Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I HAVE NEVER CHOSEN TO BE A CHEF


The food chose me.
This is what happened and it is still happening.
This has been one of the blessings of my life: finding myself into something I like. 



I was born on a little island of the Tuscan Archipelago and I spent great part of my time at my grandmother's, in her pink house along the promenade, often sleeping on the greatgrandmother's baldaquin bed with the white curtains all around, waked in the morning by the light of the reflected sea waves on the ceiling.



I grew up between the beach under her house and the restaurant that her sister, the famous Angiolina, started in the 50s, with a veranda on the same beach, just under the windows of grandmother. 


I started to work as a game: with the old uncle Giovanni I folded napkins, stretching them along the side first, getting them ready before zia Angiolina iron pressed  them. I pat dried the silver ware, putting forks and knives in order in the drawer. I went to wash the little bottles of the olive oil - the ones that go on the tables - in the beach, shaking them with sea water and sand to degrease. I might have been 3 years old. Later on I could cut the bell peppers, learning so soon that the spicy substance is in the white internal ribs and in the seeds. I could peel cups of garlic. I could pick the nicest leaves of the rucola. 


I started to wait at tables I was 12 and I was very proud to go to the customers with paper and pen. I spent all my summers as high school student as a waiter at aunt Angiolina's restaurant. There was a boy, who was working at his parents restaurant in the summer. We finished to work about at the same time every night and we used to go to dance together, reaching the other friends who were already having fun. I am the one with long hair on the left of the photo. This boy, maybe for the same summer work schedule, maybe for other things, became first my boyfriend, then husband, then father of my kids, then partner in business. 



The marriage signed a change in the restaurant: we both had a job (bank and office) in Livorno and we used to spend the week ends e part of summers helping his family in their restaurant.


When we decided to quit our jobs and open our own restaurant we knew enough of restaurant managing and food. Our desire was maily to go back to the island and live there stably, instead of doing back and forth for breathing its air. Going back meant opening a restaurant, which was something we were able to do. 




The restaurant was attached to the ancient wall of the Castello; it was named Le Tamerici, in honor of wild plants once existing along the beach of Campese and cut down in order to make space to the construction of a residence of doubful taste.


After three year the restaurant got mentions on the main restaurant guides in Italy. We were the proud owner of a mentioned restaurant.

During those year I also took my second Diploma. Following the advice of a friend, I took the papr of Food Technician. I did not need to learn about cooking, but, not only I wanted the officiality of what I was doing; I also needed to know about diet, nutrition, chemistry, biology: all matters that are still helping me in my job.

We have been running the restaurant  for 12 years, since 1985 through the beginning of 1997.  

For the following three years I have worked with food, also as chef in a top restaurant in the area of Ravenna. 

Then we moved to the beautiful Florence in the year 2000.


Florence for us meant a new start up after  familiar tragedies -  the same that pushed us to sell the restaurant - and uncertain years. Personally I decided to quit the world of food, as I felt down, sad and depressed. I found a job in a hotel and I started to study to become director.

The food chaised me another time.

Reading on a newspaper the job page, I saw a company looking for a chef who knew English language.  I wondered: why a chef should know English? I went to see. The company was an university institute for foreign students looking for cooking instructors. I do not remember I said "yes". Likely I did, as I found myself hired for a professional program starting in January 2001. 


I realized how difficult and important was my new task when I was about to enter the first class, where 36 eyes where looking at a me esitating at the door. I was terrified. When I went out at the end of the lesson, I was completely happy, feeling I had found my way in life. I quit my hotel job after a while.

GiglioCooking was, and is, an obvious and natural consequence. 


GiglioCooking is the place that represents my concept of food and cooking as a daily natural action and not like a stressful competition: something all of us are born within and we have been raisen surrounded of... althoug in different ways. 


In the last years my food-life has been enriched by new tastes and new knowledge: the meeting with a country-man, besides giving me a new perspective of love, is giving me improvement in my profession. Through him...


... I get to know from very close everything about the life of olive trees and....


.... the process of olive oil making;


I get to know about organic cultavatin of wheat (and its rotation) and..


...how to feed (with it) happy free chickens;


how to fill a basket of wild edible goodies during a hike in the country side.

For all this and more I feel gratitude to life for putting and keeping me into FOOD.

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