FROM GRANDPA’S WOOD-BURNING KITCHEN TO AN EXECUTIVE CHEF IN NEW YORK – JOURNEY OF MICHELE CASADEI MASSARI

Thousands of people grow up with culinary dreams. These individuals wish to become top chefs and aim to establish a career in this industry. Out of these, only a few can achieve their dreams by getting a chance to work in an industry they were passionate about since forever. Most of the people are forced to give up on their culinary dreams due to societal pressure. With time, their determination begins to fade away, and they begin to prioritize other things in life over their passion.

The people need to understand that nothing in this world is big enough to prevent them from turning their dream into reality and turn their passion into a career. It is their own mind that limits their capability and creates an unbreakable wall between their passion and their life. For anyone serious about building a profession in the culinary world needs to show patience, determination, and most importantly, perseverance. Some people serve as the perfect example for aspiring chefs, and one of them is Michele Casadei Massari. He is an Italian chef who started cooking in a wood-burning kitchen when he was just a kid. His determination, along with the support from his loved ones, helped him become an executive chef and owner of five restaurants in New York City.

His journey began from his grandfather’s wood-burning kitchen, and today he has established a full-fledged career in the industry. He has carried his grandfather’s legacy forwards and established a prominent reputation in not only in the Italian culinary world but also in the American culinary world. Michele’s story is worth sharing as it serves as a significant form of motivation for all those aspiring culinary artists who believe their dreams are not achievable.

Discovering his Passion for Cooking

Michele is an Italian who was born in the house Bianca and Danilo on July 17, 1975. He grew up in Romagna, Riccione, Italy, with loving parents and a grandfather. Gigi, Michele’s grandfather, has played a key role in his grandson’s life. It was him who helped the young boy discover his passion for cooking and the one who inspired Michele to dream about becoming a top chef in the world.

 The young Michele’s story began when he was just six years old. Gigi was a traveler and a passionate chef who was in deep love with the culinary world. Observing his grandfather cook with finesse in a wood-burning kitchen always amazed him, and he felt a deep connection with this world. Gigi convinced Michele’s parents to let the young boy try his hand at cooking under his supervision.

After receiving his parents’ approval, he spent most of his time with his grandfather. Starting with the basics, Gigi helped Michele understand the criticalities of the cooking, and it impressed the young boy. He wanted to become just like his grandfather and wanted to become a chef. He was a quick learner, and at the age of 9, Michele was able to cook and present a dish to his mother all by himself. It was how Michele found his way to his true passion – cooking.

Michele stated, “He was the person who really taught me how to cook. It was all about technique. He loved preserving, pickling, those kinds of things. He learned that after the war, you had to make the most out of everything you had. That carefulness really makes me appreciate great fresh ingredients now. He taught me to be passionate about food, but also to be thoughtful, to learn about how ingredients interact, and to work with precision…”

Learning the Basics of Business

Gigi helped Michele find his true passion, but to start his own business, he had to learn the basics of the corporate world. His mother, Bianca, was an exceptional saleswoman and used to sell her products through phenomenal door-to-door marketing campaigns. It was his mother who taught him that the consumer needs must always be a priority. Bianca catered to all the needs of her customers, and this is exactly what she taught her son.

Dropping Out of Med-School and Moving into the Culinary World

Michele enrolled in a pharmacy course as he loved studying. However, after a short while, he began to believe that this was not what he wanted to do. Therefore, Michele entered med-school, which is what his father had always wanted. During his time in med-school, he used to work at a holiday resort in Sardinia. It helped in keeping his passion for cooking alive, and he then decided to step into the culinary world.

He planned to start his setup in New York City, and to get a visa; he had to come up with a unique plan. Michele worked on an idea of a coffee kiosk. His visa got rejected the first time, but after altering some of his thoughts, his visa got approved, and he moved to New York City in 2009. Michele and his friend Alberto set up a coffee kiosk on Union Square in Manhattan.

The Journey towards Becoming the Famous Five Ingredients Chef

The coffee-kiosk served its customers coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate, mini-desserts, and cookies. People begin to love the startup, and soon they began receiving offers to expand their business. It was how the very first Piccolo Cafe Restaurant opened on April 1, 2009. The restaurant received an overwhelming response, and within a year, they were able to open four Piccolo Café restaurant in New York City. The restaurants serve salads, Panini, Pasta, coffee, and desserts.

In the year 2014, Piccolo Café Restaurant started their catering service. They soon started offering their service to some of the major brands and companies such as Ferrari North America. However, Michele did not put a stop at his efforts to build a reputation in the culinary world. His next step was to introduce authentic Italian cuisine to the American food scene. With this aim, he opened the doors of his own Italian restaurant, Lucciola, on December 1, 2017. The Italian restaurant is located on 90st Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

As an executive chef at Piccolo and Lucciola, Michele began to be known as the ‘Five Ingredients Chef.’ He gained popularity as he prepares his dishes with a strict rule, and that is not to use more than five ingredients in a dish. It became his signature and helped him prepare amazing recipes.

Michele Casadei Massari, an executive chef in New York and the owner of five restaurants, is an example for all aspiring culinary artists. He is known for his elite cooking and entrepreneurial skills, which he learned from his grandfather and mother. Despite being a medical student, life brought him exactly where he was meant to be, and that was the culinary world.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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