A couple of months after reaching the finals of Masterchef: The Professionals, private chef and entrepreneur Yann Florio seems to have achieved everything. He talks us through his parallel life in music, and his concerns with the food industry.
“The biggest thing I learned was how much I can sweat and look stressed on camera – and how French I sound – it’s insane.” Yann Florio laughs goofily as he recounts his time on the latest season of MasterChef: The Professionals.
Sitting across from me, his rosy cheeks, thick moustache and messy brown locks emit a sense of youthful exuberance. But the CEO of his own catering company, Far Out Food, by day, and rock and roll drummer by night, Florio, at 30, has already accomplished more than most chefs do in their lifetime.
Florio grew up in Lorraine, France, but much like an Englishman, he arrives at 11am on the dot. Sipping on his cappuccino, he delves into his early days as a chef.
“The sound of the plates banging together, the euphoria in the kitchen, the shouting, the steam… that is the very first thing I can remember,” he says, explaining it was only his struggles in school that compelled him to follow this path.
At 14, his principal advised him to “drop out completely and start something different”, but at such a young age, this wasn’t easy. “Nobody knows what they want at 14, nobody is capable of making so much of a commitment,” he says.
But food always dominated his life. Florio’s family regularly met up for reunions, and he recalls how they would often sit for days, just eating. To him, food is “about sharing culture and moments together”, so he felt a career in the culinary world was his most obvious calling.
Outside of cooking, the chef is hopelessly devoted to his drum kit. Since the age of 13, when he co-founded a DIY music association, Florio has used drums to release any concealed negative energy.
Not long after being forced into learning the classical guitar, his parents divorced. Florio used this as an opportunity to get back at his father: “I wanted to piss him off so I said, ‘Let’s try the drums so I can bash it in his face’.”
He highlights the importance of making time for hobbies: “Through drumming, you can get all the frustration out, and you’re ready to rock and roll again.”
DIY music has also helped Florio establish connections in other fields of his life. This network proved to be of great help when he first came to the UK.
With a degree in culinary arts and years of chef stages in his back pocket, Florio moved to East London, where he has lived for the past 10 years. He drummed for multiple bands, forging lifelong friendships and earning enough money to actively follow his passion for cooking. “Music helped me establish myself here. I’m really grateful for that,” he explains in his East-London tinted French accent.
While he loves his job, he expresses his concerns for the industry. “The culinary world is like a dictatorship,” he states. “It’s a very macho, bullyish environment… where you are in a hierarchy.”
His experience in high-end Michelin star restaurants has not always been positive, and he has sometimes lacked motivation. “Without sounding like an arrogant little prick: it’s tough to work that hard for somebody else’s vision,” Florio says.
Appreciating his power to make changes as a CEO, he thinks the only solution to bullies is communication. While he is proud of Far Out Food – describing it as a “fine line between high-end luxury and sustainability” – he expresses his desire to turn his influence into something even more impactful.
Florio calls things not going fast enough his biggest frustration: “I hate it. I’m so impatient.”
He believes the food industry has a major role to play in fixing the climate. “What I don’t want to do is talk about things and not do them. That’s the massive worry, isn’t it?” He adds that individual action isn’t the solution; people need to work as a team: “It’s about getting out there, and starting a dialogue with the people.”