Italy's top female chef: Annie Féolde

The first woman in Italy to receive 3 Michelin stars, then lost one, but became one of the very few to win it back just a year later

by

Writer

In a world where the celebrity chef rules, and the height of bad manners and unkindness are apparent prerequisites for the accomplishment of superior cuisine, the warmth and laughter of Chef Annie Féolde are as striking as they are refreshing.

The first woman in Italy to receive 3 Michelin stars, (which she still retains), her love of food is perhaps matched only by her love of people and therein lies the secret to her success – she is beloved and admired by her staff as much as she is by her guests. Such passion cannot be cultivated, it cannot be learned, it’s innate and ultimately it is the combination of these two great loves that have kept her on top for over four decades.

But it all began with another love story… in the early 1970’s, a young Frenchwoman was studying Italian in Florence. She met a dashing Italian sommelier by the name of Giorgio Pinchiorri and they promptly became utterly inseparable, as they continue to be to this day.

In 1979, the Enoteca Pinchiorri opened in Florence, launching a novel concept at the time: the opportunity to savour fine wines by the glass instead of by the bottle. Annie, who came from a family who worked an entire lifetime in the hoteliery industry, started creating little amuse-bouches to serve as an accompaniment to the wines. She clearly had an appointment with destiny as this self-taught chef turned her little amuse-bouches into a veritable menu going on to receive her first Michelin star only three years later, in 1982. Over the years the Enoteca Pinchiorri has become celebrated equally for its extraordinary cellar as for the delectable creations that emerge from Chef Féolde’s kitchen, winning recognition and accolades year in year out for forty years.

Chef Féolde’s cuisine has its roots in Tuscan tradition and flavours, but with an absolutely contemporary twist that makes the dishes lighter while maintaining the authentic tastes of the region and steering wide of ephemeral trends and gimmicks. It goes without saying that only the finest, freshest and most genuine ingredients – such as strictly free-range meats and organic produce – cross the threshold of the Enoteca Pinchiorri’s kitchen where the chef is flanked by not one but two superlative first chefs, Italo Bassi and Riccardo Monco.

Together with her brigade she creates menus that must be experienced at least once in a lifetime and are as delightful to behold as they are to savour.

The Enoteca Pinchiorri’s cellar boasts one the world’s finest collections with over 25,000 bottles of the world’s best wines including such true rarities as 24 large bottles of the 1985 Romanée-Conti (all bottles number 1), a Mouton Rothschild from 1870, and bottles number 1 of both Sassicaia (1968) and Tignanello (1971) – to name just a handful. Even being a victim of probable arson in 1992 did not break their spirit, as the extraordinary collection has been rebuilt in the ensuing decades to be perhaps even more extraordinary than it once was.

This past summer, Chef Féolde also embarked on yet another of her many charitable initiatives. The esteemed house of Frescobaldi planted a hectare of vines on the island of Gorgona, which is home to a penal colony, just off the Tuscan coast in 1999 to give inmates the opportunity to learn a profession for after imprisonment. Under the supervision of Frescobaldi oenologists and agronomists, the inmates turned vintners produced their first wine: 2,700 bottles of a white blend of Vermentino and Ansonica grapes. Annie Féolde has created a dish that will be served at the Enoteca Pinchiorri inspired by the colours and flavours of the island that is also a natural reserve.

Constantly inspired by nature and anticipating her ever more food savvy guests’ desires and dreams, Chef Annie Féolde continues to amaze and delight with her endless creativity and unique understanding of how to blend flavours and textures and colours so as to perfectly complement not only exceptional wines, but a refined palate’s yet to be discovered needs.

Enoteca Pinchiorri, Via Ghibelina 87, 50122 Florence, Tel. +39 055 242 757 / +39 055 242 777, www.enotecapinchiorri.it

Enoteca Pinchiorri also has restaurants in Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan. Tel Tokyo: +81 (3) 3289 8081, Tel Nagoya: +81 (0)52 5278 831