Testimonials • 02.04.2020
“Organizational accuracy, great hygiene, a focused mind and humility, without giving up the ambition: CAST Alimenti taught me all about the proper attitude as vital from the very moment I sat down on interview for a new job.”
The explosive combination of curiosity and true passion for cooking have been carrying Andrea Rigodanza far and beyond in his career and life, after successfully completing the Professional Advanced Diploma in Italian Culinary Arts at CAST Alimenti in 2015. He went beyond the family restaurant, beyond his city, Vicenza, beyond “The Calandrino” restaurant, owned by the Alajmo Group, where he completed his internship during the program.
His strong determination allowed him to even leave Italy behind: three years ago Andrea packed his knife kit and flew to the other side of the world bringing his concept of Italian cuisine to the land of kangaroos in Australia. With his diploma in hospitality management, today he’s the head chef at “Mister Bianco”, an Italian fine dining restaurant in Melbourne, gaining experience to fulfill his wish list – opening his own restaurant.
1. Why Australia to pursue your dream as a chef and what barriers (ref. to bureaucracy, mentality, language, etc.) did you have to face?
To be honest, I was forever enamored of Australia and when I was offered a job in Sydney I grabbed the opportunity: just in 2 week-time I organized my life and put myself on a plane.
When you submit your visa request you realize how different Australia is if compared to Italy. For the most basic visa, vacation or work purpose, you just need to go to the Immigration website, fill out a form, pay a fee on the spot and, if the papers are approved, you get your visa online in just a few hours.
In other words, the Australian mentality is much more “open” and relaxed than the Italian one. It might sound odd but at the very beginning I was struck by a cultural shock as it seemed impossible to me that people could be so easy-going and friendly. It took me a while to get used to it.
Having said that, the only real trouble I had was the language. As you know, our schools in Italy don’t teach us to speak fluent English properly. So I had the choice to work alongside either Italian or Australian fellows and I chose the latter: I didn’t go through the easy way but now, after roughly three years, I do manage well my language aspects and I also have an Australian girlfriend, but of Italian origin, which is a great compromise!
2. Do Australians like Italian cuisine and what do local chefs think about it?
Australians literally LOVE everything about Italy, including its cuisine and people. Can you imagine that our Italian cuisine is the third most popular cuisine in Australia? Even though its authenticity often blends with local tastes like pasta with meatballs galore!
The Australian restaurant scenario provides space for all the diversity, including Italian restaurant experience offering the traditional Italian cuisine, where you may eat very well, and those ones merging odd ingredients, but who nonetheless are still successful. It is quite common to find, for example, pasta carbonara with chicken (Australians go crazy for it, they would put poultry everywhere), or flavoured with avocado.
3. At present you are a head chef in a high-end Italian restaurant, where food is freshly prepared. How do you procure the raw materials?
Thanks to the Italian community here who are very active and dynamic, even the Italian culture is strongly rooted thus making it feasible finding typical products of good quality, some of them even produced in Australia by entrepreneurs with Italian origin.
In the restaurant where I work we use Italian flour to make fresh pasta whereas cheese and tomatoes are imported directly from Italy. However, there are products, such as cured meats, that cannot be imported so in this case we rely on a family-run company, founded by Italian immigrants, that produces excellent quality cured meats like the “nduja or guanciale”. Even niche products like mullet roe are available in the local market obviously at a skyrocketing price.
4. Is being a chef in Australia very different from Europe?
There is a huge gap indeed. Here the “work-life balance” is better and, apart from a few exceptions, most restaurants end their service within 21.30. The Australians tend to have dinner quite early, as per the Anglo-Saxon influence, so the service starts at 17.30 and by 21.00 the last orders are placed.
The salary is as well an interesting aspect: a chef can easily earn more than 1,000 Australian dollars a week, based on his experience and qualifications. In this country there is high demand for chefs and you have every opportunity to choose the right position you deserve.
5. How did you come to know about CAST Alimenti and why did you decide to sharpen your know-how in our school?
After I worked in our family-run restaurant for one year, I felt it was time for me to deepen my culinary knowledge. As a matter of fact, I could cook but I lacked the basics as well as the specific skills. It was my uncle, a pastry chef himself, who highly recommended me to enroll in one of the top culinary schools in Italy and here I came.
6. Was the learning you mastered at CAST Alimenti useful for your global career?
Indeed, joining CAST Alimenti was the right choice with a prior experience in the kitchen and a basic knowledge and practical skills. At CAST Alimenti not only I learnt about cuisine but also about professional attitude, discipline and elements of hygiene, accuracy and commitment, as a way to stand out from the crowd. Thanks to it, ever since I have been here in Australia, I got hired on the spot at every job interview.
7. Considering your experience, what would you suggest to whoever wishes to pursue a career as a chef abroad?
Before leaving Italy think very clearly about what you want to do and do collect some work experience that will allow you to find a job much more easily and better paid.
Be brave and set high targets. Learn the foreign language. Find a reason to leave and to change your life for the better, otherwise stay back in Italy which is still a good choice!
8. You are still so young, but very determined: what are your plans for the future?
At my age I get bored very easily so I constantly need a “challenge” to grow up and improve. Whatever I have been doing is aimed at gaining enough experience in order to start up my own business in a few years. I am considering an Italian restaurant, of course, but with my own touch of innovation! Maybe located in Brisbane, where it is summer all year round, serving “shots” of fresh pasta. Let’s see… I’m also involved with an educational project aimed at teaching Australians about the authentic Italian cuisine and along with my girlfriend we have opened a YouTube channel, called “The Chef’s Girl” where, with her support, I prepare traditional Italian dishes – a modern and direct way to popularize Made in Italy in such a huge country.