In team with my mother

Serena D'Alesio: ignoring the treasure offered by previous generations is self-destructive

25-01-2014
Serena D'Alesio, chef and pastry chef born in 1982

Serena D'Alesio, chef and pastry chef born in 1982. She works at relais Marchese del Grillo in Fabriano (Ancona). Beside her, her mother Emanuela, reining the restaurant since 1990

I grew up in between the feet of my mother who spent every single day in the kitchen. I used to do my homework on the pass, controlled by her vigil eyes, surrounded by the aroma of chicken stock and sauces, and the not-so-soft sounds of the chopper she would use to section pork and lamb herself. Next to her, there’s always been a woman and the most tenacious boy available. As for me, in order to be next to this special mum, I began drying the cutlery at the age of 4 or 5, kneading fresh egg pasta with my stocky hands, tasting everything that would fill the restaurant with aromas. I then started to receive toys such as Easy-Bake Oven, a toy ice-cream machine, so that’s how I baked my first cakes with a light bulb (speak of low temperature cooking!).

Destructured crostata by Serena D'Alesio (photo by Daniele Cristiano)

Destructured crostata by Serena D'Alesio (photo by Daniele Cristiano)

I wore my first chef jacket at 19, not because I was a chef, but because Luca Montersino gave it to me as soon as I arrived in Chioggia, at Etoile, and I couldn’t work without that. I had never worn it before, because I respected, and still do, anyone who runs a kitchen, and I didn’t think I deserved it. Luca, Stefano Laghi, Michele Nardelli, Emanuela Isoardi are great teachers, great motivators, special people from whom you can learn anything, from cultivating beets to turning them into a swan... made of sugar!

Today I’m 31, I work in the kitchen with my mum, who is 63, and has seen me grow up and we’re both curious but terribly anachronistic. I look back: my favourite chefs are those from the 18th century, I love romanced recipes, the true stories of the historical and social events of the time when the dish was born. In 2014 I cannot stand any longer, listening to the same story from North to South: «I’ve created this dish because it reminds me of my grandmother who cooked it for my grandfather before he went to war…». Of course, perhaps sometimes it is indeed true... but this doesn’t mean we have to remain silent for two minutes in front of a dish of steaming cappelletti in stock that has to do more with the emotional memories than with reality.

My mother, instead, looks ahead: she goes on youtube, she melts down when she sees Cracco dressed up as a model, she calls Sadler if she tries a recipe from his book and is not convinced, she sends a friendship request to Martín Berasategui and askes the chefs who she thinks highly of to have her as an intern for a week. We’re like Laurel and Hardy. The two of us are finally a team, until some time ago I was trying to contain her in all sorts of ways, in order to get all the available space: I wanted to try, make mistakes, emerge and most of all, do all the opposite to what she was used to. The result? Pure self-destructiveness.

We agreed only on one thing: cooking is an act of love and pastry-making is an act of passion and dedication; but we had lost sight of this and so we parted. How about the kitchen? It became the key word to increase the audience, with kitchen TV, fashion, journalists, actors, singers, nutritionists, clandestine immigrants, philosophers, politicians and porn-stars – all in the kitchen, all chefs. Ok. It’s fine. Because cooking is about natural selection: it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, if you’re honest, well mannered, humble, informed, respectable and respected, full of that passion that perhaps even your wife or husband cannot completely grasp.