People Behind Italian Secrets
Anna Venturi, Managing Director
What do I love most in life? Good company, great food, entertaining, working in a creative and friendly environment and hot Sicilian summers.
My professional interest in food really began when I first came to England from Milan. I remember being at a food show and watching a celebrated chef prepare a simple tomato sauce. The audience seemed really impressed. I thought this is mad- people don’t understand how easy it is to make good, simple food. I felt I had a lot to offer in this field and so, in 1993, set up a small cookery class from my home kitchen in Buckinghamshire, sharing the recipes passed down to me from my grandmother, mother and nanny.
The classes began to outgrow my kitchen and led to me opening the ‘Italian Secrets’ cookery school in Beaconsfield which was later expanded to include a catering service and gourmet shop. I was also asked to write a book based on the recipes I shared and ‘Secrets from an Italian Kitchen’ was published in 2000 by Pavilion Books.
Ten years experience in teaching people how to cook has taught me a lot about food and even more about human relationships. Primarily it has made me realise that cooking is one of the best ways of bringing people together. I measure the success of my business by the reactions I get from people on a daily basis. Seeing everyone relaxing and having fun is what makes Venturi’s Table’s so special for me.
Letizia Tufari, Director
I have always been very driven career-wise, even as a girl I dreamed of being the sales director of a multi-national company. After several years working in the States and in London for a large pharmaceutical firm, my dream was well on the way to becoming true. Surprisingly for me, it didn’t feel right. It started to dawn on me that I wasn’t interested in my boss’ job or in climbing a corporate ladder. I realised that I wanted my skills and hard work to make a tangible impact on the company I was working for, which I could recognise and be proud of. What I needed was a friend with a small business…
My mum already had an established business in Beaconsfield teaching women classic Italian cooking. Our family has a real culture of cooking and, like her, it has always been in my blood. Although I was slightly apprehensive about the prospect of working with my mother I saw an opportunity to forge a new career around something I was truly passionate about.
Going into business with my mum has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things that I have done. We’re a feisty duo but we work well together. The development of Venturi’s Table has been particularly interesting for me as I can see my previous life in the business people we work with. I can appreciate both the challenges and the pressures of their ‘nine to fives’ and can share how effective the smell of rising pizza dough can be as a stress reliever!
Ella Prichard, Event Manager
I have always loved cooking. It came naturally and I got a real buzz when I made something delicious and people enjoyed it. When the time came to think about Universities I decided to pursue what I was best at and felt I wanted to earn money straight away.
After a four week cooking course I worked as a chalet chef on a ski season. It was incredibly hard work (some days lasted from 4am until 1am!) and I had to cook a Christmas dinner for 30 people on my own. Despite this, the compliments kept coming and I decided to invest properly in cooking as a career path with some intensive training at Leiths.
The Leiths’ course was a real turning point in terms of confidence and knowledge and led me to a number of private chef contracts. The jobs were really exciting and I travelled all over from Scotland to the South of France. After about a year I craved a more settled life and missed my friends in London. I found a job working in catering recruitment which also allowed me to continue private contracts at the weekend.
I first worked with Anna and Letizia at the start of the Venturi’s Table journey. At that time The Milan kitchen was a building site and there were lots of events which they needed extra help with. I have always loved the friendly and family-run ethos of the business and the kitchens are the best I had ever worked in. Anna called at the end of 2010 to have an informal chat and mentioned that she had a job opening. I felt it was time for a change and jumped at the opportunity. I am really interested in the fact that the events look at the cooking process and how it benefits people, not just the end result.
Kasia Czarkowska, Kitchen Manager
I came to London from Poland in 2005 to learn English and I came across Venturi’s Table by chance. At first I was helping out in the kitchen but I soon got the opportunity to do some cooking which was fantastic. I really like the philosophy of the company and enjoy working in a food orientated environment.
Since I started I have proved that hard work, determination and being well organised does pay off. I am now the Kitchen Manager and am pleased to say that our kitchens were recently awarded five stars in food safety and hygiene by the Food Standards Agency.
