Nadia Santini, Italy's gifted chef and head of the Michelin-starred Dal Pescatore restaurant in the north of Italy, has been named the best female chef in the world. The chef, who was taught to cook by her mother-in-law, was named Best Female Chef by the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards on Wednesday.
This isn't the first time her culinary flair has been recognised. In 1996 Nadia became the first female chef in Italy to be awarded three Michelin stars for her kitchen that produces authentic Italian cuisine combined with modern influences.
The enchanting family-run restaurant, an extended trattoria set in a large dining room, is situated in a small village in Runate, between Mantova and Cremon.
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Dal Pescatore was originally set up in 1925 by Nadia's husband's family, and the gong-winner was trained by her husband's grandmother, Teresa, who was running the restaurant when she married into the family nearly 40 years ago.
"At the helm of the culinary dynasty that is the Santini family, Nadia Santini's cheffing expertise has lifted the restaurant to the highest of values," said a statement from the World's 50 Best Restaurant awards, run by British magazine Restaurant.
Although the cuisine combines modern influences with authentic Italian cuisine, tradition is a strong factor as the restaurant is still largely a family affair today. Multiple generations currently work in the kitchen, from Nadia's husband's 84-year-old grandmother to her sons Alberto and Giovanni. Her husband Antonio also manages the front of house.
Nadia's cooking philosophy is working with a small restaurant. She says: "I think it is impossible for a woman to run a kitchen that serves 100 people. I can't give my heart to a dish if I am cooking for more than 30."
The restaurant, which is set to receive more guests than usual in the next few months, has a house menu that changes seasonally but also keeps to its signature dishes. Pumpkin parcels, tiny meat ravioli in broth, herb omelette, chargrilled eel and tortellini stuffed with pumpkin, amaretto, Parmesan, and mostarda, are just some of the favourites that are served.
Elena Arzak, head of the Arzak restaurant San Sebastian, Spain, picked up the gong last year. French chef Anne-Sophie Pic, of Maison Pic in Valence, France scooped the annual award in 2011, the year the award began.
The award is decided by votes from 900 international leaders in the restaurant industry who make up the World's 50 Best Restaurants Academy.