Chef Gabriele Bertaccini
Stars in Netflix’s “Say I Do”
Born in Florence, Italy, and inspired by his family’s love for food and his native land, renowned Chef Gabriele Bertaccini discovered his passion for cooking as a young boy. Gabriele attended a five-year program at the prestigious Instituto Professionale Buontalenti per Servizi Alberghieri in Florence, Italy, where he graduated in regional, Italian cuisine and specialized in Tuscan cooking, as well as additional culinary courses including Food & Beverage Management. Gabriele worked for numerous restaurants throughout Italy, and organized food events and catering for several restaurants, and was named Executive Chef of Conquinarius, a small boutique restaurant just steps away from the Duomo of Brunelleschi, which received multiple awards during Chef Gabe’s residency. Chef Bertaccini currently travels the world but spends most of his culinary life between Los Angeles, California and Phoenix, Arizona.
Chef Gabe has been the first Arizona based chef without a physical restaurant to be selected to be a part of the James Beard Foundation Taste of America dinner, one of the finest and most important culinary organizations in the world, as well as received the 40 UNDER 40 Award as one of 40 top business and civic leaders under the age of 40 by Phoenix Business Journal.
Chef Gabe now stars as a Food Expert on Netflix’s new wedding series, Say I Do. He appears alongside interior designer Jeremiah Brent and fashion designer Thai Nguyen, helping couples make their marriage dreams come true.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Gabriele for this exclusive Hotspots interview (one of my favorite interviews ever):
Were you always interested in cooking, even as a young boy or when did it happen?
I have always been into cooking. Clearly living in Italy, you are a part of the food. You are what you eat and cook, it’s such an integral component of everyday life. All things happen around the dinner table. It’s really the pillar of Italian society.
When was the first time you cooked something that really gave you the desire to keep going and what was it?
For me I remember it was Christmas time and I remember cooking this beautiful pig roast, My family had a beautiful 2nd house in Tuscany, and we would go there every Christmas. One year I remember making a beautiful pig roast. We started the process by going to the guy who raises the animals and then we would pay respect to the animal by not wasting any part of the pig. Doing this made me have so much respect for the food that nurtures us. That is really when I fell in love with the power of food.
Did you have professional training?
In Italy, at 13 years old you decide what you want to do for a living and that determines what high school you are going to go to. I knew I wanted to be a chef, so I went to hospitality/culinary school. They teach you the full idea of what hospitality is, not just the food. They teach you about the whole experience.
Is there a favorite restaurant you worked in and why?
Yes, I was incredibly lucky that I started my young career as a cook in Sabatini which is a classic of Florence as it dates back to 1910, its world renowned. The restaurant has been able to carry on the history of Tuscan cooking and pay respect to the traditions of Italy. While working there I started to understand food has a story.
Did you have a mentor?
I had one, and that was Anthony Bourdain. I was extremely fortunate enough to be under his wings and experience his passion for food and wine. Currently, Chef Jeremiah Tower is also a mentor.
What has the world lost since Bourdain’s death?
I think you only run into individuals like Chef Bourdain a few times in life. Anybody that is able to shine so much bright into people’s life are rare. We lost a man that was able to make us fall in love with the process of life. He did it through food and wine. He had a hunger for storytelling and learning. We also gained a lot of knowledge from him, and that’s what we should hold on to.
Who is the chef you look up to the most now?
I try not to have anybody that I follow religiously. We have so many amazing chefs that are willing to create dining experiences and make food that is not only enjoyable to eat but is a representation of what food means to them. There are a bunch of chefs I look up to for this.
You are the Creative Director and Founder of award-winning, Gabriele Bertaccini Experiences, tell me about your company?
When I moved to the states, 15 years ago, I remember falling in love with the American dream. I was living with a host family and I asked if we could do a Sunday dinner and no one knew what I was talking about. That was the beginning of thinking about opening the company. Awhile later I realized there was a need to bring the art of the Italian dinner party to the community around me. We work with many different things…individuals, parties, companies, but what we do is elevate the power of what food does. The act of eating is very intimate, no matter how small or large.
Your, The Chef’s Den, was rated one of the Top 5 Over-The-Top dining experiences by Food & Wine Magazine and Scottsdale Luxury Magazine. How did you create this idea?
The Chef Den came very spontaneously as a friend was at my house, and she said why not have dinner parties here, hosting events in my residence. The concept is a chef invites guest to his own table. Every night there is one table, and there is no set menu, we cook as we go, and we cook along with the guests. It can be up to 30 guests. This is about the process of cooking. It becomes what the dinners are in Italy. I love being at the Chef Den.
Who are some of the most famous people you cooked for?
I am fortunate to have had a beautiful roster of guests. The Clinton’s were probably the first family that I really enjoyed taking care of and was inspired by the conversations they had at the table. They will always have a big place in my heart. I also had Cher, Oprah, The Bush’s, NFL players and many more we love taking care of.
Are you single or married?
I am not married. My perfect date is going to a restaurant that is dimly lit and sit and not having to choose any food; and having amazing conversation with the person I am with.
What do you do for fun?
I am a big ocean lover, and I love to sail. Any chance I have to get on a boat, I do. I also like hiking and anything outdoors. I love to do anything that reminds me the world is big! In addition, I love doing anything I can do with my dogs: Australian Shepherds.
How did you get cast in Netflix’s new wedding series, Say I Do.?
It kind of feel in my lap, as anything good in life happens when you least expect it. I had the chance of doing TV before and I never felt the projects were right for me, and then Say I Do came along, and I was immediately attached to it. For me it’s a show about the couples and being able to take the art of dinning and put it into good use, its something I love doing.
Tell me about the experience in filming Say I do, and why should our readers watch it?
The experience was beautiful, and it taught me a lot about being able to experience love in so many ways. I went there with a very clear idea of what love looks like, and I got to experience so many love stories, that I came back with a much deeper understanding of what love is and the power it has.
Especially nowadays we need a show that’s not about drama or things that go wrong or division. It’s a show about unity, and we need this more than ever. Its TV done well, and it fills people’s hearts; its feel good TV! It’s a clear snapshot of what love has in our life!
What does the future hold for you?
You know a surfing session in the next hour, as the waves look very beautiful out my window right now. I try to live the present as much as I can. But I hope it will always hold love and amazing people around the dinner table. However, I am enjoying the present a lot!
Netflix’s “Say I Do” is streaming now!