Chef behind Michelangelo’s and Original Sin, Angelo Sanelli, dies

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SINGAPORE: Chef Angelo Sanelli, known in Singapore for his Italian cuisine, has died. He was 63.

The man behind Michelangelo’s at Holland Village, Angelo’s Restaurant & Bar, Original Sin and Sistina Restorante, died in his sleep at Australia’s Gold Coast University Hospital on May 11 this year, his wife Jayanthi Sanelli told Channel NewsAsia via email on Wednesday (Jun 7). She said he died of chronic heart failure, and was also battling prostate cancer.

He left behind his wife, daughter Dee Dee and two granddaughters Priya, 3. and Ella, 1.

Mr Sanelli with his two granddaughters Priya and Ella. (Photo: Jayanthi Sanelli)

“His granddaughters talk about their Nono (grandfather) all the time, wanting him back and how sad they are,” Mrs Sanelli shared. “Especially Priya, they had a connection.

“She’s a little angry with God for taking her Nono away.”

PASSION FOR HIS CRAFT

After spending 15 years with the Michelangelo’s Restaurant Group that he started, Mr Sanelli left the group. Together with his wife, he set up a French-Italian restaurant – Mietta’s Restaurant & Bar in 2009, but that has since closed. The couple subsequently relocated to Australia in 2010.

The culinary director of one of Singapore’s most celebrated restaurants, Zambuca Italian Restaurant & Bar, won multiple awards – including awards from Wine Spectator and magazine for his collection of wines and Wine & Dine magazine’s Singapore top restaurant award.

Mr Sanelli also conducted many classes at Bentfork Cooking School and Modern Living @ People’s Association. In an interview with SG Magazine Online, he mentioned that being in the restaurant business for more than 30 years taught him that “there were many more things to be done as far as teaching and charity were concerned”.

“My husband was kind, loving, hardworking, generous, charitable and caring,” Mrs Sanelli said. “The best thing I loved about him was his passion for his craft. That I admired about him and will always be very proud of him.”

She added: “They can take everything from him, but the passion, success and 183 awards and accolades were all his, and that, they can’t take away from him.” 

MAN FROM A DIFFERENT AGE

One person who benefited from Mr Sanelli’s mentorship is Mr Alex Kozij, CEO of US-based Bright Ideas Supply Chain Solutions.

Mr Kozij told Channel NewsAsia that his childhood was spent in Singapore and his father would often be away on business. As he lived at Chip Bee Gardens, above Michelangelo’s, Mr Sanelli would look out for him and sometimes fed him and his friends. He even had his first job as an apprentice under the chef when he was 13 and learned how to cook.

That was not the end of his learning journey. Mr Kozij recounted that when he returned to Singapore from Scotland without completing high school in 1999, Mr Sanelli gave him a job at Michelangelo’s and a place to live. 

“The work was hard and gruelling, but from those years I learned to endure immense pressure and discipline,” he shared, adding that he would get a pan thrown at him if he made a mistake in the chef’s kitchen then.

“But at the end of every day, he told me how proud he was that I persisted and he became a father to me,” Mr Kozij said.  

He added that men like Mr Sanelli are from a different age, as he was “driven, hardworking, creative and self made”. 

“He had risen and fallen many times in business and in life. But like a rising tide, he raised everyone around him to heights they had never seen before. He provided jobs to the poor, the uneducated and always to the hardworking,” said Mr Kozij.

Additional reporting by Natasha Razak.

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