IVAN GIANSANTE, CHEF OF IL FORNAIO RESTAURANT, ICC 2013
Could you briefly tell us the story of your professional career in the States?
It all started at the Istituto Alberghiero in my hometown of Pescara, while studing I used to work around the city in small restaurants and hotels. After I finished school I had the luck to work under great Italian Chefs such as as Claudio Di Sabatini (2000 European chef cup winner) and Stefano Leone (Bronze Medal at the Bocuse d’or Italia 2010) with which I collaborated for the opening of the Cafe le Paillottes (first restaurant of Filippo De Cecco); now supervised by Chef Heinz Becks. In 2004 my dream of going to the States came true. I immediately started working in restaurants in the state of Pennsylvania where a few of my family members moved in the early 50’s. My uncle and I opened a restaurant, unfortunately people in the area did not understand our vision for an authentic Italian restaurant, and it closed a few years later. About three years ago I got hired by Il Fornaio as senior sous-chef in Reston VA, and felt very lucky to work for such a great chef as Maurizio Mazzon. Last February I moved to San Francisco and had the opportunity to be a Chef for this beautiful restaurant. I’m very proud of it.
 
When and how was the restaurant Il Fornaio born?
Il Fornaio was born in Barlassina (Lombardia) in 1972 as a baking school; shortly after the first retail bakery opened in Milan. In 1981 the concept was imported in the United States by William and Sonoma who opened four bakeries. In 1987 Larry Mindel took over the company and opened the first Il Fornaio cucina Italiana (restaurant and bakery) in Corte Madera. After that, the company kept expanding, opening restaurants in five different states across the United States.
 
The concept created by Rossella Canevari, which in 2013 kicked off the event IMAF CHEFS 'CUP, revolves around the union of food and art. What comes to mind when thinking of this combination? Nowadays, chef’s dishes are considered and judged as works of art. Do you agree?
The connection between food and art is natural, from the middle-ages chefs were among the most important figures of the royal staff with their decadent events filled with their extravagant creations to impress their guests. Today we as chefs have the luck of working in a multi ethnic world and we are able to discover new flavors and ingredients. Also the innovation in technology help us to find new methods to transform ingredients.
 
Food is art, no doubt about it, especially when you do it with passion and love. Food I think is the highest form of art because you can look at painting or you can touch a sculpture but you can’t taste them.
 
How was the fruitful collaboration between Il Fornaio and EATART born? 
We as a restaurant group have an invision to guarantee our guests the most authentic Italian experience outside of Italy. Our Executive Chef Maurizio Mazzon travels very often to Italy to connect with Farmers, growers etc. to find new products of the highest quality for our guests. By doing so we have been recommended by people in the Italian food industry and Rossella got in touch with Chef Maurizio and now we are in this beautiful partnership.
 
In a few days the winners of IMAF CHEFS 'CUP will land in the United States. Il Fornaio will host the final head to head between chef Rosanna Marziale and chef Stefano Cerveni. Does Il Fornaio normally host events like this? Do you think that events like these are an incentive and a boost to the promotion of excellence of Italian food?
Il Fornaio is known as one of the best Italian Restaurant groups in the United States and in the past has hosted many events with tv celebrity Chefs as Mario Batali and Antony Bourdain, but it is the first time I believe that we have the honor to host such a great competition.
It is a great incentive to host the IMAF chefs cup, first because I love food and admire those Chefs. I have to say that I’m a great fan of Chef Claudio Sadler, who unfortunately didn't make it to the finals. I believe that competitions like this gives great value to Italian gastronomy and shows people that we are all about quality (that is the difference)...
 
Based on your experience, how has the relationship between foreigners and the Italian cuisine changed? Will the American public enthusiastically welcomes and appreciates events like the one that will take place in September at Il Fornaio?
Until a little while ago and especially in certain areas of the country the idea of Italian food was Spaghetti and meatballs and other sort of “poor dishes”, now people are willing to expand their culinary horizons and it is easier to have them fall in love with quality foods. Here at Il Fornaio we feature a regional festival the first 2 weeks of the month and thanks to Chef Maurizio that researches all over the beautiful regions of Italy we are able to let people try items such as: Bottarga, Saba, Mirto, Nduja Calabrese and variety of cheeses, meats etc etc.
I think America is going to love this event, it does not happen everyday, to have the chance to try food from two Italian Michelin Star Chefs in San Francisco.
 
And to conclude, can you give a personal motto or an inspirational phrase to the two Italian chef who will be competing in the States?
Enjoy what you are doing, trust your palat and good luck.

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