Maria Greco Naccarato is a home economist and food stylist. Graduated with honor in Business Administration at L. Bocconi University, she started her career as a product manager at Nestlè’s Dairy Products Division, where she developed her passion for food styling and cooking, that led her later to become personal chef at Muniche Re Italia SpA.
In the TV season 2010/11 she’s been part of the cast at “La prova del cuoco”, the Italian long version of the British Ready Steady Cook TV program, in the role of maestra di cucina. She loves developing, testing and editing recipes and writing for entertaining and catering books. Her food styling for photography, TV and movies is well known and highly requested and recently she has started her own blog where she can finally share her passion for everything related with the kitchen.
Tell us about yourself.
Born in Milan. Only daughter, my father died when I was six, but life regretted to have been so hard on me and gifted me with a great mother, who never let me complain. Graduated with honor in Business Administration, I joined Nestlè dairy products marketing department, where I discovered the magic of Food Styling. Happily married with two lovely children, Luigi and Alessandra: the sun and the moon of my life!
What does being a "food stylist" involve?
Food styling means literally to style food for photos or movies to make it look tasty. But I'm also a home economist. Do you remember Julia Child? She was able to create recipes, write
and teach them.
How did you get into it?
During a commercial shooting for the product I was responsible for. After few years in Nestlé, I decided to follow my passion: food and cooking. I became the personal chef for business lunches and later started food styling for La Cucina Italiana magazine.
What is the best part of the job?
When clients understand the passion I put into my work and they appreciate my creativity and technique .
... and what do you like the least?
Nothing... even when I have already worked 15 hours...
Do you have a favourite regional cuisine and, if so, what makes it so special?
I'm very lucky because in Italy we have an excellent quality and variety of cuisines, but I appreciate every dish created with love and respect for ingredients.
Do you prefer to cook or to teach how to cook?
Both! Cooking is a way of sharing and loving people. But when after a lesson, the people feel so proud to be able to repeat a recipe and they tell me how friends or family enjoyed the meal, that makes me feel really happy. It is another way of sharing.
How was your experience at "La prova del cuoco"?
Well it was very new to me. It felt like jumping in a new ocean.
Do you have some funny memories about it?
The shame to dance when the music started during the preparation!
You have just started your own blog about cooking. Why?
With kitcheninthecity.it I can reach more people and express myself directly with the reader.
In what way is your blog different?
Well, the claim is "notes from an urban kitchen " and communicate clearly that I live in a city, Milan, that means fast timing, but I still encourage people to enjoy cooking with easy recipes. And style: for me is very important how the plate arrives on the table. Caring for presentation is even more important with the people you love the most.
There are many celebrity chefs around the world, are there any that you admire?
Davide Scabin in Turin, Ferran Adrià in Spain who are pushing edges, but I admire every chef, cook, pizzaiolo who are really committed to do their job at their best.
Who in your life had the biggest influence in your career?
Cuoca Carla, a woman who had a very difficult life and became a cook for private dinners in Milan. I had few lessons with her: everything she cooked was tasty and beautiful.
How important is in your family life the kitchen and the food?
Everything started in my small home kitchen. I needed to show them how much I care through food.
When you are not in charge in the kitchen what do you like to do?
Modern art , opera, and I'm very interested in everything is related to creativity.
Tell us some memorable moments around a table.
Last month when we celebrated my son’s 18th birthday. A very intimate moment. Or two weeks ago when my husband invited all his colleagues on the occasion of the "big big chief" visit and the atmosphere was just perfect. Entertaining at home is always better than dinner at a restaurant . Never mind how good you are at cooking, the personal touch is always a winning touch.
What advice would you give to those among our readers interested in starting a career in cookery?
Take lessons just from excellent teachers, practice at home, be very severe with yourself and always hungry to learn more.