Cuoco senza stelle is an autobiography or perhaps a literary critic might call it a coming-of-age story because it recounts the experiences and emotions that transformed a young man into a professional chef. It’s also an open letter to those contemplating the profession. With its advice for career strategy, the book offers concrete information to those facing the hard climb to chef status. Something quite new for Bibliotheca Culinaria since it contains few recipes and no photography, Cuoco senza stelle was nevertheless a bit too appetizing to pass up. While the press seems ever more enthralled by the chef as a marketing force and a television personality, we felt the time was right to put the spotlight on another kind of professional, one more representative of the category in general, a chef whose work was more likely to be sampled by a broader spectrum of the public than his celebrity counterpart. These unsung heroes are chefs who are not aspiring to be recognized by restaurant guides. They may be consultants to the food industry, workers in the public health sector whose practical skills aid various types of physicians and dietitians or chefs at the helm of kitchens in large hotel chains. In short, these are the professionals who feed many more people than the typical Michelin starred VIP, but their work is little appreciated. To encourage our readers to explore this unusual book Monica Palla posed a few questions to its author, Franco Luise. MP: Reading this book I felt as though portions of it must have already taken form in your mind, but that the stimulus to give it a certain structure arrived at a moment of difficulty in your career when it seemed as though your own country had turned its back on you. Is this true? FL: Yes, in effect that’s right. The major stimulus was a sense of total dissatisfaction with Italy and its ever-shrinking professional opportunities as well as the feeling that I hadn’t made all of the right choices. Errors exact a certain payment especially if you’ve placed your trust with the wrong people. I was struggling to emerge from what I felt was a dead end and writing Cuoco senza stelle turned out to be therapeutic. It was good for me and I hope for others. Some portions of the book seemed to be lying in wait in the back of my mind, like messages for a new generation of chefs. I’m really alarmed by the false image of the profession that is conveyed by television programs and with this book I wanted to denounce not just these formats but especially the unrealistic expectations they cultivate in young people. MP: The book makes me think of a rather expertly made layer cake: plunging into it we can sample well blended flavors and aromas, but looking at a slice in cross section displays distinct levels each with its own hue and importance. Tell us a bit about the structure of the book. FL: In reality the structure wasn’t exactly a grand design, but rather more the product of a sleepless night. I got up and just jotted down how I imagined the book could be organized. The first words were composed on an iPad while I was on a train to Rome to retrieve my Israeli work Visa. I continued to write in the succeeding weeks as I traveled through Israel and the form began to reveal itself. The first draft was written over the course of a little more than 100 days. I imagined that I was telling my story to a group of young chefs, but I thought it would be useful to alternate my personal journey with practical advice. The idea was to furnish a sort of user’s manual for avoiding my own pitfalls while not denying the utility of making mistakes. They do help you learn and form your character. MP: One of the things I appreciated about this story is that while it does convey a sense of history, of roots, of family, even a sense of nostalgia – things that undoubtedly played a fundamental role in your life – you seem to be someone who focuses on looking ahead, on searching for new challenges. It seems to me as though you don’t see this very Italian “baggage” as limiting and that you want to convey this to young people looking hopefully toward the profession. FL: Yes, absolutely. The boy who was driven to his first job in the back seat of his father’s car had no idea what he would become. I let myself be buoyed by a spirit of adventure and a desire to test my own limits. I try to see it almost as a kind of game that I’ve grown to like over the course of so many years. MP: What would you like readers to take away from this book. FL: I hope they find it interesting and useful. I hope the book reaches young readers and that if even just some of my experience has been helpful to them I’ll be satisfied. I’ve no illusion or ambition to be a great writer. I’ve tried to communicate in the most simple and direct way just as I would in person. Born in Padova in 1962, Franco Luise received his initial professional training at the Hotel and Restaurant School of Abano Terme. After completing his apprenticeship at the Suvretta House in St. Moritz (Switzerland), he continued his formation in hotels such as the Gritti Palace in Venice, Villa San Michele in Fiesole and the Palace in Gstaad. His time at the Cipriani in Venice marked a turning point in his career and led him to open “Cip’s del Palazzetto” and move on to a position as Executive chef at the Lapa Palace in Lisbon. A desire to continue his education and explore the managerial aspects of his profession led him to specialized courses at Cornell University and the Ecole Hôtelière in Lausanne. In 2005 he returned to Italy as Executive Chef of the Hotel Caruso in Ravello. In 2007 he returned to Venice to open the newly restored Molino Stucky Hilton. Since 2013 he has held the position of Executive Chef at the new Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem.