The route that brought Stefano de Pieri to the kitchen was unusual, even by the outré standards of hospitality lore. Born in Treviso, near Venice, he moved to Australia in 1974, studied politics at Melbourne University and worked as a speechwriter, ministerial private secretary and advisor before settling in Mildura, where his restaurant at the Grand Hotel, Stefano's, found a loyal following. "This is a rice soup, rather than a risotto - it doesn't need to be stirred," he says. "Simply add good stock to the chosen base and then add your rice. A rice soup should be silky, healing and totally satisfying, like some of the Vietnamese or other Asian soups we have become accustomed to. I have cooked classic Italian dishes like this because it is the only thing I know and they've always been there. Of course, many people have a go at reinventing the classics, but I don't feel the necessity."