A full life

From Colombia to becoming the chef of a restaurant with a women-only staff in Umbria. Maria De La Paz tells her story

A close up of Colombian chef Maria De La Paz. At 1

A close up of Colombian chef Maria De La Paz. At 18 she won the competition for best young chef in her country, then she moved to Italy in 1999, to work at Casa Vissani in Baschi (Terni). After a long series of experiences in Europe, today she runs a kitchen staff made entirely of women at restaurant La Locanda in Montecchio (Terni), +39.0744.951017

My life as a woman chef is as challenging as that of a man in the same profession. This job involves mind, body, soul and time. Private life is limited, and you learn to take only the best it can give you and to carefully appreciate everything you do in your spare time. Over the years, this job wears you out and only leaves you enough time to enjoy the emotion of a family, a party, a journey. Only people in the field, both women and men, can understand what we do and why we do it. Every day we are in contact with the magic of transformation and we create feeligns. These are life-choices. Mine began as a teenager, when my father asked me: "What would you like to do? What makes you feel good and happy?". "I love cooking ", I replied.

I was born and raised in in Colombia, in the mountain area of the Andes, in a family that has always paid lots of attention to self-affirmation. I had already experimented a little while playing at home and cooking dinner and, when I was even younger, at my grandparents’ house, where we spent the holidays in the countryside. We used to make excellent food, with fresh milk, cocoa to mill, hens still alive, hanging upside down, completely drunk before being killed. There was an old cook called Lilli. She was silent, grumpy, and would prepare special things that touched you. As I used to say, they were “magic”.

Being a woman has never caused me many difficulties. In fact, I’d say that not-being-a-man is a privilege too. This because I come from a matriarchal land, in which women are the ones who lead society. I come from a feminist education: I was raised only with women at home, with a mother who had a brilliant career, an intelligent and creative sister. And then there was me, the youngest in the family: I saw these two examples of tenacity and of luck of being women. They were sensitive, dreamers and fighters. From the first internships in kitchens full of men, my being a girl made me stand out because of my being different.

Then, at 15, I arrived to Italy, a country in which women are simply loved. I have experienced many countries in which the “weak sex” is nothing but a means to procreate. I have experienced the kitchens of countries that are not too far away – France, Spain, Greece, Turkey – where being a foreigner, or, worse still, being a woman, still limits your access to the kitchen. They easily limit your tasks to washing up the dishes. I chose to live in Italy because, from north to south, if you’re a woman and you demonstrate your skills, you will be appreciated and acknowledged without discriminations. In fact, I would dare say that everyone is very careful with women.

Today I’m in charge of a small kitchen, full of women I admire. We are a close-knit group and, the fact we’re women, is not a choice or a discriminatory gesture towards men. It is by chance, a happy chance because women not only know how to be part of a team, but they make sure this team will become part of their life, they endorse the causes of mothers and marry their job as dedicated wives.

Since immemorial time, females have been in charge of feeding their species, and thinking of this makes me believe I am part of something bigger. I have the luck of doing a job that was prescribed by nature, so I only do something that is part of my essence. I love my profession, it is what gives me happiness. I love getting up in the morning and rolling out the pasta, feeding the yeast, boiling the stock. A difficult life? I’d rather say it is a full life.

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Female chef's life stories

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


Maria De La Paz

born in Colombia, she's the chef of La Locanda restaurant in Montecchio, Umbria region

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