The architects of ALMA: Elena Minari’s story
Dress your kitchen
Elena Minari comes from Parma and studied environmental architecture at Politecnico di Milano’s Piacenza campus, graduating in 2014 with a plan for redevelopment of a public housing complex in Piacenza.
During her university years, cooking was an enjoyable hobby, a way of relaxing. Until her third year of study, when she signed up for basic cooking classes at ALMA-International School of Italian Cooking in Colorno. She enjoyed it so much that after graduating, she decided to attend the institute’s Advanced Course in Italian Cooking to learn more about her country’s wine and food.
After graduating in 2016 she went right to work at a restaurant near Piacenza, moving on to another restaurant in Parma within a few months before ending up at Locanda Mariella in Fragnolo, in the province of Parma, where she is now sous chef under Paco Zanobini.
“I really like it here,” says Elena. “I love working in this historic restaurant rooted in the traditions of Parma. The restaurant was renovated a year ago, and now serves dishes that are up to the level of the wine list, whereas at one time the food merely accompanied the wines without setting them off adequately. We always look for the right dishes to go with the wines we serve, and we try them to make sure the combination really works. We work as a team with Paco and Mariella, the owner of the restaurant, who is also in charge of service with her husband Guido.”
How did you come to love cooking?
“It was when I was about 16, because I started cooking and experimenting for my own family; making them happy made me feel good, and so I carried on! I have always cooked a bit of everything, but perhaps pasta has always been, and still is, my favourite thing. When I was a child, I used to watch my paternal grandmother make tortelli, cappelletti and gnocchi, and I would help her.”
What is your favourite kind of cooking?
“I really love traditional cooking, reinterpreted to some extent, because I always like to add something of my own: an ingredient, a spice, a colour.”
So why did you study architecture?
“I was interested in design, the creative and artistic aspects of the discipline, which I see as having something in common with cooking. I wanted to express myself.” (cont’d)