The silent revolution of Caterina Ceraudo screams “girl power!”
The Italian Region of Calabria is a land made of contrasts. Its story is, at times, hard to tell, but beyond this perception, there is a great deal of beauty to be discovered. Caterina, a young woman, born and raised among its vineyards, olive groves, and citrus orchards, endeavors every day, with kindness, sensibility, and respect, to make her homeland bloom.
Caterina is creative, strong, and brilliant. She might have been working for a luxury restaurant in a big city, but she chose to come back to her roots in Strongoli Marina and to lead Dattilo, an ancient oil mill converted into a charming restaurant. This is the place where she grew up and where her whole family lives and works, guided by her father, Roberto, who is a pioneer of biological cultivation in Calabria.
She took her first steps into her future realm just after her high school graduation holiday, not as a chef, but as a maître. Her main interest at that time was wine, with which she excellently accompanied the amazing recipes of the legendary chef, Frank Rizzuti. At that time, she tiptoed around the guests; she was shy but always smiling, as well as detail-oriented, and Dattilo’s wine list had never been so accurate.
Following the footsteps of her father, Caterina decided then to cultivate her passion for wine, so she moved to Tuscany to study Enology and Viticulture at the University of Pisa. It is during this period that the magic happened. Caterina clearly understood that embellishing a dish with wine was not enough, she needed to create the food herself, and she wanted to do that at home, at Dattilo. She discovered that inside her were many stories to tell, and they all talked about Calabria.
But don’t be deceived by this romantic vision. Caterina was, and still is, a perfectionist. Before coming home and realizing her dreams, she wanted to be prepared, to show all the best of her homeland through her work. After graduation, she threw all her energies into attending chef Nico Romito’s renowned School of Haute Cuisine. The teacher’s philosophy perfectly complemented Caterina’s vision, and she learned how to combine flavors without being too “intrusive” and to exalt the natural essence of every single ingredient. Her beloved Calabria, with all its unique and savory products, was finally ready to be rediscovered and appreciated by everyone.
In 2013, Caterina returned to Dattilo with her whole family, in the meantime, having been awarded a Michelin star. Ready to help her in this new life were her older sister, Susy, who took her place as maître, and her dad Roberto and brother Giuseppe who constantly fill her kitchen with fresh vegetables, spices, and aromatic herbs.
Caterina now strives every single day to maintain the high-level of the restaurant and to push it even higher while affirming her identity and vision, always in her gentle, introspective way.
She knows that her homeland offers unique, natural products that don’t need to be over-elaborate. There is no place on her menu for the typical stereotypes of southern Italy; heavy and over-flavored flood. Caterina celebrates natural ingredients, simple aromas, and healthy recipes.
In a sector that is mostly dominated by men, Caterina shows that young women can make a difference, and she’s presenting an impressive example to all her peers with her minimal, elegant, modern style. Real revolutions are made quietly by people like her; people who think, listen to themselves, inspire, and work hard. The harmony infused in her creations has literally conquered guests and critics alike, and in 2017 she won the first edition of the best female chef award. This prize is proof that there is an alternative way to success; that it’s possible to conciliate family and career. That loving and valuing a place considered degraded can really change its perception.
One of Caterina’s desires is that every time a visitor comes back to Calabria, they find that something has changed; that something has changed for the best.
The most amazing fact is that she is building this change every day, and her homeland is growing and blooming, just like her.