National Chef Day Meet Ella Piazzi - Chef de Partie
What made you decide to become a chef?
I decided to become a chef because I was impressed by one particular head chef that I worked for. I was in awe at the speed and precision of his execution. He was able to serve more than 200 main courses in less than 15 minutes. He was amazing and so were the ideas he came up with! I still remember for a canapés event he served strawberry ice cream (homemade of course) into lipstick-like tubes. At that point I was already working with him and I can tell you they were a pain to fill!
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is the combination of creativity and flexibility that you need to apply every day. You can do the same recipe a million times and sometimes it won’t come out the right way, or maybe the delivery didn’t turn up and you’ll need to make last minute improvisations. I also appreciate the fact that I have the skills to transform raw ingredients into nice and healthy meals. Coming from Emilia Romagna, feeding people is part of my DNA!
Describe your typical day?
My typical day starts in the kitchen at 7am. The first thing I take care of are breakfast items while I sip my second coffee of the day and I wake up. I am not a morning person unfortunately! I always feel so sorry for the people working with me because until the end of my second coffee, I am usually a grumpy grizzle. Buy lunchtime I am fine by, when I enter into service mode. I then sort out the cold breakfast section and I have a brief with my head chef to go through the menu for the day. Lunch service at 12 and at this point I enter ‘beast mode’ again and I become the terror of the pass! We cook live as many things as we can, to offer the best food to our customers; a hot meal freshly made, with good ingredients and a lot of love might make some difference in someone’s day. Therefore, I am very organized, keeping an eye on the stock, one on the tickets and a third on special requests.
Once the service has reached its peak and the orders have been placed, it’s time to clean down and pack, ready for the next day.
What advice would you give someone if they were thinking about becoming a chef?
Think carefully if you want to become a chef, It’s not an easy job. You’ll cut your fingers and burn your forearms, you’ll come in contact with things that are genuinely disgusting and stink. You’ll spend most of your time standing, multitasking and sweating in a fast paced and hot environment, sometimes there is no natural light and a lot of noise; if this doesn’t scare you, then you are on the right direction! You live with no nail polish or your hair done, stinking of grease and stew because food is life and like a pagan deity, you have the capacity to create something out of almost nothing and that’s pure magic!
Who’s your favourite chef? And why?
My favourite chef will always be my Grandma. I’ve never left her house with an empty stomach and she was able to cook a feast with an empty fridge. She was a teenager during WW2 and that taught her a lot in terms of food and the importance of it. All she learnt, she passed down to me. As a consequence, I appreciate any chef who cooks with ‘poor’ ingredients - locals, third choice, leftovers. A chef I really appreciate is Douglas McMaster, the pioneer of the zero-food waste movement. He found a way to cook and serve broccoli stem whole as main course and that’s simply genius! I usually put it in a soup!