Chef Gabriele Bertaccini quickly became a recognizable name around the world when his hit show Say I Do premiered on Netflix. The Southern California based culinary wizard wowed audiences with his skills in the kitchen, his compassion, and his openness to live authentically as himself. Say I Do follows three “gayngels” as they plan the upcoming nuptials of eight deserving couples. Chef Gabriele crafts unique, mouthwatering cuisine for the couples with a dollop of charm and a side of warmth. A native of Florence, Italy, Chef Gabriele embarked on his culinary journey at a young age and is constantly drawing inspiration for his menus from his globetrotting adventures. When it comes to inspiration both in his personal life and when creating cuisine for clients, Chef Gabriele draws from a variety of experiences.
“I am Italian first and foremost and our culture is rooted in the art of cooking and dining,” Chef Gabriele shares. “We call it ‘LA DOLCE VITA’ – the sweet life. The rise in recognition for authentic cooking and heritage recipes is a responsibility every Italian has – especially if you are a chef,” he continues. Chef Gabriele also credits the strong female presence during his upbringing when creating his dishes. “I cook in the housewife’s style: casalinga. Those are the people that I learned how to cook from – housewives, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and daughters. That’s where I get my inspiration because Italy is like that. It’s like mother’s love. It’s like grandmother’s love. It’s instantly familiar and comforting all at the same time and immediately,” he shares.
Viewers of Say I Do feel instantly familiar and comforted with Gabriele because the unscripted show is less about over the top produced reality television and more about being authentic. Chef Gabriele explains, “It’s a show about the importance of connection with one another and the necessary act of embracing who we fully are without apologies or explanations. It’s a show about the true power of love.” He sought to blend his culinary skills with his culture and his personal journey.
“Food is all connected to stories and culture. Chefs are some of the most amazing storytellers.” In fact, one of the world’s most recognized culinary storytellers was a mentor to Chef Gabriele. “Anthony Bourdain was someone I highly connected with and a great mentor. He lives within me every single day I walk into a kitchen or embark on a new adventure,” he shares.
One common bond both Bourdain and Chef Gabriele share – story telling chefs living authentically both on and off camera. During the premiere episode of Say I Do, a groom-to-be disclosed his journey of living with diabetes and Gabriele unexpectedly shared an intimate aspect of his life – he was living with HIV. He revealed, “The ability for Marcus to open up about something very personal about his life allowed me to do the same. It felt natural and needed. Conversations like the one I had on the show are testament to how much vulnerability is important in showing up fully for who we are. It is also important for HIV+ people to not be ashamed about our status and story but instead being open to talk about it and break down the barriers and stigma that HIV still has in our community.” The world applauded Chef Gabriele for living in his truth and using his platform to continue to de-stigmatize living with HIV.
Along with the praise of viewers and critics for his food and candid demeanor, Say I Do has served as a platform for the world to be introduced to the Gabrielle Bertaccini Experience. Chef Gabriele’s bespoke events company is not just about food and drinks – it is a 360-degree approach to celebrating life. “When I started my company, I remember explaining everyone who worked with me that we were not in the business of food but in the business of creating memories. I wanted every event, experience and gathering to feel like a beautiful, curated dream. I believe the best dining experiences are the ones in which we are seated around a table sharing food and stories with others. I want for our evenings to be the best dinner parties you’ve ever attended,” he gushes.
Although the past year and a half has been anything but a dream and with the world in a state of flux, Chef Gabriele notes this shift has affected the way we will approach and experience our food and beverage events leading into 2022. “The next year will bring two polarizing approaches to dining. One that embraces the need for simpler, comforting and soul-nourishing cuisine and the other that functions as an escape and embraces frivolousness – allowing patrons to be both fancy and indulgent,” he shares. “We are crafting more exclusive types of dining events – think of tasting menus, private dining experiences … moments that go above and beyond with ingredients and access. It’s a return to the true essence and special nature of dining together around a table,” he continues.
With holiday gatherings just around the corner, Chef Gabriele has some advice for the home cook and gift givers this time of year. “Every home chef should start by investing in a really, really good knife set. It can be expensive, but you buy them once and if you take care of them, they’ll last you a lifetime,” he shares. “I especially love Japanese knives because of their light weight and sharp blades.” He continues, “Everyone should also own at least one cast iron pan and a good, thick wooden cutting board. I still have the one my grandmother used and every time I am in the kitchen it reminds me of the times we spent together cooking up Sunday dinners.”
Between running a successful catering and event planning business, globetrotting, and gearing up for a 2022 to remember – Chef Gabe is booked, blessed and busy.
Passata di Pomodoro:
Step 1: For the passata, pass the tomatoes with the juices through a food mill into a large bowl or pulse in a food processor until very smooth, about 1 minute.
Step 5: Add the ground beef and pork, season with kosher salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the beef and pork release their juices, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the mixture begins to steam. Stir in the reserved 2 cups of passata and the stock. Reduce heat to low.
Step 6: Gently simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until the beef and pork are tender and the flavors are concentrated, 5 to 7 hours.
Photo: Constance Higley
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