Sicilian chef Peppe Corsaro launched his three-month chef-in-residence program La Mia Mamma to give Italy's best home cooks exposure to the culinary scene in London.
Peppe Corsaro is a successful restauranteur in London, U.K. However, his claim to fame has not followed the traditional route other chefs have taken. Instead, the homesick Italian ditched the idea of hiring fresh culinary grads, employing Italian grandmothers and moms in their place. The move has been a big hit. Through his three-month chef-in-residence program La Mia Mamma, Corsaro trains Italian moms and grandmas who want to travel to London to showcase their region's or province’s culinary delicacies, Good News Network reports. The initiative was so successful, that he was even featured on CNN's show "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy."
Corsaro launched La Mia Mamma when he was homesick for Sicily, where he grew up. On a night out with his friends, someone suggested he fly his mother over to cook for them. Although it was a joke, the chef took his friend seriously. He said in an interview with CNN, "I said to myself, why not? So I called my mom and I asked her. She said: 'I'll come tomorrow.'" So, in 2018, he began the program as a pop-up. Today, however, he runs two restaurants as well as a deli. At all these locations, real Italian mothers and grandmothers are recruited from one of Italy's 20 regions to cook for guests. Each location hosts three moms or grandmas.
"We are not looking for professional chefs," Corsaro shared. "But housewives who cook for their families." Home cooks are screened for the residence program through social media. Selected candidates are then flown to London for a trial, after which they are given accommodation, a transportation card and a salary in line with that of a sous chef. Many of those who join La Mia Mamma are in their 60s and often retired; they may have never even lived abroad before.
In addition to giving these home cooks valuable experience, the program is an opportunity to showcase the wide diversity in Italian cooking, as many believe the cuisine is homogenous across the country. Indeed, foods typically associated with Italian cuisine, such as lasagne, tortellini, prosciutto crudo, ragu and parmigiana, all come from different parts of the European nation. This month, La Mia Mamma is focusing on Campania and Lazio, two adjacent regions on the southwest of Italy, host to Naples and Rome respectively.
Notably, the moms and grandmas are not limited to just the menu. As the kitchens are visible to patrons, it's easy to catch a glimpse of the home cooks at work. They are also usually happy to interact with guests. "You see them everywhere," Corsaro stated. "They are always around, making people try whatever they have been cooking. They will even dance with the guests." It's no wonder then that the chefs do not soon wish to leave. Corsaro's mother Famà explained, "It never happened that a mamma left happy to leave, and those who have gone often ask me when they can come back." She presently plays an ambassadorial role to help the home cooks feel more at home. "For me, this is not a job, it is my home," she added. "I hope I am transmitting that to the mammas." You can learn more about La Mia Mamma by visiting the website, linked here.