Meet Dubai chef who served royals

Estimated read time 4 min read


Former royal chef Iva Rospi’s culinary story is as flavourful as the classic Italian dishes she serves in Larte restaurant at Studio One Hotel in Dubai.

“It was not exactly planned,” Chef Iva tells She was working as a chef in Turin, Italy in 2006 when she came across a magazine announcement that a famous Italian family was looking for a private chef. She sent her application, despite being told by the recruiting agency that “she didn’t stand a chance because there were a lot of applicants”.

She was surprised to get a call from the royal office and told that she has been selected for a trial run. “I did not believe it at first, but then I met the royal family at the hotel for the interview,” she recalls.

She learned that she was going to be cooking for the Italian Savoia, one of the oldest royal families in Europe. The dish that got her the job? Roasted chicken. “Before I started cooking, I asked their butler what they liked. He said if there’s garlic and wine, it would be very good. So, I cooked the chicken with lots of garlic,” Chef Iva recalls with a grin.

“After the dish was served, Princess Marina Doria came into the kitchen. It was unusual. I thought something wrong happened. She said, ‘It was fantastic chicken, the best one I had in one year!’”

Chef Iva worked with the Italian royal family for four years. “I worked with chefs in the hotels they stayed to personalize their meals,” she recalls. “I mostly cooked for two people, but they would often have guests who requested different cuisines. I had the opportunity to cook Arabic, Asian and European dishes,” she says.

Where it all began for Chef Iva

Chef Iva says her culinary journey started by accident. She was an International Tourism student who liked to party. None of her family is a professional chef, although her father ran a restaurant in their hometown of Florence. “I came home late from parties, so as punishment, I was asked to help in the kitchen,” she recalls with a grin.

A female chef mentored her, and at 18, she discovered her love for cooking. Chef Iva ended up working in her father’s restaurant for six years, rising up the ranks from commis chef to sous chef. She moved to Turin and studied in Universidad del Gusto to learn professional cooking. She also worked in restaurants there for more than a decade before landing the job of a lifetime as a royal chef.

Chef Iva’s culinary expertise has taken her around the world, including Switzerland, France, Russia, US, Austria and Singapore, handling dozens of chefs under her.

In February this year, she moved to the UAE to take the helm at Larte at Studio One Hotel in Dubai where she shares her passion for authentic Italian cuisine.

Chef Iva Rospi.

“I feel some young energy here, and because of this young energy and positive vibe, I took the decision to come to Dubai,” Chef Iva says. “I’m an ambassador of Italian culture. I like to teach my team and guests how to appreciate classic Italian cuisine,” she says.

Her secret to becoming a good chef? “Have passion. If you don’t have real passion, you will never be a good chef,” she says. 

Rapid fire questions

Most challenging dish you cooked
Biggest tuna fish that weighed 100kg.

Exotic food you have ever tried
Let me think.. Frogs.

Favorite food city

Share food or eat alone?
I would rather share food.

Breakfast or brunch?

Cook for family or cook for strangers?
Cook for family.

Kitchen gadget you can’t live without
My knife.

Dine in or dine out?
I prefer to dine in.

If your life were a dish
Zuppa di pesce.

By Florence Pia Yu/Expat Media. This story also appears in the Expat Media Special Edition Magazine

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