My Life in Food: Cecilia Tessieri, master chocolatier

 

Cecilia Tessieri is one of the only female master chocolatiers in the world. She set up Amedei with her brother Alessio in 1990. She has world exclusivity to the 25 tonnes of beans grown in Chuao in Venezuela, thought to be best in the world, and has won a host of awards for her bars, including the Golden Bean from the London Academy of Chocolate. Amedei's latest product is a chocolate and hazelnut sauce and is available online at Fortnum and Mason (fortnumandmason.com).

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

In my kitchen, I love to use my grandmother's mixing spoon. I used to watch her make delicious Italian Ciambellone when I was a child. It is a simple cake with flour and butter that my kids now love. The only thing that I won't ever use in the kitchen is a microwave.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I would spend £10 on white Tuscan bread and the best extra-virgin olive oil from Italy. Tuscan bread is very plain, just yeast, water and flour mixed together without salt. It's meant to not interfere with the flavours paired with it. If you add in some baby tomatoes and basil, I'm in heaven.

What do you eat for comfort?

During the long and dark winter evenings, I always like to have large glass of Brunello di Montalcino with almonds, Tuscan ham and parmesan cheese. With some jazz music in the air, on a large, comfortable couch, it's a wonderful moment of relaxation.

If you could eat only bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

I would choose bread. Bread is such a simple element but so important. I love the fragrance of it when it bakes. What I also like about it is you can add anything to it – oil, preserves, sugar and, of course, chocolate. It really is the perfect companion.

What's your desert island recipe?

Very simple – a seasonal fruit cocktail and a few nice books from Gianni Rodari. In particular, I like The Book of Children's Poems and The Adventures of the Little Onion. The books and fruit would sustain me.

What's your favourite restaurant?

Otto e Mezzo in Hong Kong. Its name is inspired by the wonderful Fellini movie, and it is located in the heart of Central in Alexandra House. Chef Umberto Bombana makes the most interesting Italian cuisine outside of Italy. Having founded the only three-Michelin-stars Italian restaurant outside Italy, you really have to give him respect. When I am in Italy, rather than a restaurant, I enjoy my mother's Sunday lunch. It is a tradition for my family and my kids, and I adore her way of cooking.

What's your favourite cookbook?

My favourite cookbook is Il Cucchiaio D' Argento, first published in 1950 and one of the most famous Italian cookbooks with more than 2,000 recipes. It was given to me when I was just married by a very old Italian chocolatier and it has been my cooking bible ever since.

Who taught you about chocolate?

My first memory of chocolate is from my mother. After that my mentor became a man named Mr Frank who worked in chocolate. He always told me chocolate was a man's world, but if I worked hard enough, he thought I could become a very good maitre chocolatier, despite being a woman. His confidence gave me drive and will to succeed.

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