CHIARA MACI
Milanese from Agropoli, 32 years old, food blogger

THE BORING FOODSTARS, THE WAR AMONG BLOGGERS AND NO DIETS

by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI

CHIARA MACI

Video 1
LEAVING BOLOGNA
I arrived in Milan in 2006 to do a master’s degree after graduating in law in Bologna. My challenge was to change city: I wanted to go away from home and from Bologna, so I started to look for a master’s course. The one I liked most was in Marketing and Communication and it was in Milan, a completely unknown city to me.

THE CITY OF STRESS
Despite being very close, because Milan is an hour’s train ride from Bologna – to the Bolognesi, as for all the people in Italy – Milan is the city where people are always in a hurry, who work a lot… ‘How much more the Milanesi work compared to the Romans… ‘, more or less the usual clichés that people here at 20 years old… I was 22, it was 2006, and I decided to go to Milan. I rented a flat in Corso Como, the only street I knew in this city.

THE STREET OF NIGHTLIFE
The street of nightlife, I was 22, and I said: ‘Oh well, I’ll live there’, and there my journey in Milan started. First the master, then the internship – the classic path in Milan – and after a while I was hired by a company. And so I went to work in Rogoredo, for Sky.

THE MILANESI AND CAKES
I was the one who brought cakes to the office every morning. I was in women’s team… I think the women from Milan deserve a separate chapter.

ALL ON A DIET
All on a diet, strongly fixated, and struggling with work for 20 hours a day. I was the more genuine and down-to-earth one. I still remember the first cake I brought to my boss, a very skinny woman. She looked at me as if I was a Martian and said: ‘Is there butter in it?’, And I said, ‘What do you mean? It is a cake, of course there is butter in it.’ She didn’t touch it.

FIRST IMPACT
At first I didn’t think it was the right city for me, I hated it, there were times when I really hated it, because Milan to me was the combination of many factors: leaving home, being alone, working alone, earning nothing… Many things together associated to change.

I LEFT IN 2009
I stayed until 2009, when I decided to give everything up.

BECAUSE…
My bosses… It was because of the job, the fact of being thrown into a huge company where I was part of a team of women whom I would have never thought would work so hard.

THE DESIRE TO COOK
I wanted to cook at all costs. It was in my DNA.

A FAMILY IN THE KITCHEN
Being born in Agropoli, in the Cilento, with a father from Lecce and a mother from Bologna who is a sommelier and sommelier professor… I have been a sommelier since I was 18 years old, as my whole family. My father is a doctor, all the others are doctors, but at home food has always meant everything. We talked around the table while eating, every family problem was discussed at the table in front of food.

MILAN’S DISCOVERY
I think the really important thing about Milan is this, and it is not easy to understand. Let me explain: I have always thought of not being great in the kitchen but…

POWER CAKE
When I arrived in Milan my colleagues pointed out to me that making cakes, inviting people to dinner, even ten at a time, was important. They pointed out that it was a special thing, my special thing. They made me understand that I had something more… I was famous for my cheesecake, my apple pie… I always brought something good to the office.

MY SPECIAL LUNCH BASKET
I was the one who brought a particular lunch basket (schiscetta), because they all had salads. I kept bringing couscous, quinoa, strange things with particular vegetables which I prepared the night before. So I brought not only cakes but also a strange schiscetta to the office.

Video 2
BOOKS AND COOKING
I locked myself at home in Bologna for a year and I got myself the Alma books, the cooking school books and I began studying the techniques, to cook a lot, to perfect my cooking. Then, when I realized that for me it was time to go back to Milan, I came back.

A JOB THAT DIDN’T EXIST
I chose Milan because it was the only city that could allow me to do the job I had in mind, which is not a coded job. If you ask me what I do I say freelance. This was the project I had in mind: to cook and write about cooking, but I didn’t want to be a journalist, I wanted to go around restaurants, and ‘criticize’, meaning tasting, understanding, judging. It was a combination of many different jobs. The point is that a school that prepares you for this didn’t exist nor could I confront myself with someone because this job has no history.

MANY BLOGGERS
When I arrived here there were already many bloggers, I wasn’t the first one, but I had a clear idea, and this city, I think, gives you the opportunity to put certain things into practice. And here are the companies I started to work with.

MILAN 2010
I came back in 2010, but I already spoke the language of marketing because I came from a big company and, since I spoke that language, Milan was very easy for me.

FOOD AND MEDIA, ISN’T THAT TOO MUCH?
I believe that all this will surely lead to a natural selection in the next years because now there are many people in this business. The world is full of food bloggers, every day more. People understand who to follow and who to choose, and this is true also for what concerns the chefs. This disproportionate wave will almost certainly come to an end…

INFERNAL LIFE
Being a chef is a difficult job, it’s very hard. I would never do it, chefs live an infernal life.

BETTER MASTERCHEF THAN THE BIG BROTHER
For what concerns television, I think it is deeply wrong to communicate to the kids that cooking schools are the right choice if you want to work in TV. Many young people were led astray by this thing, and today many of them enroll in these schools that now see a boom of enrollments because everyone wants to become the new Rugiati or the new Borghese. But I find it wonderful that young people are passionate about food, of course without getting to the extreme of the seven-year-old who makes stuffed chicken because that I find absurd. Speaking of normality and common sense, which should always be the basis of everything, I think that it’s better if kids become passionate about food rather than the stupid programs of which there have been many in recent years, I find it smarter. I prefer if they get excited about Masterchef rather than The Big Brother.

