I want to make bread

Roberta Pezzella: the dreams and difficulties of a woman chasing her total vocation

Roberta Pezzella, pastry-chef at Heinz Beck’s La

Roberta Pezzella, pastry-chef at Heinz Beck’s La Pergola at Rome Cavalieri, here on the occasion of Identità Milano 2014, where she held a lesson on bread together with Federica Racinelli (photo Brambilla-Serrani)

In 2000, after completing an experimental artistic curriculum in high school, I had no intention of continuing to study, nor to have may parents waste any money. During the Christmas season I decided to find myself a job, and I began to sell salted codfish at the market, for fun. Only salted codfish. I travelled every day from Frosinone to Rome and back.

This turned into something serious when they assigned me the management of a whole stand of my own. Four years later I was offered a new job at Conad in Frosinone: I had to run the supermarket’s fish section. I grew very passionate about it, right from the start. And I began to study the raw materials. On my stand, there had to be only fish, of the highest quality. I loved that job but at the same time I was curious of the bread/pastry section (which was produced in-house), next to me. I started to buy cookbooks, I attended non-professional courses, I dined in important restaurants.

With Heinz Beck

With Heinz Beck

Six years went by. My passion for restaurants led me to a dream: attending the “professione cuoco” professional cooking class at Città del Gusto in Rome. In April 2008, at 26, I left a permanent job to follow a dream that my uncle Silvio, a parish priest, gave me as a present on Christmas Eve. It is very important to point this out because today I connect the love I have for bread to him, as if, on that day, he had given me his blessing. When I was a child my uncle always told me to eat bread because it was Jesus.

Three intense months followed, during which I applied myself to the fullest. On the final day of the course they assigned me the preparation of the breadbasket. That is when the sparkle, the love for bread, began: while I watched the dough rising in the mould, I was left speechless. I wanted to understand how it could be possible. I had to run and choose some teachers. I finished the course with the highest grades – I was the best in the course :-) – and began a few internships. During the weekend I attended the kitchen of Adriano Baldassarre’s Tordo Matto. In the summer months, I was at Enrico Pezzotti’s Al Circo. Then the real internship began, at Heinz Beck’s La Pergola. Six unforgettable months, ending with my being hired.

Meanwhile, I decided that my bread-making teacher would be Gabriele Bonci. I began spending my free days at Pizzarium. It was there that I understood what dough is, what happens when water and flour end up in a kneading machine. Then I discovered natural yeast: a world opened up. One day Gabriele told me that in Rome there was Rolando Morandin, confectioner and master of great leavened products. He became, and still is, my master in the subject.

I left La Pergola, while maintaining good relations. One year later, I received a phone call from the chief pastry maker. In January 2011 I returned to the restaurant with the only objective of completely changing the breadbasket. After a series of tests, chef Heinz selected the new types of bread. He understood that I had a strong passion for bread making and was happy because I had grown professionally. So he accepted my desire to continue my training: with internships, courses and contests. Beck has been a point of reference for me, a great master, also in life. I will never stop thanking him for all the opportunities of growth he has given me.

However, in order to last 6 years, being the only woman in the team, I had to build myself an armour. And defend myself from difficult situations because if a girl stands out above many men, this is often annoying. Passion, however, makes you move on, without any other worries. I would do it all again, I have no regrets and I thank all the colleagues who have helped me to grow, right from the start.

Nel 2008

Nel 2008

Still, it is now time to change. At 32 you’re a woman and you have other objectives. The first one is personal happiness and the restaurant sector was depriving me of this, in a way. «What do you want to be, when you grow up?», people have always asked me. I have understood it. I want to make bread. I want to continue to grow and to understand. I want to be free. I want to fly. Spend the rest of my life in a bakery. Perhaps with a pram next to me. Because the restaurant scene is not keen on those who want to become a mother. Enough stress, too many working hours, enough envy. It’s time to move on, to find new adventures after the one of the perfect breadbasket, which I believe I have accomplished.


Female chef's life stories

Women who, for a moment, leave pots and pans to tell us their experience and point of view