Art, Craft, Design

The Life of a Chef :: Giorgia Grillo – Rome, Italy


Appetibilis Q&A
:: Work and life stories, while sitting around a table with friends ::

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Chef Giorgia Grillo in her workshop prepping mini Rum Baba | Photo ©LuciaZeccara

Meet Chef Giorgia Grillo, my “Gambero Rosso Schools” classmate.
Owner of “Nero Vaniglia”, a lovely Cafè-Pastry-Shop in Garbatella, a charming roman area a little off-the-beaten-track, yet…
if you are looking for gorgeous pastries, fully handmade with top quality ingredients, served with coffee and tea, it’s worth a detour.
She has been kindly answering our questions on Work, Travel, Career Advice and some Up close and personal notes.

Profession Pastry Chef
Shop Location “Nero Vaniglia” Pasticceria Artigianale – Circonvallazione Ostiense, 201, 00154 Rome
Email info@nerovaniglia.it
Instagram @NeroVaniglia
Facebook Nero Vaniglia
Favorite motto Never give up
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Chef Giorgia Grillo in her workshop
Photo ©LuciaZeccara

on Career: Advice, Suggestions, Hints…

What would you recommend to anyone wanting to get in the same line of work?
I suggest to be steadfast. If you really want to become a top-level pastry chef you need to be determined and dedicated. This kind of job requires commitment and so much effort. You get up early in the morning and you’ll never know when your day is over. Whoever approaches this job must be in it for passion, rather than for money. Money eventually will come, along with professional gratification. But first and above all, you must be very passionate.

To get ahead in business, better skills or connections?
Undoubtedly skills. When you know your way around the workshop and have a good dexterity, sooner or later you will be noticed, connections are not important.  When you’re an absolute beginner, a good educational background will help; experience and training are the things that matter.

3 must-have skills (or talents) to succeed?
Use your brain, look around you, there are lots of things to organize at the same time – besides being good at pastry – in order to getting the job done.

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Tea Time @ Nero Vaniglia Shop | Photo ©LuciaZeccara

on Travel: Bites and Insights

Favourite location(s) and/or destination(s)
I like mountains very much, the Trentino region. But it’s Abruzzo that has a special place in my heart: it’s closer (to Rome), unspoiled, with so many wonderful places that are little known both to tourists and locals.

What to taste, (favourite dish, ingredients,…)
I would say savoury. In Trentino, for example, I did enjoy very much how they prepare vegetables; potatoes for instance, a very humble ingredient and really simple to prepare, just sprinkled with chopped chives and a mix of aromatics. Simple flavours, simply delicious.

Next trip?
In my mind there are a couple of places I’d love to visit but so far I haven’t: one is Ireland and the second is Scotland. These are the trips that sooner or later I really want to do. I love natural scenery, wildlife…

Up close and personal notes

Sweet or Savoury?
Savoury. I’m a savoury person, but I passionately love making cakes. An inner struggle.

When did you decide to do what you’re doing?
It has been a late decision. I have always been fond of two things: literature and cooking. When I had to choose high school my choices were “liceo classico” (i.e. high school specializing in classics subjects) or “istituto alberghiero” (i.e. institute for catering and tourism). Obviously my parents guided me towards the former. After high school I had quite a long study/working experience. I attended archaeology, I worked as IT programmer and then my passion for cakes exploded.
My first approaches with professional pastry-making were at Gambero Rosso, with chef Maurizio Santin. Later under chef Marco Rinella’s guide, he got me involved immediately in the process with his scientific approach, which investigates the ingredients chemistry: “what are sugar compounds, what are proteins, what are yeasts, the reason why a dough leavens etc.”.

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Chef Giorgia Grillo in her workshop, hands-on
Photo ©LuciaZeccara

What’s been the happiest moment of your working life, so far?
The happiest and the very first moment was when I was “promoted” from the shop to the workshop of the cake shop I was working for. Eventually I was exactly where all the pastry magic was happening. To tell you the truth, at the beginning I spent most of my time scraping trays and pans, but I was enraptured.

What’s the best mistake you ever made?
That’s a difficult question … My mistake could have been the risky decision I’ve made when I resigned to open my own business? In my opinion it proved not to be a mistake, I chose to work my way.

Best and/or worst moment in and/or out of cooking school;
A bad experience… I was in a class made by women only, (how nasty can women be!). We were learning how to soften shortcrust pastry (you need to hit the dough with a rolling pin). The chef-instructor suggested to think about an unpleasant person and use that strength to hit the dough; apparently everybody thought about me. I think they did it because I was the only one to have landed an internship at Cristalli (chef Marco Rinella’s shop Cristalli di zucchero). I was really hurt.
I liked the Gambero Rosso class, instead. I enjoyed the empathy when working in team… we shared the tasks and the outcome was the sum of all our efforts. I started appreciating team working, and I liked it very much.

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@ Nero Vaniglia Pastry Shop | Photo ©LuciaZeccara

Childhood memories (scents, seasons…);
I have thousands of them. I was often in the kitchen with my mom, watching, decorating cookies. My preferred season? Autumn, when we used to go and pick chestnuts. A scent? the scent of the woods, damp leaves; the fragrant smell of roasted chestnuts, the holidays plenty…

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned
Never give in.

How would you like to be remembered?
I hope to teach my children to be steadfast. May they remember that their mother fought for the things she wanted to achieve.

Which magic power would you like to have?
Being able to extend the length of time, it is never enough!

Thank you Chef!

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