Effort with a smile

Working in L'Aquila, being a woman, having a child. Nadia Moscardi never flinched

15-01-2014
Nadia Moscardi, chef at Elodia in Camarda, at the

Nadia Moscardi, chef at Elodia in Camarda, at the feet of Gran Sasso, 10 km from L’Aquila. Since 1974 this restaurant has been run by the Moscardi family

When you grow up in a restaurant’s kitchen, you’re not the one to decide you’ll be a chef when you grow up: being a chef is something that grows inside you, it’s already decided. For me it came natural, a choice which, at some point in my life, prevailed. I understood this would be my career. I love my job, I follow my ideas always with a positive mind and sure that I’m doing the right thing.

Of course, I’ve come across many obstacles and I even received some small critiques, but I’ve always considered them as something constructive, something that helped me to move on. When you follow your inclination as I did, when you follow your dream, it doesn’t matter if the sector is mostly made of men, with strong prejudgements against women. I never had too many problems about it: I always do what I love most and what I believe is right at the time, without worrying what others may think or do.

Whether you’re better or worse than a male chef, it will be up to what you do. I would have only wasted time and strength, had I wondered and cared about these things. Besides, what is with this constant question, whether in a high level cuisine men or women are better? We’re both good. Meritocracy is what should matter.

The question then becomes: why are there few women chef?, The image of a male chef is rooted in today’s society because this is what media always show and a woman chef is seen as one who makes traditional food at home, and not gourmet cuisine, and therefore no space is given to her. If we think about students in catering school, they’re mostly boys because girls are the first to enjoy working in the kitchen but won’t consider it as a future profession as boys do. This is how the kitchen staff becomes completely made of men.

Of course this is a hard job, one with very long hours. But I don’t think there is a difference when it comes to physical strength because women too are very tenacious and in a high level cuisine you don’t need to raise 25 kg flour bags. In fact, perhaps a woman chef working in a typical trattoria struggles more, since she has to do everything by herself.

People often say that women’s cuisine is more traditional, and men’s more technical. In my opinion, however, every chef has his way of thinking which is then represented in the dish without generalising or putting men on one side and women on the other. As for me, at some point in my life I felt I needed to start a family and I luckily met a marvellous man and then something beautiful happened: I discovered I was expecting a baby.

Perhaps this didn’t come at the best time for my restaurant: after a devastating earthquake we had just rebuilt the destroyed restaurant. We were back with lots of determination but these things really happen when you least expect them. When Lorenzo arrived, I felt an immense and unique joy, I felt I was the happiest woman on earth. And how about my work? Unfortunately, it suffered a little from my absence, it’s as if it had been launched at 100 km per hour up a hill, and then slowed down suddenly, and almost stopped. But then I came back behind the wheel, and again moved on at the highest speed, with more tenacity and determination because I feel satisfied as a mother.

Now life is even more laborious: Lorenzo is two and accommodating family, home and work is more and more complex. There’s still lot of space for improvement. But «it’s difficult, not impossible», as my colleague Lorella Fanella said. As for free time: there’s none. But I’m not interested: I’m a happy chef all the same.