Pickled Mustard Seeds:
- 200 g yellow mustard seeds
- 150 g Champagne vinegar
- 150 g Water
- 100 g Sugar
- 1 cup Kalamata olives
- Calabrian chili
- Fresh dill
- Ligurian olive oil
- Black pepper
For the tuna:
Remove the skin and blood line from the albacore loin if present. Mix the sugar and salt with the toasted, crushed coriander seeds, lemon zest, orange zest and fresh dill. Rub the salt mixture with your hands to get the flavor to combine. Place the tuna in a rimmed pan and cover the tuna with the curing salt mixture. Keep refrigerated for 4 hours. After 4 hours, remove from the cure, rinse with cold water and pat dry. Slice tuna to 1/4 inch thick slices.
For the pickled mustard seeds:
Put the seeds in a pot and cover with water. Bring water and seeds to a boil and strain the seeds. Repeat this process 3 times. In another pot, combine the Champagne vinegar, water and sugar and bring to a boil. Poor on top of the seeds.
For the dry olives:
Remove the olives from the container and place on a tray covered in parchment paper. Cook at 145 F, until the olives look dry (they won’t look crispy while hot, but they will once they cool down).
For plate up:
Arrange the tuna slices on the serving plate. On top of each slice, garnish with a little bit of the mustard seeds, dry olives and some dollops of Calabrian chili. Drizzle with Ligurian olive oil, and some fresh black pepper. Sprinkle with fresh dill.