Your story in ten lines
I was born in Milan in 1972 on a beautiful Sunday full of snow. Maybe this is why I’m so touched when I see snow; I enjoy it – the same with fog. The first few years I live in S.Siro with my grandmother and go to school nearby. Then from the fourth year of primary school I start living with my parents in the QT8 neighborhood. An area full of green, overflowing with green, in spring it’s an extraordinary explosion of colors for Milan. Cooking has always been my passion, I love to eat and drink so cooking school is the obvious choice, the professional School “Porta”. A serious school, set up in a professional way: I really learnt a job. Already at 19 years old I start working as a cook assistant in a Milanese restaurant – Arcadiana – in via Conca del Naviglio. I remember Mario, a very courteous cook, polite, who really made me fall in love with my profession. (A chef I met again years later in another context, in a homosexual context – I wasn’t that surprised, he always had an extreme refinedness, which had really touched me since the beginning of my work experience). After two years at Arcadiana I join the military service at Codroipo, I can only recall one thing: the freezing cold. Back in Milan, I change a thousand jobs: I work as a cook in many restaurants, in private houses in the Sempione area. I work as a personal cook and thanks to the Italian association of cooks, for a year I do a job I really enjoy although it’s very tiring since I have to do everything – including the shopping –, which I really like doing though. I decide I’m sick of not having regular hours, working night shifts, doing a job that doesn’t allow me to have friends or a family. Around 1998 I join a big catering company and since then I work mainly with this company, except for a small interlude at the Caffè Scala. In 2000 I get married and go to live in via MacMahon, a nice life, unexpected, in a rough neighborhood, rough with dodgy people. Not very stimulating culturally and socially, definitely not. In 2002 my daughter is born, Alice, one of the most beautiful things, which has happened in my life, and in 2006 I go break up with my wife. With great difficulty I discover my homosexuality, something I consider impossible to live – especially in the 80’s. Although aware of the fact I have a family, I only think about myself and decide to go and live alone. For a few years I have a bit of a hard time because I don’t really know which life I really want – and throw myself into a “gayish” world where partying becomes just a screen, hiding a difficulty or a sadness which comes out only gradually. For three years I live in such a “gayish” world of parties, but in 2009 I have a huge accident at work, which keeps me away from work for two years. A third re-birth, then a fourth, when falling in love with a man two years ago. I didn’t believe in love before, I only saw it in a sexual way. I was ashamed to have a feeling for another man. We’ve been together for two years, living our relationship seriously and serenely, he is a few years older than me. All along I’ve had the Cinderella syndrome – dreams are wishes, reality will become a dream if you really believe in it. Always with a smile.
The difficulties of working as a cook?
Not many – although preparing food isn’t just about delivering it. There is always a preparatory work made up of spaces, laws, temperature, and ingredients. Work prior and subsequent to service hours. It’s rather a job about organizing things instead of purely about cooking. It brings about a state of anxiety that isn’t anxiety – perpetually being alert. You’re always asking yourself: “Did they enjoy what I cooked?”
A memorable encounter, which happened to you recently?
I’m sorry to be repetitive, but meeting my partner was memorable. A marvelous story of reciprocal sharing which, has touched me profoundly. When you’re happy, you’re able to be happy in a thousand ways, with thousands of people. If there is someone who can give you this impulse, we have to sing the praises of this person and not be shy about it.
What does society do for you?
I never thought about this, the question surprises me. One doesn’t think about such a question, if not asked. Thinking about it, it grants me with life, with that flavour, which always makes me feel alive. Tonight I will think about this question a lot, I will ask someone how he or she would answer to it.
What do you do for your society?
I supply food dressed with honesty, and cordiality, which comes to me quite naturally. When I go into shops I manage to always reach the objective, whereas my partner is much more reserved. They tell me I’m shameless, but I don’t think I am. I’m shamelessly honest.
Something remarkable which has happened to you recently?
The acoustic nights – concerts and musicians spread around the city with a final session in the piazza Duomo. People captivated by the sound of the harp in piazza Duomo and the musicians who crossed the Milanese streets. I was so touched I wanted to cry. Pure beauty and poetry.
A culinary passion?
Home-made tagliolini with white truffle. Mamma mia! I also love mussels; I remember a dish with mussels, gorgonzola (Italian cheese, editor’s note) and curry. A treat. An intense perfume with an unforgettable taste. The contrast between the curry that burns your tongue and the intense taste of zola, is extraordinary. A dish, I’ve been told, is also prepared in France and Belgium. Then there are the cheeses, actually all of them with the exception of the fresh ones. The seasoned ones are my favorite.
Your favorite drinks?
A red wine I really like from Puglia, Gelso D’Oro from Podere 29. The bouquet is reminiscent of fields, red fruits, exquisite. It is gentle on the palate, even though it’s a full-bodied wine. And champagne, rigorously French. My favorite is Tattinger Rosè or else Tattinger Nocturne. Sense of smell and palate together, when I drink it I’m not drinking a wine but rather something delicate or intense. I hardly drink white wines.
The music or a book accompanying you?
I have a book in the closet, I’m ashamed because I get back at the end of the day feeling too tired, unable to read a couple of pages in the evening. And I’d like to read a chapter, but in the evening it is rather long. After many years I rediscovered classical music, actually as a young boy I really enjoyed classical music – a box set of classical music directed by Muti. Thanks to my partner I’m discovering kinds of music I never dreamt of before. Verdi’s Requiem moved me, impressive.
A talent you have and one you’re missing
I have to think about it seriously, this is also one of those questions I don’t usually ask myself. Love of living, undoubtedly, I’m always going at at the highest speed ever – in everything. Let’s say I’m like a river in flood, which however isn’t destructive. Often rivers in flood destroy, I don’t. Well, yes, let’s say that is my talent. A talent I don’t have is being cunning, which nowadays is considered a gift or a talent.
What have you learnt from life?
I’ve learnt that I haven’t stopped learning yet. Totally.
Translation by Paolo Witte