2013 World’s best female chef – Nadia Santini
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2013 World’s best female chef – Nadia Santini

Italian women know how to cook. Living proof of this is Nadia Santini! Having just been named the 2013 Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef, as part of the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards – she puts female celebrity chefs and cookbook authors like Nigella, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gail Simmons to shame.

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The Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef award acknowledges and celebrates the work of an exceptional female chef whose cooking is received with excitement by the world’s toughest critics. The award is decided by votes from 900 international leaders in the restaurant industry who make up the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy.

The award is inspired by the achievements of Madame Clicquot, who set the standard for women in business over 200 years ago. The winner must embody Madame Clicquot’s characteristics of innovation, determination, and creativity.

Revolutionising gastronomy

As Aymeric Sancerre, Veuve Clicquot’s Director of International Communications, explained:

Madame Clicquot was a woman who two centuries ago revolutionised Champagne, with her extraordinary stamina, her thirst for innovation and her quest for ultimate quality. Nadia Santini represents exactly these values in gastronomy today and I am proud that our name and rich history is associated to such a wonderful personality.

There’s no doubt about it; Nadia Santini thoroughly embodies Madame Clicquot’s traits of innovation, determination, and creativity. Santini, who runs the kitchen of her family’s restaurant Dal Pescatore in Mantova, was the first woman to earn three Michelin stars in 1996, and she’s also held on to them ever since.

An enriching culinary experience

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Santini married into a family obsessed with the restaurant business, and the fact that she’d never cooked in a professional kitchen before 1974 didn’t hold her back for a second. Santini combined skills learned through her food chemistry schooling, with training imparted by her husband’s grandmother and works, to this very day, at the restaurant originally founded in 1925 by her husband’s family.

She works with her husband Antonio, who takes care of the front-of-house team and their sons Alberto and Giovanni. Santini and her family label their cuisine as being full of character and charm; courteous, peaceful, a constant journey of exploration and discovery.

Ultimately, she wishes to provide each diner with an enriching culinary experience. Her cooking philosophy is all about keeping it intimate and keeping it simple. She says:

I think it is impossible…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 world’s 50 best restaurants

When she heard she’d won, Santini declared:

I am very happy and honoured to receive this important recognition. For me, it is for all ‘Dal Pescatore’, for my family who work with me, my husband Antonio, my extraordinary sons Giovanni who runs the kitchen with me and Alberto who runs the room and takes care of the wine, for Antonio’s mother who gave me many secrets and Valentina, Giovanni’s wife who is also very active in restaurant.

The restaurant serves traditional Italian fare with a modern twist – though the house menu changes seasonally, it 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.

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In the past 10 years, Dal Pescatore has appeared eight times on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Previous winners of the Veuve Cliquot World’s Best Female Chef include: Elena Arzak, of San Sebastian institution, and Arzak and Anne-Sophie Pic, of Maison Pic in Valence, France, who was the inaugural winner of the award.

Best female chef

Delighted that Santini should be recognised, Pic comments:

I have a great admiration for Nadia Santini. I appreciate her so much for her humility and her generosity. She is a role-model. I have identified myself tremendously with her: with her simplicity, her values, her honesty and emotional sensitivity.

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2013 World’s best female chef – Nadia Santini