The interview was fast but not for that Cristina Bowerman, Glass Hostaria chef and Romeo e Giulietta kitchen guide both in Rome, has come to our questions.
In Foggia with Cristina Bowerman star chef of Puglia origins and Roman adoption
Despite the short time available she has been told with simplicity and rashness, waiting to speak as rapporteur at the round table “Stappa, mangia e parla” organized within the event Libando in Foggia, where she was invited as President of the “Association of Ambassadors of the Taste”, representing and bringing together the excellence of Italian catering in order to promote the cultural heritage of our cuisine in our country and in the world. After the debate, the audience was delighted with two of her preparations in the crowded evening master class presented by Luciano Pignataro.
Standing, but in a climate of great serenity, we chatted and Cristina opened up with us right away. Probably two reasons behind this immediate feeling. The first one: she is at home in Foggia, in fact she is originally from Cerignola even though she left her very early to study in Bari where, after linguistics, she graduated in Law and worked in a law firm for a couple of years. The second is that I’m talking about Ana Ros, the Slovenian chef who has been elected Best Female Chef this year, for the obvious affinity between their personal and working lives, and I find they are very friendly.
Ana and Cristina have a very similar path: both destined for different careers, one in the diplomatic field and the other in the forensic one, they choose to go to the stove.
After graduating from Law, Bowerman continues her studies at the University of San Francisco USF in California, USA. In the USA she is a graphic designer and she is also working in the field of catering, taking care of graphics and marketing. Meanwhile she has cultivated the culinary passion for ever in her DNA, until she has matured the decision to become a craftsman, and graduates with the highest marks in Culinary Arts at the Culinary Academy, Texas’s Cordon Bleu neo-university. In 2004 she returned to Italy and landed in Rome as a chef at Glass Hostaria, in Trastevere.
The two forks from Gambero Rosso date back to 2009 and to 2010 the Star Michelin, the only Italian woman for that year. In 2013 she was awarded the Identità Golose as a chef of the year. And she never stopped: she continues to deepen her research and techniques with a particular focus on the application of science in the kitchen.
I ask her how much she likes the motto of her friend Ana “Learn from others, draw inspiration from herself”. She also replies that it is also important for her to look around, stealing with her eyes. Then metabolize everything by creating something of its own. But that is why it is necessary to study so much. She never ceases to do so: “For me the study is fundamental and has given me the chance to emerge in a world like the one in which the domain is male”.
What inspires you? “It inspires me all. It could be an ingredient I like, something I ate at a friend’s house, which I saw on a book, the memory of a dish I ate as a child. But then needs to be interiorized to make it become the dish of Cristina”.
What she can not do without it is the ingredients. Few but good is her motto, fresh, season. With one, essential, above all, olive oil of great quality.
We are also interested in the techniques and methods she uses and with my surprise emphasizes the importance of the correct use of the pressure cooker she uses a lot in the kitchen as well as the microplane and the blender. “The pressure cooker has always been a key tool in my mother’s kitchen”, she adds. At this point it is imperative to ask her what her comfort food is: pasta and peas by her grandmother.
But her culinary philosophy is that of the contaminations in which the reference territory is the world. “I am originally from Cerignola but after the long American bracket Rome is my home and in my kitchen there are no boundaries. Using ingredients coming from all over the world, I do not believe in the zero mile. And since I love traveling, I bring home flavors and spices that end up in my dishes”.
There are two questions left before we finish our chat. I have read of her commitment as the founding partner of the Fiorano for Kids Association, which, according to the Department of Neurological Sciences of the Child Hospital Jesus of Rome, funds research on the role of diets in the treatment of childhood epilepsy. I ask her more. She tells me that with the Association they are able to finance every year a researcher who works at the hospital. Ten families and partners are involved in the project, all with children between 0 and 12 years old and the desire to rediscover and promote a lifestyle in harmony with nature, engage in fundraising to treat epilepsy and rare metabolic diseases through particular ketogenic diets.
The last question concerns her last name. “My family last name is Vitulli but I kept that of my first husband because that’s how they know me in the kitchen world. And also because, in years past in the United States especially in Austin in Texas I did not want to think that Vitulli was a Mexican name and discriminated against me”. I didn’t have the guts to ask her why she decided to dye of fuchsia her hair…