It’s very rare to meet someone like food mentor Marco Bianchi: an explosion of positivity. We chatted about, as he helped me understand where to start when taking your first steps in the kitchen...as he suggested ‘absolutely barefoot’!
Hi Marco, If you had to describe yourself with 3 adjectives only, what would they be?
Curious, emotional and happy.
Science communicator at the Umberto Veronesi Foundation and food mentor. Can you explain your approach to food better?
Mine is an approach based on scientific data. I made my profession my everyday life. Cooking represents, for me, a true act of love. Cooking with rationality, not from the stomach up, allows everyone to be good at it. Behind every food choice we make, hides the possibility of improving your health, making therapy more effective and even extending life expectancy.
I was eight when I cooked my first dish of pasta for my parents. I learned by watching my grandfather, who’s been my master in the kitchen. He used to pay a lot of attention to the choice of raw materials, he was a lover of beautiful pots and a great innovator in the kitchen.
How did your passion for cooking begin?
My passion for cooking was born at a young age. I was eight when I cooked my first dish of pasta for my parents. I learned by watching my grandfather, who’s been my master in the kitchen. He used to pay a lot of attention to the choice of raw materials, he was a lover of beautiful pots and a great innovator in the kitchen.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career as a cook or food blogger?
As to a career as a chef, you have to arm yourself with patience and, above all, love the sacrifices. It’s a job that often has no structured schedule and, more importantly, is constantly evolving. For many professional activities, including that of the cook, one must learn to have an elastic mind and the desire to get better day after day. Food bloggers are strongly linked to the world of social networks, you continuously work in a smart working mode and often have to clash with the laws of the market. For both jobs the first ingredient is passion, the second is patience and lastly, creativity!
Your kingdom is the kitchen, but when you’re not behind the stove, what do you like to do?
Many, many things! Given that I really like doing sports, I relax a lot by walking, going to the gym and spending time with my daughter: running, playing with Barbie, drawing or simply cooking! I love to read and plan trips to discover new cities, which often become a creative stimulus in the kitchen!
First date and you want to cook: what do you cook to conquer your other half?
Whole wheat spaghetti with courgette and pecorino cream, pistachio crusted salmon and a warm dark chocolate cake with coffee and raspberries!
Since your kitchen is always very healthy, what can’t be missing in your pantry?
All the food in the Mediterranean diet. Any type of whole grain: rice, pasta, quinoa, barley, spelt...lots of vegetables and fresh fruit. Followed by dried fruit, legumes, low-fat cheeses and blue fish! I add extra virgin olive oil and dark chocolate, minimum 72% of cocoa and coffee, at least 4x throughout my day! I can't end the day without a square of dark chocolate! In a few weeks, thanks to a dear friend and illustrator, Nicolò Canova, it’ll be possible not to lose sight of our precious heritage: the Mediterranean diet revised in an artistic way, as a healthy dish for every single day. All the information will be on my blog and social media! You’ll love it, I already know!
Let’s pretend know one will actually see this, what’s the junk food you can’t say no to?
It’d be pizza, but we can’t define it as junk food, as long as it’s made with all the right ingredients: a semi-wholemeal dough, fresh tomato, the right amount of fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and, why not, a little bit of vegetables... I eat it at least twice a week, don't touch my beloved pizza!
In the kitchen you usually wear an apron, but from what I've seen, you don't like it very much. What do you like to wear in your everyday life?
I confirm! With an apron on, I don't feel comfortable. I usually wear jeans, a shirt and I'm strictly barefoot. Since my childhood I’ve been used not to wear socks or slippers at home. It's a sense of freedom that I can't give up on.
You’ve written many books, can I ask you where you get inspiration from?
I’m inspired by reading and following trends. Let me explain: I study Italian habits very carefully through public information systems (such as the Imagine Observatory, ISTAT data), I often dream ingredient combinations and I write down every possible recipe that comes to my mind. I involve my community, I observe, I study. This is how my books were born. Each and every book wants to answer certain questions that come from my big social family.
Ratatouille, the Disney cartoon movie, taught us that a dish, if cooked well, can make us remember some truly unforgettable moments of our life. Has this ever happened to you? Is there a dish that has a really nice memory to you?
Yes! It's trivial, but it's about tomato sauce! My grandfather Eurico prepared it every Sunday. It was his favourite dressing as well as his forte. Every Sunday I used to go see him and never leave the house without a jar of this sauce. It often happened that we improvised an aperitif with a bruschetta: I couldn't wait to go home to open the jar and devour the sauce! Today, it’s still my weakness as well as my favourite comfort food: on pizza, on pasta or on an omelette. I can open a jar of sauce and finish it without even seasoning it.
What if you had to name a dish you do the best? What would it be?
I'd say whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce, anchovies, stracciatella (cheese) and fried capers ...
Let's talk about social networks. You have an Instagram account with more than 330K followers. What's your relationship with them? How do you live the criticisms? Have you ever received cyberbullying?
Every week, I'm impressed to see how many people I can reach. An average of 13 million Followers watch me, post, comment and tag me in them making my recipes. Fortunately, it’s a very careful, selective, and rational community! Those who criticise have always proved to be people belonging to extreme niches of various kinds. Personally, I believe anyone who bullies is an ignorant person, that's who ignores certain cultural and civic aspects.
When you cook, is there music that accompanies you while you're cutting vegetables or baking delicacies?
Of course, It’s usually the top hits on the national and international charts! There are, however, playlists that I can't give up: from Oasis and Madonna to Gianna Nannini, De Andrè, Diodato, Carrá and Cristina D’Avena, because I don't mind being a child again!
I’m bad at cooking, what’s the first thing you'd recommend to a person who doesn't know how to cook, or better, what would you teach me to cook?
I’d teach you to fill the pantry with foods that do you good and allow you not to go crazy in the kitchen, wasting too much time given your culinary skills. Green light also for canned legumes and pre-cooked grains, vegetables to alternate between fresh and frozen. Let's eliminate the myth that precooked and ready-to-eat food is bad. Just knowing how to choose products with reduced salt and fat content. Everything else is done by imagination! And for this, I refer you to my blog. A trivial example: precooked wholemeal basmati rice, seasoned with chickpeas or already-boiled lentils and chopped parsley, dried tomatoes and red onions. Extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and zest! Easy, good, complete and tasty!
Last question: what’s your first thought in the morning and the last before bedtime.
My baby! I'd give her every day awareness of living in a beautiful world, also made of trouble, tears and sad moments. I’m a hunter of new stimuli, activities and things to do, daily gestures that help the mind and body to be strong and healthy, smiling among friends and family. All this because there's nothing more beautiful than giving her a happy dad!
I’m a hunter of new stimuli, activities and things to do, daily gestures that help the mind and body to be strong and healthy, smiling among friends and family.