Some celebrity chefs are younger than most but Isabella Potì is even younger than them. Born in 1995, the speed at which this prodigal talent became one of the world’s most in-demand chefs is the only thing more remarkable than the dishes she creates as head chef of Lecce’s Michelin-starred Bros’.
Despite being renowned as a pastry chef, she refuses to be limited by it. It took a lot more than her way with a whisk and piping bag to become a household name in her native Italy. The sometime fashion model made Forbes’ famous “30 under 30” list in 2017 and followed that with appearances as a guest judge on Masterchef Italia. She even started a rugby club with her husband, Bros’ co-founder Floriano Pellegrino.
Potì may be the closest thing the millennial generation has to a culinary veteran. Her food is as much about authenticity as it is creativity and aesthetic, concocted under the Bros’ motto: “L'essenziale è visibile al gusto” (“the essential is visible by taste”).
Isabella Potì: biography and career
Isabella Potì was born in Lecce, Italy, in 1995 and claims to have known since the age of 9 that she wanted to become a chef. She studied hospitality after leaving school at 16 and soon packed her bags for London to work under Claude Bosi at his two-Michelin-starred Hibiscus restaurant.
Bosi helped forge the foundation of her pastry knowledge before she moved on to San Sebastián to work for Martin Berasategui at his eponymous three-Michelin-starred restaurant. She then went on to work in Elda under the acclaimed “father of modern pastry”, Paco Torreblanca.
Upon moving back to Lecce, she re-established contact with her future husband Floriano Pellegrino, who she had originally met while studying in the city. Pellegrino opened Bros’ with his brother, Giovanni, in 2015. Potì joined initially as an apprentice, but quickly became both sous chef and pastry chef. When Giovanni Pellegrino left the business, she replaced him as head chef and co-owner.
In 2017 Potì made the Forbes “30 under 30” list and appeared as a guest judge on Masterchef Italia. Both were huge strides towards international renown prior to Bros’ winning a Michelin Star in 2018. Potì and Pellegrino then opened Roots Trattoria in Scorrano. The two married in 2019, shortly after winning Best Contemporary Restaurant in Italy at the Love Italian Life Awards.
Isabella Potì: Recipes
Ribollita is a Tuscan bread soup. Dating back to the Middle Ages, it was traditionally a pauper’s meal made from the cast-offs from the banquets of nobles. This would invariably mean rolls of unleavened bread boiled with common vegetables. These vegetables would vary depending on the season, of course, but an authentic ribollita almost always uses kale, cabbage and cannellini beans.
Today ribollita survives as a winter favourite. As filling as it is nutritious, it’s high in fibre and protein, but fairly low in calories. Of course, there’s also ample opportunity for interpretation from creative chefs like Isabella Potì.
Her version isn’t the lowest in fat, but you won’t hear us complaining. She uses plenty of butter, cream and milk to break the bread down until smooth. Interestingly, Potì cooks the mix of cruciferous vegetables separately. These are served in the centre of the bread soup to create a ribollita that is, unusually, as easy on the eye as it is on the tongue.
You think you love pancakes? Isabella Potì’s mango pancakes will have you falling in love with the breakfast classic all over again. Even if the last thing you want to do first thing in the morning is cut a notoriously messy and fiddly fruit.
Potì’s secret is to use dried mango. Inspired by the way sundried tomatoes are used in Salento (the southern “heel” region in Italy’s “boot”), the fruit is rehydrated to create a texture and flavour that’s quite unique. Some would say it’s even better than fresh.
Chocolate oil cake
Nobody ever salivated at the thought of a healthy cake, but Potì’s chocolate oil version might just be a game changer. Of course, it’s still cake, so don’t expect to shed your love handles eating one of these for every meal. Nevertheless, this blows other relatively low-calorie cakes out of the water – a true testament to Potì’s skill as a pastry chef.
Her chocolate cake uses dried mango – just like her pancake recipe above – and replaces butter with olive oil. Make sure to use the good stuff. Potì specifies the Leccino olive oil her home province is famous for, which works well due its almost buttery viscosity and fruity flavour profile. So if you can’t get your hands on Leccino, those are the elements to look for in a high-quality alternative.
With her Michelin star background, these recipes are sure to impress your family and friends. Find more recipe ideas from renowned Michelin starred chefs to keep your cooking modern and creative.
Narda Lepes has been named Latin America’s Best Female Chef for 2020, and will be honoured at the virtual countdown of the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2020, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, on 3 December.