The first time in the kitchen was at school, the hotelier of Modica. I remember the first lesson was cutting and how to clean vegetables. The second time, instead, the egg, which lover of eggs that I like in every way. I have a blurry memory of a trip with our cooking teacher who took us to this wonderful restaurant which was in a kind of cave that I don’t remember the name or even the city, in Sicily anyway. In all of this, I remember eating french fries. I hope to find it again someday.
During my school years, I didn’t think at all about work, not even that I would end up in the kitchen for so many years, I thought about friends, parties, the sea, yes, the years of lightheartedness and curiosity. So I ended up dropping out of school and finding myself in another nearby tourist house. In short, nothing special.
As soon as I came of age I moved to London, where could I end up? Directly in the kitchen, washing the dishes, where discipline begins, where you build character, and where you find out if you are really made for this environment.
The dishes are always infinite in a shift as they say in the UK, the evening shift was hellish, between trays, encrusted pans, the noises of the hood, the cries of the cooks, the heat and the cold at the same time, I always ended up being wet dripping wet. In those years I felt invincible, always ready for anything, I knew I could do it and I took it as a personal challenge to complete everything and do it in time to take the subway to Leyton, from Bond Street. I remember that Andrea was a friend of Vittoria’s for me.
Of course, I was paid little for them and I saw that in the field of cooking I could find better. Once upon a time, there were agencies that paid 50 pounds to find you a job, and so it was. He found me a job on Fulham Road, I remember that you have the time of the test I said I knew how to make appetizers when it wasn’t true, but I got away with it and I managed to get hired, the chef was Italian precisely from Naples, he was the first teach me the art of cooking, his cooking was classic and he worked a lot, but genuine, as a good Neapolitan he was a chef who required extreme cleanliness and you had to do it while you were at work, take out the dishes and clean constantly. I was getting paid fairly for the location.
In the meantime, I was learning how to make starters, I also understood the hierarchy of positions, respect for the team, always helping each other, because, in a shift like those where 5 people served 160, you had to win the evening together. It will seem like a battle to you, but instead, it was like a team game, if one failed he would stop everyone and block the execution of what in some respects was like music led by the orchestra master, no one could be out of tune even if it happened and the shouts of the chef could even be heard in the dining room.
In the kitchen, you find everything and everyone, people who are there for passion, others because they need a job, and others because they simply want to escape from something. The environment always varies and is conditioned by many factors, moods, personal problems, and substance addictions that someone may have. But it is always a team and we helped each other.
After almost 2 years in that environment, I felt the need to change, to learn, and to grow further. I forgot in those years I had also learned several sections, such as the second and the first section.
A colleague of mine had a boyfriend who worked at Cipriani, a famous restaurant, and made sure to arrange an interview with the chef, a tanned man from Puglia, the smiles of a southern man. However, he made me start from the starters section. The first day I started in the pastry shop, the section where I am least inclined, I like it but I prefer the adrenaline of the service, where from one moment to the next everything is transformed as if by magic from the quiet to the flames of hell. As James Joyce said, “God made food, the devil made cooks”.
In short, I ended up in the pastry shop and luckily it only lasted one day. Then they threw me in the starters section, there were 4 of us having a great time, settling in the first days, and difficult especially in a similar environment where for service we were at least twenty chefs and dishwashers. In the morning, those who did only preparation, the butcher, and many others that I don’t even remember. The chef scoured the refrigerators every morning. He was a nice guy even if he didn’t even shit for the first few months, a classic. I knew my time would come.
One morning like many others a guy who was on the grill, could not coordinate with the others, of course, it happens that when you can not hold up and you see your team complaining every time and always has to come to the rescue, you get disheartened and maybe in some sense you get insecure and make mistakes all the time.
Sometimes it just might not be the environment for you. He collapsed, got into a scene, and left the station in the middle of the service to leave.
There I was shrewd because I had already occupied a similar role in the past and as if by magic I was on a new section in a respectable restaurant and I could not help but be grateful. Up to 500 or more people were made them a day, in the evening I went out all beaten like an egg. But I could see that the chef appreciated my commitment and this of course makes you proud. In the meantime, between one service and the next, I met Pier, I think he was there because he had to make an opening or something else I don’t remember well, but we became friends, I understood that he was about to leave, investigating I perceived that he wanted to make a new opening, and you offer me available.
We opened in Baker Street, a nice area even though the restaurant was underground and not well exposed. But anyway, once I opened them I realized that my position was that of the second one and I took it on the fly. I felt the need to demonstrate and work like a madman, apart from the harmony but then over time with the chef Pier a friendship was established that lasted years, this experience laid the foundations for me on what it means to manage a team, always in the respect for the figure of the Head Chef.
For various reasons, as always happens in the kitchens, we left to manage a new one, that of Osteria dell’Arancio London, where the old staff was leaving and we as a team took over. I think this was one of the most beautiful work experiences. In full Chelsea, where you could experiment and where wine tastings were so common that people came from Italy. I have been in the role for several years and have really learned a lot. I felt the need to change, but more than that I felt the need to travel and see something different, I dreamed of New York.
New York was one of those beautiful trips, the city, the people, but also the restaurants rock, there was a growing trend and the quote was so mixed and Cosmopolitan where you could take inspiration from everything. I had a short experience where I learned a lot from there too.
In the kitchen you always end up learning, you can never be satisfied or else you turn off as a person and as a chef, you must always keep that flame burning.
Between discipline and technique, there is creativity, the backbone of everything. Over time you tend to lose contact with that part and that is reflected in your dishes. Eating well in Italy is daily so in a professional kitchen you have to bring something else, and you have to pass it on to the customer in that experience they have while they are having dinner with you.
Villa di Geggiano was my first experience as Head Chef, I was back in London after New York, and I felt the need to start a new path and I felt ready. Here guys I worked like crazy, from the management of the menu, the team, the prices, the Deli that we had opened in the beginning, the breakfasts, and everything in between.
I just feel like saying if you are in Chiswick London go and try it because apart from being a nice place, the food is great. Real Italian! Like the song. Now in charge of the kitchen, you will find the chef Emanuele Morisi, a great cook!
After a couple of years from the start, I was offered to make a further opening, as an Executive, who has more managerial duties and less fun than what I expected. Let’s say that in the culinary journey I managed to get where I wanted.
In 2017 I moved to Italy, where I took a little break, and I dedicated myself to further studies both in the culinary field and in the part of the business itself that I am not here to tell but I promise you that in this platform I will share with you all. new projects and adventures of food between me is the kitchen in our relationship and bond that unites us and transforms us day by day. This is a little bit of me.
Some Saint Valentine Ago
Recipes Published on Newspapers
The Perfect Bruschetta by The Telegraph
Ravioli Ricotta & Spinachi
Pan-Fried Monkfish with Broad Beans and Peas
Tuscan Fish Stew
Gnocchi Clams, Courgettes & Saffron Filament
Pappardelle Wild Mushroom
Grille Rack Of Lamb With two Sides of Asparagus
Fresh Pea Soup With Crab (served cold)
Lobster Fresh Tagliolini
Duck & Orange Pappardelle
Fresh Tagliolini Crab & Cherry Tomatoes
Octopus With Purple Potatoes & Pecorino Crisp