My love for food has grown tremendously, especially during the pandemic. There was one point where I started to desire to have a good old-cooked homemeal over a fancy restaurant dish. I always need a new experience, a new flavor, and a new taste. To me, food isn’t about eating just to eat. Food is an art and can be prepared in so many different ways, unique to different regions, cultures, and people. And I do love some Italian food! Though I wasn’t always the best at making it, with the help of a few youtube videos of kitchen nightmares in Italy, I got it down in no time. And there's one chef that I would like to highlight that has helped me perfect my kitchen creation over the past year…
Meet Antonino Cannavacciuolo. He Is a famous Italian renowned chef and foodie influencer with over a whopping 2.7 million followers on Instagram. Antonino Cannavacciuolo began his culinary journey in his early adolescence, having few toys to play with, he entertained himself through the art of cooking. He would always help his grandmother prepare food in the kitchen, starting with beans and peas for dinner. Antonio can still remember waking up to the exciting smell of pasta sauce every Sunday. His father worked in a professional kitchen, and when Antonino was seven, he was taken along to see what it was like. The sight of busy chefs and steamy surroundings looked like a showplace to his young eyes, and instantly, he fell in love.
Antonio finished college early in his young adult years, when he was just seventeen, and traveled all over Naples for work, gaining experience at Vesuvio and San Vincenzo in Sorrento cooking the traditional food of the region. In 1995 he moved to Illhaeusern in France and worked at the famed three-Michelin-starred restaurant Auberge de l’Ill with the legendary Paul Haeberlin. It was here that he learned what it took to be a world-class chef.
Antonio Cannavacciuolo took his love for southern Neapolitan cuisine and journeyed to north Italy. Along the way, he discovered a way to combine the two unique traditions and customers to create new and exciting flavors.
He started to combine his heartfelt childhood memories with the fantastic produce and traditions of northern Italy. ‘I appreciate all sorts of cooking,’ he says. ‘I have always made fusion food in Piedmont by combining the different ingredients of the area with those from my youth until I find something that works.’ His Risotto with oil, clams, thyme, and lemon infuses the northern rice dish with the southern Italians’ love of clams, while a snail stew replicates his time in France and one of Sicily’s most famous dishes.
After another placement at the Grand Hotel Quisisana in Capri, Antonino decided to get a job over the summer at a hotel restaurant across the other side of the country in Piedmont. It was here that Antonio unexpectedly would meet his future wife, Cinzia, whose family owned the hotel. Struck by love, he decided to stay, and in 1998 they opened Villa Crespi in a building that was a historical villa on the shores of Lake Orta. In 2003, it was awarded its first Michelin star. Countless awards would soon follow after.
Despite a lifelong love for the food of Naples, being in Piedmont didn’t stop Antonino from cooking Antonino believes his father’s technical expertise and rigorous work ethic, combined with his mother’s passion for preparing warm, comforting dishes were both very important keys in developing his unique cooking style and says their lessons were just as important as any he had learned in the kitchen.
In 2003, Antonio was invited to host a cooking show on Italian television, elevating his status to where he soon became a nationally recognized chef. His natural demeanor in front of the camera led to more opportunities and prestigious gigs, and in 2013 he became the first host of the Italian version of Kitchen Nightmares. Antonino gladly accepted the role as he had experienced all the ups and downs of running a restaurant himself, and wanted to help others in any way he could. His advice was beneficial, and every single one of the businesses he helped turned their fortunes around and became a success.
Here are a few inspiring quotes that really touched me!
“When cooking, as in life, we need to use authentic ingredients. Otherwise, our dishes will just be imitations of somebody else's.” - Antonino Cannavacciuolo
“No matter how hard it is, don't ever give up. I know that sounds like nonsense, but it's true. This is how it was for me!” - Antonino Cannavacciuolo
“I would spend nights in the kitchen, working myself to the bone. I had moments where I was on the verge of throwing in the towel. But you know what? I never did.” - Antonino Cannavacciuolo
“The same goes for cooking: you've got to have the audacity to experiment with new flavors, even if you risk being seen as pe' pazz'! Crazy!” - Antonino Cannavacciuolo