1) What life episode/s fuelled your passion for food and cooking?
I had two influential life episodes, which fuelled my passion for food and cooking.
The first was while working as a stock boy at a local California style cafe in New York when I was 16 years old. I remember sitting down to a “family meal” with the other staff one afternoon after a farmers market. I sat between the farmer who had grown the food and the chef who had prepared it and suddenly realized just how cool it was to be close to those people and the source of my food.
The second was two years later when I went away to college in Colorado and experienced food poisoning for the first time after a contaminated meal at a well-known fast food taco chain. Shortly after, I called my twin brother, who was in culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and asked him how to cook chicken. He instructed me how and I soon sat down to enjoy my creation when I was interrupted by a knock on the door. To my surprise, it was my friends from down the hall who had smelled the chicken cooking and wanted me to share. Soon I was surrounded by friends enjoying a homemade meal, and I realized that if I learned to cook then I would be healthier (avoiding food poisoning), happier (I’d make more friends) and I could travel the world. It was right then that I decided to go to join my brother at CIA.
2) What is your personal connection to Italy and working with Italian food?
Both of my grandparents on my mother’s side were from Bologna. Sharing meals at the table is some of my favourite times with family. And, in 2008 my brother and I were invited to represent the United States at Terra Madre, Slow Food’s world meeting of the food communities. It felt like the United Nations of food and was life changing. Ever since, I’ve been deeply in love with Italy. Now, I visit as often as possible, often staying with friends at Casa Caponetti olive farm in Toscana or working with the Future Food Institute in Bologna.
3) What is your favourite Italian dish?
Growing up, some of my earliest memories were of stealing the hot, crispy, salty corners of the Lasagna Bolognese fresh from the oven and pinching together bright yellow tortellini with my grandmother, Bruna Bulgarelli. We spent many hours together rolling out pasta and making béchamel, ragù and brodo. Traditional Lasagna Bolognese and Tortellini in Brodo are easily my two favourite dishes.
4) If you could take a friend out for dinner that is coming from abroad to visit Italy for the first time, what typical dish would you suggest?
We would start dinner with a glass of Lambrusco and an antipasto board from Salumeria Simoni in Bologna. Then we’d have a bottle of Chianti, radicchio salad and a few courses of pasta; Tortellini in Brodo, Passatelli Spadellato and Lasagna Bolognese. And, maybe a Limoncello to finish things off!
5) How do you think Italian cuisine can be better promoted abroad?
The beauty of Italian cuisine is in its simplicity and farm to table nature. Kids these days are more interested in gardening than ever before. I think the best way to promote Italian cuisine is to, do as my grandmother, and get kids into the kitchen to learn how to cook. As Whitney Houston said, “Children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way.”
6) Can you tell us about Tortellino San Francisco, and how the project came to fruition?
Tortellini SF happened fast! I’ve been involved with the conception and development of a food hall appropriately named “The Hall SF” in the Central Market district of San Francisco. Our goal is to create a safe, delicious place for locals to enjoy the flavours of San Francisco. I emailed Andrea Magelli from You Can Group/Future Food Institute as soon as I found out that a stall had become available. The rest is history; we’re now serving Bolognese inspired gourmet pasta-to-go in the heart of the city.
7) What are the goals of Tortellino San Francisco and it’s greater social mission?
Our goal is to bring the flavours of Bologna to life in San Francisco through a fast casual format for our on the go lifestyles. There is nothing that warms the soul and fills the belly better that a cup of handmade tortellini in a hot tasty broth. It’s the closest you’ll get to tasting the magic of Bruna Bulgarelli.
Grazie a Tim West e Tortellino San Francisco