Healthy ingredients at the table? The quality of raw materials, the sustainability of the products and the simplicity of traditional recipes. All this is summed up with a concept: the Mediterranean Diet.
These are the main points of Antonella Ricco’s kitchen, Pugliese chef, culinary instructor, and nutrition consultant who specialized in Professional Holistic Health Coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition of New York, while in Italy she is certified in Culinary Nutrition at The AJN Academy.
"Mine is authentic Italian, revisited on a healthy note"
Antonella has been in New York since 2010 but for 25 years now has promoted the culture of cooking and health through the education of nutrition and the wellness culture.
In the United States, she founded COOKITA NYC, a non-profit initiative that promotes the prevention and conscious choice of quality food.
“Eating is necessary but cooking is an art. I have created an ad hoc program to help them lead a better life, steering away from junk food, synthetic foods, and pre-cooked foods."
Its mission is to inspire and sensitize others to eating and cooking healthy, sustainable, unprocessed and organic ingredients that have a low environmental impact, so they can rediscover food not only as nourishment but as an elixir for long life with all its properties.
We interviewed her right after her lesson at Dartmouth College where 50 students from the Italian Department were able to deepen their basic concepts of the Mediterranean Diet and its benefits. Here along with Prof. Tania Convertini PhD, director of the linguistic program of the French and Italian departments, we also talked about the father of the Italian kitchen, Pellegrino Artusi.
“I stick to my principles and chose everything organic and exclusively wild, so nothing was processed and nothing was wasted...I recycle the leftovers to invent new recipes that are surprisingly tasty!"
What is the inspiration for your kitchen and what does it intend to convey?
“Mine is authentic Italian, revisited on a healthy note, which has married the science of nutrition by transforming tasty traditional dishes with healthy ones without changing the taste.
“There are two goals: to create dishes that help to prevent and slow down the cellular aging of the body; and to prepare tasty, nutritious and healthy dishes related to the Mediterranean diet.
“Following the tradition of our country, I choose raw materials that respect each season.”
How did the American adventure begin?
“I came here to bring some of the values and flavors of my land, Puglia, and I have promoted its products and gastronomy as vice president of I Like Puglia International, a multimedia cultural platform accredited to the Puglia Region as the Puglia Association of the World, and became the head chef of the Texas Chamber of Commerce.
“Here in America, it is important to inform the final consumer, explaining the substantial differences between authentic and fake Italian products.
“My job is to help them make healthier choices to create a real lifestyle based on the rhythms and seasonality of products and what our hectic existence requires.”
Are Americans ready to be educated on a healthier approach to food?
“Eating is necessary but cooking is an art. I have created an ad hoc program to help them lead a better life, steering away from junk food, synthetic foods, and pre-cooked foods.
“I look for the average American, one with a good culture and who is informed about the Mediterranean diet, or who is curious about Italian culture and wants to learn its values and apply it to their own lives, marrying love for food, cooking and themselves! For many years, I dedicated myself to teaching those who have problems with dietary restrictions, intolerances, allergies, gluten and celiac sensitivity, how to cook.
“I provide practical, precise information on what’s important to buy and from where, from vegetables to meat, to cheeses, to oil, so you can eat what you love and love what you eat: in short, taste and pleasure can go hand in hand!”
What are the musts in choosing what products to cook?
“I stick to my principles and chose everything organic and exclusively wild, so nothing was processed and nothing was wasted...I recycle the leftovers to invent new recipes that are surprisingly tasty! One example is chips from kiwi peels, baked in the oven, these are a delight!
“I use many vegetables, cereals, and seeds. I also leave other regions of Italy newly inspired by the choice of recipes and, in addition to the quality and taste, I control the nutritional values and the elements present in each food, in addition to the origin, the source, which tells me what kind of cultivation it had, and by following the processing and conservation processes. To do this, I have enriched my skills and experiences over the years with chefs who have specialized in nutrition and healthy coaching, creating a profession that combines the culinary aspect and nutrition in a holistic way.”
The Mediterranean Diet has been recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010 and as such should at least be known throughout the world. What do you think?
“As explained by the etymology of the word, diet is a way of life, a modus vivendi, a rational and cultural element that strengthens the sense of belonging to a history and tradition.
“It is the sharing of health and wellness values that promote festivity and therefore dialogue and exchanges to pass on identities and values.
“To foster this I am bringing healthy and unrecognizable gourmet products to the store shelves of America. The concepts of Farm to Table, traceability, food product safety, and sustainability are the new frontier of Made in Italy.
“I’m selecting Italian companies and their products to ensure the highest quality and safety for the American consumer even with food-related issues.
“All the ingredients and products used come from farms residing in Italy, selected exclusively by the underwriter for quality, taste, nutritional value and impact on health. They are 100% authentically Italian of the highest quality, accompanied by organic-proven certification, free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), with biodynamic activity and only available through e-commerce. That is why my all-female company, Edesia WorldWide, is committed to spreading these principles.
“The goal is to promote cultural exchanges and excellence between the United States and Italy in a modern and dynamic way, focused on innovation and excellence, able to understand and exploit new opportunities from a country that offers so many riches in wine and food, and in the historic, tourist, cultural and even entrepreneurial fields.”