Italian of the week

From aspiring priest to Hell’s Kitchen host

From aspiring priest to Hell’s Kitchen host
Carlo Cracco's father stopped him enrolling in a religious school. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
Carlo Cracco's life as a TV host and head chef in Milan is a far cry from his early thought of entering the church. The Local takes a look at the chef's years of culinary creations and his award-winning approach to Italian ingredients.

Who is Carlo Cracco?

Carlo Cracco is a MasterChef Italia judge who leaves a shower of Michelin stars in his wake.

Born in Vicenza, in the Veneto region, he currently runs the kitchen at Milan’s Cracco Restaurant.

Why is he in the news?

Cracco recently announced he will be launching the Italian version of British chef Gordon Ramsay's TV show Hell’s Kitchen, which sees contestants fight for a head chef job at a leading restaurant. In his show, Ramsay is famous for dishing out a generous portion of expletives to the participants.

How does Cracco stand out from other Italian chefs?

In a country known internationally for its rich food culture, it may be hard for Italian chefs to make their name known. Not so for Cracco.

He launched his career in 1986 at the first restaurant in Italy to be awarded three Michelin stars – Gualtiero Marchesi. His culinary creations have since been served up at some of the country’s best restaurants, including Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, which boasts three Michelin stars.

Does he make a good lasagne?

Cracco could arguably make the best lasagne in Italy, but instead he focuses on dishes which combine “Milanese tradition with a modern touch”.

A visit to his Milan restaurant, which opened six years ago, demands a rethink of Italian cuisine: think creme brulè with olive oil, black cod with coffee, chocolate cream with black olives – food of the Gods and the super rich.

What does Cracco do away from the kitchen?

Pose with naked models. Or one, at least.

The chef caused a storm in December 2012 when he featured on the cover of GQ with a naked Jessica Dykstra wrapped around him. He was wearing nothing but her boots.

The model stood up for Cracco and the magazine, saying she didn’t see a problem with the photograph.

“I’m naked, so what?" she said. “A lot of women have overstated the potential vulgarity of these photos, just because they probably don't have a sense of humour,” she said.

But was the photo a reflection of a playboy lifestyle?

Cracco has his female fans, but he is also a family man.

He has two children from a previous marriage and has since started a new family with Rosa Fanti, 17 years his junior.

Fanti admits the pair had a make-or-break moment early on in the relationship.

“When he came to my house, the first thing he did was open the fridge. Inside, I only had a pack of pre-cooked wraps and mozzarella: I wanted to die,” she told Italian Vanity Fair.

Thankfully, Cracco said he would do the cooking from then on.

Was Cracco always set to live such a life?

Not at all. He told Vanity Fair he worked hard for everything he has.

“I’m one of four sons from a simple family in Vicenza. My father, a railway man, worked three extra jobs. My mother did the same,” he said.

Such a tough upbringing proved invaluable for Cracco, as it stopped him following his dreams of becoming a priest.

“I wanted to enroll in a religious school, but had to pay for board and lodging. My father said: ‘You’re a fool. It costs too much,’” he said.

Much to the relief of his dinner guests. 

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