CHEFS ENFORCED BY TELEVISION
I don’t know. The chefs who are now on TV were already important before, so I don’t think so. I would have some doubts about the young ones, who were helped because they didn’t work twenty years in kitchens. On food bloggers, I say it now and I’ll say it for life, and this also applies to fashion bloggers and travel bloggers, as long as they can improvise there will be thousands of them. But where there is no substance you can see it, people are not stupid, indeed.

Video 3
ALL CRITICS IN MILAN
It is a peculiar city with regards to food because here, in Milan, everyone is a critic. It’s funny… I can see it even with a lot of people I know that have nothing to do with this environment: they no longer go to the restaurant to enjoy the food and the evening, to relax…

EATING IS RELISHING
Food now is seen as something to be photographed and analyzed. Before people ate and relished the taste, now many people no longer do so. And as long as those working in the field do it I can understand, but I find it absurd when I see others doing that. You see them at the restaurant taking pictures and commenting: ‘I’m not sure if this rib is cooked well, it seems a little red inside’. They are all hypercritical towards food. Fortunately, I think it’s a fleeting moment. It will end sooner or later. I hope…

GREAT CHOICE
Milan is the city that also has the largest selection of restaurants in Italy, so it is normal that here customers are knowledgeable. Do you want to eat Peruvian food in Milan? Here’s a Peruvian restaurant.

ONLY HERE THE TRUE CHINESE…
Milan is the first city where I ate good Chinese food, given that eating good Chinese in Italy is almost impossible. I couldn’t live in any other city in Italy only because of the choice of restaurants that Milan offers.

MILAN, ITALY, WORLD
In Milan I feel I personally don’t envy anything from foreign countries. In any other Italian cities I always feel limited by provincialism and closed-minded attitudes. Milan is the city that allows you to stay Italian, however, with a much more open mind.

ALWAYS A STEP AHEAD
I was walking down the street and on the ground I saw the advertisement for the election of the mayor of Milan. A communication campaign also on the street, I feel free to say that these things happen only in Milan. There is so much innovative communication. You can imagine how important this for me, since I work with social networks and the web. It’s not important, it is essential! It is the only Italian city where in a little while, and I expect it at any moment, people will go to the restaurant based on Instagram followers, as in New York. And probably it will happen here soon.

FAVOURITE PLACES
I am very fond of Brera, in some way I grew up there. Whenever my friends come to Milan we always go for a walk in Brera. I got my place right near Leonardo’s sluice, at the corner of San Marco that I find spectacular, very beautiful.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO EAT?
The last place I found is where I went last week with some vegetarian friends from Bologna who asked me: ‘Is there a vegetarian restaurant in Milan?’. Guys, in Milan there has been everything for years, vegetarian, vegan, etc. There is everything here. We went to a beautiful place called Capra e cavoli, where I had never been before. That’s the beauty of Milan, you are in Isola, you enter this place, you turn around, and it seems an open-air garden, well-furnished, something completely different to the places in the area. And if one wants to go to eat American food, there you go, you have a place for that. I like that. Being able to choose a different place every day is priceless. And the same when I have guests from outside Milan, indeed I must say that I enjoy the idea of being able to say: ‘What would you like to eat? American? Thai?’. You can’t do it anywhere, but here there is a place for everything.

Video 4
WHEN I GROW UP
When I grow up I would like to continue to do what I do now. Obviously I’d like to have a little more time to be a mom and I think I’ll stay and live in this city, I don’t think I will leave Milan. Unless I decide to go abroad, but I don’t think I will… And as an adult, so probably in a few years, I hope to wake up and still have exactly the same idea. With some more children, perhaps.

THE BORING FOOD STARS
The thing that bores me the most are the food stars, the ones who it doesn’t take much to make them feel they accomplished it all.

WAR AMONG BLOGGERS
I am very well-liked. A little because I started to work as a food blogger in a certain way… Then because I was the first one to put on TV the ‘blogger’ caption: I have always been proud of this role when all were ashamed to seem as parvenus, hybrids between journalists and a housewives. Being a blogger was seen as something strange at the beginning… I am on good terms with everyone and many, I swear, come to me asking for advice: ‘How much should I charge for this job? Could you introduce me to this company?’. But I’m aware of this war among bloggers, especially among newcomers.

MILAN’S DISHES
Cotoletta, risotto… You know I don’t often cook the cotoletta? It’s one of those things that I like to eat at the restaurant, but not because I don’t like frying, because every place where you eat it in Milan makes it different. And so I like to eat it in every way. I prefer it thick and I have my restaurants where I can go and eat it the way I like it. But I am absolutely omnivorous and I know how to cook the Milanese risotto and the osso buco well.

OYSTERS? NO, THANKS
I eat everything but oysters. By constraint, more than once, I ate them during the TV program Cuochi e fiamme, so I did my part. That’s it, that is the only thing that I don’t eat.

ME ON A DIET?
I’ve never been on a diet in my whole life.