Simone Strano, Giuseppe Raciti, Giovanni Grasso and Peppe Torrisi are the four Sicilian excellences ready to teach enthusiasts, from amateur to professional, pushed by a will to collaborate and to diffuse the unique island tastes

Going beyond envy and resentment, competing just in an honest way and above all collaborating: these are the ʻingredientsʼ at the basis of the new cooking school Chefs with coppola (flat cap), opened in Riposto by four Sicilian culinary excellences: Simone Strano, Giuseppe Raciti, Giovanni Grasso and Peppe Torrisi.

HANDS IN THE DOUGH ALL TOGETHER. “Even before being chefs, we are four very different people, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but this diversity makes us unique” said Simone Strano during a masterclass on fresh pasta-making which opened the cooking school. “Pasta is the real symbol of unity and partnership: we knead the dough all together, so that fresh pasta is the result of collaboration” added the chef while his three colleagues delighted in preparing various shapes of ravioli. 

DIFFUSING SICILIAN TASTES. Egg pasta stuffed with pesto ʻalla Trapaneseʼ served on ricotta fondue with a final sprinkling of finely sliced almonds: this is the totally Sicilian result of the cooking show by the four chefs with coppola. Pasta, symbol of Italian cuisine, served with typical Sicilian condiments: the very tastes and smells of the sunny island are the reason why Simone Strano and Giuseppe Raciti decided to back to Sicily, once they enriched their cultural heritage abroad. “Giuseppe and I were very young when we went to Switzerland, ‒ told us chef Strano ‒ but after gaining much experience, we decided to both come back to our land to spreadt a culinary tradition passed down from generation to generation”. Indeed, Strano, Raciti, Grasso and Torrisi share the idea that cuisine arises from the desire to share emotions and memories associated with recipes of family tradition.

YOU NEVER STOP LEARNING. Despite their young age, the four chefs have much to pass down, but also so much to learn. “You have to work humbly and be willing to accept advices from who knows more than you. I’m not ashamed to say that I learnt many tricks to make pasta ʻalla cenereʼ (with Gorgonzola and olive) from a 19-year-old boy” said Raciti, reflecting the fact that experience is more important in cuisine rather than age. Humility, spirit of cooperation and understanding are the calling card of the team of these four chefs, who learnt this way of thinking and working by a well-known Sicilian chef and their friend Seby Sorbello, who also attended the opening day of the school.

However, Raciti denounced the lack of unity and partnership among Sicilian chefs: “If Sicilian people worked understandingly and chefs cooperated without envy, our land can be the strongest in the world in catering. Unfortunately, here this mindset is still missing. In contrast, it emerges partly in Campania and Calabria, where there are less star chefs compared to Sicily. Having received significant international recognitions ‒ added Raciti, who had many rewards worldwide ‒ doesn’t mean feeling superior: a star chef collaborating with one working in a trattoria is not an outrage, rather it’s a cultural exchange, a chance of enrichment for both”.

COPPOLA AS A SYMBOL. Less envy and more collaboration to export Sicilian excellences abroad: “This school is just the beginning of a great project. ‒ said Strano ‒ The coppola  (flat cap) is a Sicilian symbol recognized all over the world and so often associated with mafia. Indeed, I’ve chosen it to show that we are the good side of Sicily, that of men devoted to their job. When I was in Switzerland at the age of 18, I missed my land very much and so I decided to buy a coppola: since then I have never taken it off”.  

Translated by Daniela Marsala