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Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Difficulties of Being a Young Chef in Italy

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NEW YORK CITY — Like many young people ‌growing up in ‍Sardinia, ​Davide Sanna loved Italian cuisine. However,⁢ he quickly realized that ​pursuing a career in ⁤the industry would‌ require him to move to New ⁢York.

Sanna had spent four ⁤years working in kitchens on the Mediterranean island and in northern Italy, starting at the ‌young age ⁢of 19. While he had a passion for cooking, he was frustrated by the long hours and low pay, making just 1,800 euros or $1,963.26 per month at best. During the peak⁢ summer season, he would work constantly for two months straight without‍ a single day off.

That all ⁣changed for Sanna when a fellow chef referred him to⁣ a restauranteur in New York who ⁣was looking for cooks. Without a ⁣moment’s hesitation, he accepted the job offer and made ​his way to the​ United States.

For the past year, Sanna has been ⁢working as a chef at Piccola Cucina, a popular Italian‌ restaurant located in ‍New York City’s vibrant SoHo district, known for its designer ​boutique shops and upscale art galleries.​ In New York, he can easily earn up to $7,000 per‌ month ​working a⁢ 50-hour ⁣week.

“The job security and regular payment is something I never experienced in Italy,” Sanna said. ⁢”In Italy, one wouldn’t get paid if they took a few extra minutes to finish⁣ up their work. But in New York, every extra minute I​ work is accurately accounted for in my paycheck.”

Italy is internationally renowned for its food, with many talented young chefs hoping to make a career for⁤ themselves in their home country. However, they often find themselves disappointed and held back by​ low ‌wages, poor‍ labor protections, and‌ a lack of professional opportunities. Italy‍ has been one of the slowest growing economies in the euro zone since the introduction of Europe’s single currency 25 years ago.

While Italian chefs such as Massimo Bottura of Osteria⁢ Francescana⁢ in Modena are pushing the boundaries of Italian cuisine, the country may still be underrepresented in ⁣world-class restaurants given its rich ‌culinary tradition.‍ Currently, Italy has only 13 restaurants with three Michelin stars,⁢ the highest possible ranking‍ in the prestigious guidebook, the same number as Spain. On the other hand, Japan boasts 21 three-star restaurants, and France has ‌a whopping 29.

In recent years, many young Italian chefs have left their home country to ⁢seek work in faster-growing economies. This trend was briefly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the increasing number of young ​chefs moving ⁣away ‌from Italy has contributed to a‌ demographic crisis—the ⁤country’s ⁣population of 59 ⁢million is decreasing.

Sicily and⁢ Sardinia, as well as southern Italy, have seen a ⁣large number of people emigrating due to the lack of economic opportunities. A prime example is 25-year-old Roberto Gentile, a chef from Sicily. After working in Britain and ‍Spain, Gentile now cooks French dishes at Le Suquet, a two-star Michelin restaurant near⁣ Toulouse, France.

In spite of Gentile’s love for traditional Italian fare and a deep-seated longing to return to his homeland,‌ the challenging economic conditions in Italy make ‍it⁢ an unsuitable option for him.

“After⁣ attaining a ⁤high⁣ level of expertise, one would hope to return ​to⁣ Italy and ⁢find a suitable role and salary, but that is not the case,”⁤ he said. “In five years’ time, I don’t see myself working in Italy.”

However, Giorgia Di Marzo took the chance and moved back to⁣ Italy in⁣ 2018 after ⁤working in Britain for eight​ years ⁢as a chef and restaurant manager. Di Marzo⁣ wanted to put down roots ‌and be closer to her family. ‍Sadly, she received an offer of only $1,284.84 per⁣ month ‍to⁣ work 50 hours a ⁣week at a restaurant in Milan; a salary that⁣ couldn’t support her economically. Over the last three decades, Italian wages have declined significantly even after inflation has been adjusted. As a nation, it is the only European country where wages have taken a turn for the⁢ worse.

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Truth Media Network
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