Trastevere’s Great Chef
In the heart of Trastevere, steps away from Piazza Trilussa, Glass Hostaria is an architectural gem of sophisticated delicacies within ultra-modern design
embellishments that are woven into old facades framed by ivy. Since 2006, Cristina Bowerman has been in charge, and her creative extravagance has been awarded multiple times over the course of her career, including two forks from Gambero Rosso and a Michelin Star in 2010, the only woman that year.
GSM: From Puglia to the Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Austin, Texas: what has your path been like to becoming a chef?
CB: After graduating with a degree in Law, I decided to travel and to go live abroad, bringing a passion for cooking with me. I went to the United States where I started a career far from what I had studied, working in the field of design. In 2000, I decided to change my career, leaving design and embracing professional cuisine, so I graduated in Culinary Arts from TCA University. I was convinced that cooking could be more than a “simple” swishing pans around, that it was a matter of culture, tradition, and creativity. In short, it could be considered a profession. After graduation, I gave myself ten years to succeed in my field where “succeeding” was (and still is) tied to the opportunity to practice this profession making the most of one’s potential. In 2004, I came back to Italy. I wanted to learn how to make the best fresh pasta in the world and go back to Austin, but the opportunities that were presented to me were not to be missed. So here I am in Rome, by now for 11 years.
GSM: What is the connection with your roots in Puglia?
CB: Rapini, what else? Rapini, or broccoli rabe, is the ultimate Pugliese vegetable. Its flavors and smells are unmistakable. Also, its bright color always gives me a sense of health, beauty, goodness, and for me it is one of the absolute best flavors. Whenever I get close to rapini, my bond with Puglia is immediate.
GSM: What flavor can you not do without?
CB: My grandmother’s pasta and peas. Even today, I think it is still my favorite dish. One of the dishes that will remain in Glass’ history is the “tagliatelle
with cream, ham, and peas,” where nothing that you see is what it seems: this recipe is dedicated to my grandmother’s pasta and peas, that in any case will always be better.
GSM: What are the rules of your kitchen?
CB: Study, concentration, cleanliness, innovation, because I always like doing new things. I’m attracted to everything that I don’t know, and sure
enough, fusion is absolutely essential in my kitchen, just like in my life. I’m unable to think of my life without inspiration from other cultures, other
GSM: Is a leader born that way or does one become it?
CB: One is born a leader, but increasingly becomes it – through studying, perfecting, practicing, and managing different situations. So I would say
that the answer is a bit born that way and a bit becomes. Being a leader means not only knowing how to be an example, but also, and above all,
being able to motivate every person around you to give the best they have to offer. I think that nowadays the most difficult job is connected to the management of human resources. Trying to inspire people to do their absolute best is what a leader should do.
GSM: Out of 24 new declared stars for 2010 from the renown Michelin Guide, you were the only woman. What do the clientele at the elegant tables of Trastevere’s Glass Hostaria look for?
CB: Glass’ clientele look for stimulants. One of the most common comments from my clients, that I personally try to take care of, is “Finally. If I had to eat another plate of carbonara or cacio and pepper, I would be sick”. Unfortunately, for a long time, Rome suffered from a flattening of the demand that called for the usual traditional dishes, and not even all of them but only the most popular. Recently, and I’m happy about this, the variety has really broadened, bringing a surge of modernity to what Rome has to offer.
GSM: Study, preparation, dedication, and creativity. What has been your greatest sacrifice?
CB: I find it difficult to think about sacrifices…I’ll explain it better. I don’t consider my career like a job, therefore I don’t see it as a “subtraction” to my life. My life includes work and it could not be otherwise. I am fulfilled as a person even through work and so I don’t see my long hours at work, my limited time with my family, the little time to devote to myself – I don’t see it as a sacrifice.
Author: Chiara Melani