Massimo Spigaroli

Massimo Spigaroli

Working on his grandfather's farm, Massimo Spigaroli manages to run a Michelin-starred restaurant at the same time as his charcuterie business, which produces the best Culatello in the world.

Massimo Spigaroli was born in Polesine Parmense in 1958 into a family of farmers, restaurateurs and butchers who owned vast amounts of land outside the city of Parma. Even as a child he loved helping his aunt Emilia (a well-known chef amongst the local community) in the kitchen. ‘The smell of the broth coming from the kitchen where my mum used to cook is my first memory of food,’ he says. ‘A smell that I have searched for ever since.’

Throughout his childhood Massimo would help the family in the farm, the butchers and the restaurant. His first steps into the culinary profession was enrolling into the hotel school of Salsomaggiore graduating with full marks and, still only sixteen years old, he presented the Press Club with a special dish of his own creation – pork Liver wrapped in natural pork fat – with great success. He also took part in major competitions such as International Golden Chef, where he took second place at the age of just seventeen.

Massimo began to broaden his cooking knowledge by working in the best five-star restaurants in Italy and France, but soon realised where he would like to stay. ‘The more I traveled the more I realised that my land, my home was where I wanted to be and be inspired by,’ he explains. However, his plans had to be put on hold during the Christmas of 1987, when Massimo was called up by the Italian Navy and stationed in the Persian Gulf to prepare Christmas dinner for the military.

Soon after, Massimo quickly rose to fame across Italy when he appeared on the television show What Are You Making to Eat?, and became one of the elected chefs to help promote the key ingredients (such as Parmesan and Parma ham) of Emilia-Romagna. At the age of twenty-two he was invited to teach at his old hotel school in Salsomaggiore and stayed for five years, sharing his love and knowledge of Italian cooking with other young chefs.

In 1990 Massimo and his family bought the eighteenth century Court Corte Pallavicina, the place where his grandfather had worked to raise pigs, chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. They soon went about rebuilding and expanding the business, planting poplars, watermelons, wheat, melica and vegetables. In the winter they cured pork using traditional methods, and even took contracts to clear roads of snow, started a ferry service across the River Po and began making concrete blocks.

It was with hard work and dedication that the family restored the beautiful medieval building to become a Relais and Chateaux restaurant, where Massimo could showcase his cooking using the best ingredients of the region. As well as cooking in the kitchen, he has become the world’s most important producer of Culatello (a type of prosciutto) which is stored in the impressive cellar below the building. ‘I want to give and add value to what my grandfather, my father and my mother did, not to lose the tradition of these products and this place. My restaurant starts from the land and ends with an amazing dish.’