My passion for hosting cooking classes, team buildings and Italian inspired cooking events
After my family, my great love in life is cooking and sharing delicious, nutritious culinary delights with others.
I was born in the heart of Milano, Italy’s second-largest city, where modern industry and traditional culture mix with a diverse population of people from all over the world. In this complex urban society, my childhood was warm and wonderful, nurtured by loving parents and a large extended family from various regions of northern Italy.
My first mentor was my grandmother, Tina, the prototype of an Italian “nonna”, who always worried about feeding her “chicks” while sharing her basic principles of life: enjoy the simple pleasures and work hard. In that order.
My first Italian cooking classes
Tina’s son, Luigi, was my father. My hero. His love and laughter inspired all of us. And his only recipe, a delectable Italian version of faisan à la Bohémienne (casserole of roast pheasant with foie gras, truffles, and paprika) taught me that creativity is an essential ingredient in every cucina (Italian kitchen).
My passionate and exuberant mother Mirella, “…imbued (my) family with such a love of life’s gustare (to taste with all your senses) …the devotion to onion soup and … eating apple seeds and the belief that good lobster should taste of almond.” *
When I decided to spread my wings and venture into the mysterious adult world, I chose to study a less tasty subject: economics. Eventually, I became a chartered accountant and established a successful career in the corporate world, where I met and fell in love with my boss, Paolo Delmonte, my practical, rational soul mate. Our marriage ended my business career, just two years after it started, and with joy and relief, I refocused on my true passions: family, food, and cooking. First inviting friends to sample my recipes, later opening my home in Milano to friends of friends who wanted to learn how to prepare them. That’s how I stared hosting cooking classes, hen parties and cooking events.
* Peta Mathias – Foreword to The Fragrance of Basil: Food and Memories of My Italian Childhood – Raffaela Delmonte*
My family, our new life in New Zealand, my Italian cooking school
Soon we started our own family. Our first daughter, Giulia, arrived to begin the next generation. Now what? Return to chartered accountancy? I was a good accountant, but my heart was elsewhere. So I began my first formal studies of health and nutrition, at the Istituto per la Promozione della Cultura Alimentare, the culinary institute of Italy’s finest food magazine, La Cucina Italia.
Italy is a beautiful country. It is our culture, our language, our cuisine, our homeland. But Milano in the 1990s was not a good place to raise a family. In 1993, after carefully analyzing many options, we booked three tickets to New Zealand. It was love at first sight. Just as we hoped, we found the perfect place to raise our family and pursue our professional interests. Paolo became a business consultant and also started a food-importing business. Giulia and Martha where enjoying a happy, healthy childhood. And I expanded my culinary skills with an in-depth study of local ingredients.
In 1999, I joined with Nadia Ganassin, my best Italian friend, to start Al Dente. It grew slowly to become a successful business. But it is far more than that. I am a very lucky person. My work is my joy.
Three years later, in 2002, Paolo and I enjoyed 12 momentous months. Sofia, our third daughter, arrived and became the true Kiwi member of our family. I published my first book, The Fragrance of Basil: Food & Memories of My Italian Childhood (Penguin 2002). And we moved to Villa Romantica, which became the heart of Al Dente, an extension of my kitchen, and the perfect place to entertain.
You are invited.
“Cooking ….is the subtle thread which unites my diverse family, as well the only proven method of communicating the continuity of our traditions to my daughters by recreating the special atmosphere that is only possible when you are seated around a table with those you love.”