Our exclusive interview with Sarena Solari, chef and winner of Heel Holland Bakt 2015 - Part 1

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Sarena Solari , winner of Heel Holland Bakt 2015 - a TV cooking show focused on baking - will be at Bellavita Amsterdam 2018 to host a masterclass on desserts . Born in Italy but raised in the north of the Netherlands, Sarena mixes the two cultures especially in the kitchen, drawing inspiration from her Italian roots and the genuine simplicity of the food she grew up with. In this interview, Sarena speaks about her experience in balancing the two culinary identities and her perception of Italian cuisine in the Netherlands .

  • How is the perception of Italian cuisine changing in the Netherlands?
    It has become much easier to find Italian products here which has enabled the Dutch public to learn and appreciate our cuisine even more. People are more interested in knowing the origin of certain products and ingredients , but I think there is still a long way to go and many specialities to be discovered .
  • Which products are the most appreciated by the Dutch public?
    Pizza definitely takes the top spot, even if often it has little to do with the real Italian pizza. In the trips I organise through my business (La Mia Italia) I introduce my guests to amazing Italian pizza made with simple and genuine ingredients, cooked by expert hands and in the right way. My guests understand the difference and the quality of what they are eating compared to what they have at home.
  • How do you combine your Italian roots with your Dutch side?
    My Italian roots, I believe, have provided me with the creativity and imagination that I consider essential for my job. They have also instilled in me the ability to improvise and change programmes on the go.
    From my Dutch side I learned the ability to organise myself so that I don’t waste precious energy and time . And finally, my Groningen side (the northern city where I grew up) definitely keeps me grounded...!
  • Do the Dutch and Italian culture share any traditions?
    I was born in a rural area in Central Italy and then I moved close to Groningen, which is also a farming region in the north of the country. I believe the two environments have many things in common. The importance of family is something common to both which is probably linked to the work in the fields requiring the commitment and involvement of every family member. You live in close contact and prepare and eat meals together, and the table is the best place to tell stories and keep traditions alive .
  • Why do you think there is still no Italian Michelin star restaurant in the Netherlands?
    Perhaps because they give all the stars to the French ...! Jokes aside, I think it is the concept that Italians have of their cuisine and how they interpret it. From my personal experience I’ve noticed that most Italians believe they do not need recognition for what they do in the kitchen, they are proud of what they do and what they have, their history, their culture and their cuisine. A Michelin star isn’t necessary to get satisfaction out of what they do .