Isabella THE HEAD AND THE HEART
| ICONIC GOURMAND | M.T.
Minimal and decisive, Isabella Potì is the young face of contemporary cuisine. Promoted Head Chef at starred restaurant Leccese Bros’, she stands out for her approach fusing technique, creativity, and passion. Even when she was Pastry Chef, her experiments have always been marked by flavors that are sharp, fresh, and local; that continues even today as she has new responsibilities and also new emotions. Journey here through the scents, colors, and splendor of her mastery.
Chef Isabella Potì
Currently you are referred to as one of the most influential women in food in Italy and abroad. How did you reach this goal and what does it mean in terms of opportunities and sacrifices?
I reached this goal with hard work, determination, and the right amount of stubbornness. I’ve made many sacrifices and I’ll continue making more: our work doesn’t have normal hours and this doesn’t let me do anything apart from work itself, but the opportunities definitely make up for all the daily sacrifices. When we chose to come back here, we did it aware of all of the difficulties that the area would present…but the efforts made have always been rewarded.
A love for cooking and for pastry in particular has its roots in your childhood. Technique and mastery have grown over time. Has your passion remained unchanged? What moves you in this profession?
Everything excites me with cooking; if it weren’t so, I certainly couldn’t do this job. I constantly set goals, reaching some and then setting others, I challenge myself and know how to grow…all this can only be extremely exciting.
Have the tastes been refined over time as well? Are there some ingredients that characterize your style and that attract your interest more than others?
Taste is like a muscle for us, so the more it is trained, the more it is refined. Acidic ingredients arouse my interest the most and are also what come closest to what we at Bros’ call “taste background,” which is a continuous research and study of all the ingredients that our land has to offer, season after season.
Poland plays a part in your roots. How is it a part of your journey today?
I am as Italian as they come, while my mother is Polish. My foreign origins inevitably trained me to diversity even with flavors, a little how it happens with languages too… you experience influences that can come in handy, especially in the kitchen. Poland is a memory for me, it represents summers spent at my grandparents’ house and my first approaches to dessert. Poland is the memory that is transmitted to my dishes, sometimes without even wanting to, even if the work we do at Bros’, I repeat, is tied to our land…so I am more tied to where I was actually born and raised.
What have your experiences abroad engraved on your Italian heart, prone to internationality?
International experiences are very important, fascinating, exciting, and formative beyond measure. They allowed me to form a global vision that is complex, modern and totally open to comparison with other realities. Traveling, working in the most important starred kitchens in Europe, having teachers and mentors at the highest levels – all allow your character to form and your identity to come out in its highest expression.
You became Head Chef at Bros’ replacing Floriano Pellegrino, who is also your life partner. Tell us about your relationship.
Even before becoming my partner, Floriano was my first teacher. He has been at my side since the beginning and I can’t fail to consider him as a guide and inspiration in everything we have done until now. Bros’ is a project that he had always thought about, and I decided to actively participate from the very first day, despite the difficulties and immense sacrifices. I fully embraced its philosophy and modus operandi making them my own. We opened three years ago on December 26, and since that day the division of our roles and responsibilities has been clear: in the kitchen he is my chef, at home he is Floriano…and it’s worked.
When creating a dessert, what variables do you have to consider? How did you imagine the menu at Bros’?
The variables that I always keep in mind are sharpness, structure, and layout; every spoonful must be the same as the others. On my menu I made sure to always include a dessert with fruit and one based on chocolate, but the real basic rule is to make sure there are always either good classic bases or simply solid ones in the preparation of each individual dessert.
If femininity were a dessert?
I think of my dessert: pear, caramel, bergamot because of the freshness and the right amount of acidity, typical of a woman.
Had you been aiming for the Michelin Star for a long time or was it a surprise? What changes after such a prestigious recognition?At Bros’ we pursue growth and improvement day after day, and if this
growth can get you to a Michelin star, well then that’s it. Our goal has always been to reach a very high level in everything that we
do. Other than bringing us great happiness and satisfaction, having obtained a star hasn’t changed anything. Just a few minutes after
hearing the news, Florian summoned the whole team together in a meeting telling us that from that moment on, we would have to raise the bar even higher continuing to work as hard as we had done before then.
Is the levity that your young age luckily encompasses an added value in this race for excellence?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Despite my age which often – and rightly – makes me more lighthearted in many aspects, I’ve recently managed to become more aware of myself and what surrounds me…
You were in the first edition of the new format Il ristorante degli Chef together with Philippe Léveillé and Andrea Berton. What remains from that experience?
Having met great professionals like my fellow judges and having learned a lot both from the staff as well as the competitors.