When a woman makes a career at a restaurant, and she is not a chef

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Vanessa Melis, Mariella Organi and Michela Scarello: three female personalities of Italian hospitality tell their own dining room

Few. Perhaps very few. The challenge is to count how many women made a career at the highest level in the catering world, but not in the kitchen. We are not talking about chefs. The spotlights are now focused on the dining room, a place of hospitality that in the collective imagination can be easily associated with a female face. Moreover, that can be predictable in domestic environments, but a woman’s smile would rarely greet you at a restaurant.

The dining room profession is mostly passed down or preserved by large families of oenogastronomy. More than a handover, to pass on means a continuous giving, with a very special power. Three women confirm so much humanity: they not only masterfully lead the service at the restaurant, but also acquired this lifestyle, embodying spirit and material of this profession. From one side of Italy to the other, up to the peaks of the Carnic Alps, a red thread unfolds among the stories of Vanessa Melis, Mariella Organi and Michela Scarello. They support their men with different roles: as accomplice wives the first two women, and as a wise sister the last one. They may be geographically, by origins and by wealth of experience distant, but they strongly resemble each other in perspective, sensitivity and “logos”, which means word and thought.

Vanessa and Gianfranco started together in their Pascucci al Porticciolo, one-star Michelin’s on the Latium coast. “Sensitivity is one of the characteristic elements of my job – the maître begins – We need to understand the guest and reassure those who are worried about the form, by trying to be natural and spontaneous. Cooking mistakes might be forgiven, but the dining room ones are more difficult to forget”. Gesture, words and a lot of observation: “Together with the kitchen we are the element of success”. On the Adriatic coast, on the other hand, there is Mariella who, with her finesse and elegance, is the other great woman in the contemporary room alongside Moreno Cedroni, the chef of La Madonnina dal Pescatore. A wife, mother and career woman, but she runs away from social media and exhibitionism. “Emanuela Pierangelini, Livia Iaccarino, Renata Fugazzi: I grew up with that example of elegance, sophistication, of great presence. We don’t really know who the references are today”. However, there are those who continue to prefer a male professional. “I was already a sommelier and maître in the dining room, but when it was time to select the wine, they kept asking for my father”, confirms Michela, first generation out of five who, with her brother Emanuele, reversed the female and male presence between the dining room and the kitchen at the two-starred “Agli Amici” in the Udine province. “The dining room is like a choir: as in the orchestra, we shall not only play, but listen as well”.

Modesty is the leaven of their profession.

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