Chef CULTURE MEET

MEET THE 22 YEAR OLD ITALIAN CHEF CRUSHING MILLENNIAL STEREOTYPES

Isabella Poti is rather impressive. A 22 year old Italian chef and restaurant owner with international recognition and an enviable sense of self awareness. Our own 22 year old writer, Leisha Parkinson, was keen to compare notes on how Isabella has so swiftly made an impact on the industry while still remaining true to herself.

Isabella Poti is a product of her upbringing. She is full of natural talent and sheer determination that, quite frankly, scares me a little. She’s nimble in the art of fine dining, dessert making, and hospitality etiquette. She owns her own restaurant ‘Bros’ found in Lecce, in the southern Italian province of Puglia, with her partner Floriano. She was in Forbes’ 30 under 30 (2017 edition) for the Arts, all the while, she remains humble, level headed, and conducts herself with an elegance I could only hope to possess one day, despite the pressure and stressors of the career.

Before I go on further, it is also worth mentioning that her and I are both 22 years old. Yes, I was horrendously gob-smacked too. Her identical age would offend me if I wasn’t sitting here so damn impressed. Like me, she loves coffee, old movies, and is a self-proclaimed ‘sleepy person’. Unfortunately for me though, that’s where our likeness ends. In stark opposition to Isabella’s overall nature, I am a liability in all things food related. I once grated my finger and bled all over my precious potatoes. A few days ago, I managed to fling chilli oil over some poor, unsuspecting individual next to me after trying to pick up a slippery dumpling with chopsticks. The adulthood spectrum exists and Isabella seems a true outlier.

Growing up between Italy and Polonius, it was Isabella’s youth that proceeded to lay the solid foundation for her love of food. “I loved, and I love even today, nature and animals: I remember walking in the countryside with my grandmother, when I picked strawberries with her.”

Isabella assisted her mother and grandmother with preparing sweets, a vital stepping stone on the path to creating her own style for her restaurant. Meanwhile, I was back in Australia building dirt trenches, forcing my parents to watch my tap-dance shows by the fireplace and dedicating my young life to excelling at Mario Kart on my Nintendo 64.

With a new perception and creative outlook, Isabella gives traditional recipes new life, portraying her childhood experiences in the food she transforms. Which naturally rustled up a few feathers of the locals who were embedded in their ways. “The locals did not know a kitchen of this type. At the beginning, it was complicated to be understood and appreciated, but time has done its job.”

It’s quite apparent that Isabella is the complete antithesis of the ‘lazy, entitled millennial’ stereotype we’ve had bestowed on us. She even went so far as to invent a hashtag (millennialistheanswer) on Instagram, because who are we as a collective generation if we’re not tech savvy and on the ball? “We have invented this hashtag because it represents what we are and what we want to transmit. We are the young people of “doing”, the young people who are committed instead of complaining.”

Kicking this industry’s ass, she isn’t one to be treated differently because of a very apparent lack of testosterone.

“I have never felt any kind of pressure and discomfort in this sense: I am a very young chef who was appreciated for her determination and hard work every day. Talent and sacrifice have no sex.” And, I have no doubt that if someone didn’t get this message, they would be made aware in a timely fashion.

IMG_4954.jpgIt’s this kind of initiative and attitude that makes Isabella’s recent feature in Forbes’ 30 under 30, even more deserved. “I am a determined and stubborn woman. I have always had a clear goal and the path that I would have to accomplish to achieve it. So many sacrifices, so many hours of work, little rest and few leisures. In return, however, a lot of satisfaction, like the one with the recognition of Forbes. Honoured and happy, but determined to do even better day after day.

So, how the hell does an accomplished 22-year-old spend her time? By this point I had just learned to assume that however I spent my spare time (as a nuisance with a wine bottle in her hand) Isabella would probably do the opposite. “We have only one day off, Tuesday. I spend it resting, going to the beach and enjoying friends that I see very little during the week. Every other day, I get some time to go to the gym and to do diction classes: I do everything I can to constantly improve myself.” I run to make the train sometimes and convince myself that it counts as my daily exercise quota. Like jeez, can I just have her as my sentient mind please?

Her success, of course, is a sweet reward for this insanely driven work ethic and her support network by extension. It’s only natural that others in the industry, both budding and experienced would use Isabella as a positive representation of the heights they want to reach.

So, if you’re after some advice on how to get your career (or life) in order from an industry great, here it is. “We must be determined in our objectives; do not be discouraged, do not lose heart. We must have clear ideas and pursue them despite everything. The moments of difficulty sometimes discourage, but it is precisely in that instant that you need to understand who you are and what you want to become. When you understand this, you overcome everything and start over with another obstacle overcome.”

Isabella Poti will be in town as a part of a stellar line up of talent celebrating 20 years of Sydney Good Food Month this October – find out more here.  


At Meet The People we’re looking for more incredible ‘outliers’ that break the mould in hospitality to feature in upcoming content. Nominate yourself or someone you know by emailing brittany@meetthepeople.co Or Subscribe to receive stories like this straight to your inbox. 

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