Aurora Mazzucchelli

Aurora Mazzucchelli

Aurora Mazzucchelli

As well as transforming her family’s traditional restaurant into somewhere celebrated for its modern, experimental cuisine, Aurora Mazzucchelli has helped fight the cause for gender equality in the kitchen. She has been mentored by some of the world’s most influential chefs, making her dishes among the most highly coveted in Italy.

Bologna and its surrounding region, Emilia-Romagna, is not the first part of Italy you’d go looking for an innovative, contemporary restaurant. It’s a place incredibly proud of its traditional culinary heritage, and most chefs in the area stick to the classics. But the food Aurora Mazzucchelli serves at Ristorante Marconi takes the tried and tested dishes of the region, reinvents them using modern techniques, then turns them into something so exciting that both diners and critics can’t stop talking about her.

Aurora was born into a family of restaurateurs – her father was a chef and her mother a businesswoman. In 1983 they opened a small, neighbourhood family restaurant, specialising in traditional Bolognese cuisine. She was always helping her parents in the kitchen, and after completing her studies at catering college, took a job at the restaurant full-time. ‘Wearing a chef’s jacket was a natural choice,’ she explains. ‘Not just because my parents were in the industry, but because I always wanted it for myself for as long as I can remember.’

Never one to follow the rules, Aurora soon started playing around with the flavours and ingredients associated with Emilia-Romagna. This, combined with her natural self-confidence, impressed her father and in 2000 he let her take the reigns of the restaurant. With her brother, Massimo, as maître d’ and sommelier, the siblings introduced a distinctly modern flavour into the restaurant's menu and design. She immediately started to put her own unique spin on every aspect of the restaurant, taking inspiration from literature, design, architecture and, of course, modern gastronomy. Ristorante Marconi went from being a small business dedicated to traditional dishes to a bastion of contemporary cuisine.

Aurora didn’t just refresh the food and décor of the family restaurant; she changed the way the kitchen worked. Traditionally catering is a very male-dominated profession, but this was something Aurora sought to change she wanted to change – in her own kitchen, at least. To eliminate this gender bias, Aurora made sure female chefs were given as many opportunities at Ristorante Marconi as males, gaining her massive amounts of respect across the industry.

After reinventing the restaurant, Aurora went to work around the world to develop her skills from 2002-2006. She was mentored by some of Europe’s most influential chefs, including Herbert Hintner at Restaurant zur Rose, Gaetano Trovato at Arnolfo, Paul Lopriore at Canto and Basque chef Martin Berasategui. She returned to Bologna to train with Gino Fabbri, one of the world’s best pastry chefs, then went back to Ristorante Marconi’s kitchen with a respect and intimate knowledge of the earth and all its produce. Aurora feels it is just as important to know how food is grown as it is to cook it, especially when working with the high tech equipment she has in her kitchen. ‘I need to be able to feel the food I cook,’ she explains. ‘Every dish must tell a story.’

In 2008 she received her first Michelin star at Ristorante Marconi, and in 2012 Aurora was named best female chef of the year by Paulo Marchi at Identita Golose, an international cooking convention. She continues to adapt, innovate and experiment with her cooking, and has travelled to Canada, Peru, Switzerland, Spain and Poland for inspiration. ‘To move forward, you have to constantly undermine the system and re-invent yourself,’ she says. ‘I always ask myself how I’m going to build a new tower on which to climb.’

Aurora’s favourite foods are simple things like ravioli and bread, and she loves the contrast between sweet and salty flavours. One of her most famous dishes is Tortello of Parmesan flavoured with lavender, butter sauce, nutmeg and almonds, while her Pineapple ravioli with ricotta, raisins, pine nuts and Sidamo coffee is a perfect example of her innovative, experimental nature.