The perk of my job has definitely been the priceless lessons I have learnt about cooking. I often get the chance to help prepare food for Italian Secrets’ events and am really proud of my new ability to make meringues!
Mark Williams, Chef
Cooking has always been my passion but it was not until recently that it became part of my working life. My professional career started at the Royal Mail as a counter clerk, working up to become one of the company’s senior mangers. Whilst I was proud of what I had achieved I realised that the happiest moments in my week revolved around going home, cooking a meal and learning new recipes. I have always believed that the more you enjoy a job the better a job you do and it became important enough to inspire a dramatic career change.
In 2004 I began full time catering training at Leith’s School of Food and Wine after 15 years of being an enthusiastic cook. I followed this by gaining experience in a number of restaurants. In 2005 I was thrilled to join Venturi’s Table as a Chef. Unlike previous positions, this role meant that I could rediscover my excitement for cooking everyday as I taught those who had not had the benefit of culinary training. The wide-eyed amazement of people when they experience even the most simple of recipes is pure gold.
The job also involves catering for corporate and private parties and I am a real perfectionist when it comes to getting food just right. Nothing beats the feeling of sending out 300 chocolate fondants that are ready to melt in the mouth.
Charlton Nicoll, Chef
I trained at Leiths 6 years ago having loved cooking in villas in Italy during university holidays. A few restaurants, a lot of private work and directors dining later I fell into banqueting and pop ups, working with secret garden party as head chef of their a la carte restaurant and Wilderness with the amazing Moro and Petersham Nurseries.
Italian Secrets is something I've always heard about and I'm very glad to finally be here!
I love the atmosphere and it's so nice to cook with other people instead of cooking for other people.
Earleen Taylor, Chef
I love food and what better way to experience it than whizzing around the world. During my years of travelling whilst working on Concorde, I experienced exquisite food both on the plane and in some amazing restaurants around the world. I used to try to eat the local dishes wherever I went, but I am not too fond of meat so it wasn’t always easy.
I started cooking from a young age, my dad was the best cook in our home and I used to watch him and get involved when I could. I can cook most of the dishes my dad taught me but he is still the best and cooks his specials whenever he returns to the UK.
I have always wanted to learn how to cook properly, so I enrolled at Leiths School of Food and Wine and completed the Diploma. I learnt so much and my life took a new turn. I have since enjoyed tutoring and teaching adults and children with all types of different foods. I love it because, I am always with different people of all ages and backgrounds and everyday is a new experience.
I love baking and experimenting with foods. I really enjoy cooking with my family and we enjoy eating our creations. I appreciate simple things in life, with good food and good company what more could I ask for!
Fiona Giles, Chef
Despite loving cooking for as long as I can remember, when leaving university a career in the food industry didn't come to mind.
Instead, I pursued a career in the City training as a solicitor and going on to practice corporate law for a number of years. While a solicitor my enthusiasm for cooking and tinkering with recipes never waned and, a few years ago, I decided to leave the law and embark on a culinary adventure training as a chef at Leiths School of Food and Wine. Since leaving Leiths, I have gained experience through a whole range of culinary roles, including catering for large private events, dinner and canape parties and various smaller private contracts.
In 2011 I joined Venturi's Table. I love combining cooking and teaching and having the opportunity to share my new found culinary knowledge with others.
Julie Dadds, Chef
I have always loved cooking. My fondest memories are when I was around the age of 10 years and licking the bowl of my mother's cake mixture. My mother showed me her mother's cooking book which I studied and used to learn to cook. The first cake I made was a Victoria Sponge followed by a fruit cake which I would often make for Sunday tea.
After pursuing a career in Jewellery Making and Design, I decided to go and travel hoping to return back to jewellery. Unfortunately, I had to curtail my travel plans. I came back with no job or place to live. A friend of mine who taught at Leith's Cookery School managed to get me a job in the store room weighing out ingredients for the students. Being behind the scenes gave me an insight and interest in cooking professionally. I was offered a chance to do part of the course which I accepted. So I did a four week basic course and then the Advanced Diploma. After this I worked as a freelance chef for various catering companies, one of which gave me the opportunity to work abroad for a sailing team.
