The art of not giving up

Tenaciousness and improvisation: Deborah Corsi tells us about her twenty years at La Perla del Mare

14-05-2014
From 1992 till our days, the journey of chef Debor

From 1992 till our days, the journey of chef Deborah Corsi has been long, demanding and stimulating. She began to work as a waitress at La Perla del Mare in San Vincenzo (Livorno), +39.0565.702113, and then transformed it, together with husband Emanuele into a gourmet presidium on the Etruscan Coast

All improvisation: this is what I’m like, the exact opposite of rationality. I arrived at La Perla holding a teacher’s diploma, in 1992. It was the typical seafood, family-run trattoria: there I met Emanuele, who then became my husband. My mother-in-law was in the kitchen, with other ladies. As for me, I spent the first season in the dining room, but I was always attracted by the kitchen; I gradually got closer to that new world, with constant experiments, especially at night. This is how my adventure begun, with devastating working hours. I started from scratch, observing, learning the basic techniques from those women. My thirst for knowledge, however, was enormous, so I also attended courses with important chefs, especially on pastry making. However, I cannot say I am anyone’s pupil: in the end, I’m self-trained.

In this photo chef Deborah Corsi is portrayed together with one of her favourite ingredients: blue tailed fish (anchovies, in particular)

In this photo chef Deborah Corsi is portrayed together with one of her favourite ingredients: blue tailed fish (anchovies, in particular)

My greatest challenge arrived when the restaurant was completely destroyed by a fire, in February: all of a sudden we felt we had lost everything. However, we couldn’t give up, we didn’t want to feel sorry for ourselves, because society doesn’t want this, and our clients gave us an incredible energy. We started again by improvising a container-version of La Perla, cooking in 10 sq. m., making do with few things. We were in four, at work in the container, with a terrible heat on the wild sand. Nevertheless, I must say it was a magic year.

La Perla
was reborn, like a phoenix out of the ashes. An experience such as this can only make you grow, make you stronger: as of that moment I widened my emotions and feelings, tying them to my passions, namely painting and cooking. A white canvas was like a white plate, oil colours were like coloured raw materials. With some brushes or some spoons one can create something starting from an immediate inspiration. This is how Puffed gnocchi with palamita, Domino, Jellyfish, Spaghettone tra cielo e mare [between sky and sea, literally] Transparent raviolo with red prawns, Salmastro [Saltish] and Mare nel vetro [Sea in the glass] were born.

My work is a game of balance, as soon as I finish I already want to start again, with more energy and adrenalin than before. This is what I try to transmit to by collaborators in order to create a harmonic and serene atmosphere, because everything is better when you face it with a smile: even sixteen hours of work.

Deborah’s smile

Deborah’s smile

Being a woman, in this field, is hard. It’s not easy, especially if you get married and have children, because the restaurant has the same dynamics of a family: it’s as if you had two! However, even though there are more male chefs, a determined woman can make it. I cannot see any special obstacle and I don’t like to hear that women are better than men, and vice versa. We simply have two ways of seeing and organising things, we’re on the two famous different planets, Mars and Venus. Some beautiful collaborations can start from this, based on great respect and consideration, as in the case of the experience I acquired outside my own kitchen.

Luckily, the saying «women are cooks, men are chefs» is changing: until a few years ago, this prejudgement survived, perhaps because men are natural fighter, protective of both family and career, while women have always been more prone to family and tradition, without necessarily fighting outside. Perhaps things have not been turned upside down, yet, but at least we’re now travelling almost in the same direction.

There’s a quote I often like to read: «Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible and suddenly you’re doing the impossible».

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