Originally from Nice, Annie Féolde began her career in the kitchen at age 25, when she came to Italy to learn the language. She worked in a few restaurants in Florence before meeting Italian sommelier, Giorgio Pinchiorri, who would become her future husband.
In 1979 they took over the then Enoteca Nazionale, in the heart of the Tuscan city and thus began the story of the famous Enoteca Pinchiorri restaurant. After first being mentioned in the Michelin Guide in 1981, the restaurant received its first star the following year, and in 1983, the second. The definitive turning point came in 1992 when in addition to opening Enoteca Pinchiorri in Tokyo, the Florence restaurant was crowned with its third Michelin star, making Annie Féolde the first woman in the world, outside of France, to receive such recognition.
In 2008 Anni Féolde and this husband inaugurated Enoteca Pinchiorri in Nagoya on the 42nd floor of a skyscraper in the Japanese city; while in 2016, they opened The Artisan by Enoteca Pinchiorri in Dubai.
We caught up with the chef to ask her some questions about the Grand Finale of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018, which will be held in Milan on the 12 and 13 May. Annie Féolde will be one of the Seven Sages, the prestigious jury of chefs tasked with choosing the next Young Chef S.Pellegrino from the 21 global finalists.
You were the first female chef in Italy to receive three Michelin stars. How do you manage to sustain your restaurant’s status at such a high level?
The recipe is simple and at the same time requires maximum attention: a lot of research, the best ingredients and techniques. We work hard to maintain this standard, all of us, but we know this is a guarantee of success.
Do you think there are some aspects that female chefs must pay particular attention to in order to establish themselves in this line of work?
Female chefs need to be motivated by passion, acquire knowledge at school and be aware that their job demands a lot of time and dedication. They need to face the fact that their family life will be heavily conditioned by their tough job.
Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence is an institution known internationally as well as a destination for every gourmet traveller arriving in the city. Do you notice a difference in the approach to the dining experience between international and Italian customers?
I think Italian customers are more demanding; maybe because they tend to be overcritical towards what you have defined “an institution”. Most of our international customers come to Enoteca while on vacation, are more relaxed and live the experience as “once in a lifetime”.
In addition to that of Florence, two other consolidated companies bear the name of Enoteca Pinchiorri: that of Tokyo, inaugurated in 1992, and that of Nagoya, opened in 2008. Are there any new projects planned for the future?
Over the years, there have been more than two restaurants with the name Enoteca Pinchiorri in Japan. Opening a restaurant abroad requires a deep knowledge of the foreign country and presents many surprises; even more so in the ’90, being one of the first Italian restaurants to open in Tokyo. In 2016 in Dubai, for example, we have started a more casual concept, The Artisan by Enoteca Pinchiorri, always with the aim of satisfying the local expectations.
At your gastronomic debut you participated in an Italian television program along with a well-known food critic; nowadays we see you on TV as a judge on Top Chef Italia. What role do you think that television has played in exciting more and more people about food?
TV has an enormous potential; it could help promoting good manners and educating people. Sometimes it is not used in this way and shows bad examples. I always refused to be part of TV shows where characters behave rudely and aggressively to attract audience. The chefs’ job is to create tasty and beautiful dishes and by doing this we can get people excited about food, there is no need to be unpleasant.
What advice would you offer to the young chefs in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition?
Be simple and precise.
What do you remember as your biggest success and biggest mistake as a young chef?
The first dinner I had to set up for a large group of top chefs - Paul Bocuse, Roger Verger, Jacques Maximin and more – plus important Italian journalists like Luigi Veronelli: I had to show my knowledge and my transformation of some Tuscan dishes. I was very nervous but in the end, I received many big compliments from all of them! I will always remember that day! The biggest mistake occurred during a very important dinner we had to prepare in a well-known wine-cellar when, towards the end of the preparation of the pasta dishes, we realized that we didn’t have enough sauce and I had to add some broth to the saucepan to obtain more. My legs were shaking! Afterwards, I discovered that some additional empty dishes had been placed beside us by mistake… my preparation had not been so wrong!
What do you think is/are the biggest issue/s facing the future of haute cuisine in general?
I think the main issue, our goal, is keeping the client in mind; we must continue to search for the best ingredients, trying to create dishes which are healthy and tasty at the same time, dishes which can surprise and please the palate. A happy client is a client whose curiosity is aroused and satisfied.