Italian Secrets originally came into my life through Ella who I used to worked with at Leith’s. More chefs were needed for a big wedding in 2006 and Ella asked me and I said yes. I worked with the team more and more, and this then progressed to teaching at Venturi’s Table and I have worked for them on a freelance basis ever since. I love meeting new people and watching them interact over food. It really brings people together and that makes me smile.
Julia Cotter, Chef
I grew up on a sheep and beef farm in New Zealand with a love of great fresh food. My mother and grandmother were both great cooks and they were instrumental in instilling this love of food and cooking. Most of my early memories are food, or at least kitchen, related.
I left New Zealand after university and a brief spell working, to come to London with my boyfriend (now husband) for what was supposed to be a two year trip. I left my job in The City in 2010 and followed my passion and my taste buds to Leiths School of Food and Wine to do the Diploma, something I had been longing to do for some time, but could never quite muster the courage to do. I then went on to complete the Wines and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Advanced Certificate.
My keenest clients and harshest critics are my two young daughters. I'm now teaching them to cook, starting with the same kiwi baking recipes my grandmother and mother taught me. I love sharing my knowledge and love of cooking and have really enjoyed meeting and teaching people of all ages since graduating.
Mehernosh Mody, Indian Chef
I am a Parsee from Bombay, India and an avid fan of rock music and traveling. I am at heart a simple bloke who loves eating my wife’s cooking who is an incredible chef in her own right. Although we both trained together she now manages the business while I am the gentleman in “whites.”
After years of training and experience both in India and abroad I am currently the Corporate Chef at London’s prestigious “La Porte des Indes,” a fine dining Indian restaurant.
Whilst I remain true to my traditions and the origins of Indian cuisine, I have achieved my own unique style of cooking which is best described as progressive. I particularly enjoy blending spices, flavours and experimenting with unusual foods. At the moment I revel in educating my five year old daughter on the taste and smell of ingredients. Zana never ceases to amaze us with her knowledge of food and spices and I love taking her to markets with me. Besides this, I enjoy the attention on the school run which comes with cooking on television.
I believe anyone can cook; all you need is passion and someone to share your meal!
Robinah Akech, Waitress and Kitchen Assistant
After a holiday in the UK in 2000, I decided to come back and pursue my education in Business, hence moving to London in 2002.
I learnt about Venturi's Table and Italian Secrets in 2005 while at College, I went for an interview, the next day I was hired and I have been with them ever since!
I love working for the company not only as a waitress but also as a kitchen assistant. This is because of the lovely management team and staff they have and also my love for food.
Working with Venturi's Table has, over the years, enabled me to gain quality skills as a Business student dealing with people. It has boosted my confidence and made me bolder. The more I work with them, the more I see myself putting the knowledge I learn from university to practice. My mother always said ‘what you learn in school is far different from what you practise in real life’ - and how so true.
My long stay with Venturi’s Table has worked well for me as I gain more experience working face-to-face with clients from various backgrounds and walks of life. When I graduate, I will come out not only with a degree in Business but also with real life experience, an opportunity not easily found.
Reuben Phillips, Wine Tutor
Having studied Geography at Royal Holloway, which included a module on Viticulture, I developed a passion for wine. After graduating, I went on to work for Oddbins wine merchants; working within the London branches and training department. Here I gained my advanced WSET and went on to train staff and clients about the analytical approach to wine tasting. As well as teaching, I have also judged on wine & spirits tasting panels, including the London Wine and Spirits Fair and the International Wine Challenge.
Married into an Italian family, I have close links with several wine-makers in Tuscany and love to spend time visiting the many amazingly talented winemakers in the areas around us there.
Caroline Wade, PR Consultant
I have worked in public relations since 2002, promoting some of the UK’s biggest brands. The first press sell-in I ever did was to the news and features sections of the national press announcing a competition for overweight cats and dogs. My boss at the time told me not to bother with The Financial Times but it’s my philosophy that ‘it’s not what you sell it’s the way that you sell it’ and a picture of an overweight Boxer made the FT’s front page. I have worked for Venturi’s Table since 2007, generating coverage for the business in the national press, first as a permanent member of staff and now as a freelance consultant.