Solaika Marrocco, chef of “Primo Restaurant” in Lecce, Puglia, is young, brave and recently earned her first Michelin star.
Youth and strength, territorial identity and outstanding energy. These are the first concepts you would think about to describe Solaika Marrocco, Chef of Primo Restaurant in Lecce, Puglia region, one Michelin star.
Born in 1995, she proposes an innovative cuisine which is nonetheless very tasty and linked to her memory. Not easy, being such a young woman : two beautiful qualities which are still not fully recognized by this industry. We talked about her story and her life.
How did it all start?
Since I was a kid, I always been extremely curious: I used to go with my mom to the market and spend hours and hours next to her in the kitchen, understanding the poetry behind cooking for others, the offer of our love through this magical act. My family used to give an enormous importance to meals, they were pivotal moments going beyond mere nourishment.
It all helped me to choose my job, it gave me the right push I needed to start learning and never stop researching.
I am determined and ambitious, I love my land and I feel very lucky to be able to showcase it through my dishes.
As soon as I arrived at Primo I found an incredible synergy with the team and it brought to the beautiful results we achieved. I couldn’t ask for more.
How would you define your cuisine?
Direct, balanced and concentrated. My dishes are a direct re-elaboration of my cultural baggage, posing their roots in the most ancient traditions, projecting their soul into contemporaneity, changing shape and aim. Becoming perhaps more elegant, light and suitable for our lifestyle, but not sterilized by a sad loss of personality.
At Primo we work around seasonality and high quality produce by small local producers. Memory and comfort create an alliance with the necessity to evolve and adapt.
The esthetically minimal approach is just a communication tool, while the meaning is abundant and sincere, simple and not banal, celebrative and transparent.
The terroir dictates the rhythms of my cuisine, which reflects the way I love to eat : it’s capillary present and genuine.
What does the Michelin star mean to you?
Receiving the star meant to realize a dream in the right moment, it is a huge satisfaction. But it was also immediately turned into a new starting point, into new fuel. A stimulation to grow, a goal that soon became memory. To consider yourself done, is the biggest risk and mistake: there’s still too much work to be done and progress will never end.
This recognition also brought more clients, more responsibility and therefore pressure. Our guests have higher expectations we necessarily need to match.
Also the idea of being a reference point for many young passionate cooks, makes me amazingly proud and convinced to always give a good example.
If you search for the Michelin stars in order to only satisfy your ego, you will consume yourself like a candle, slowly and inexorably. Cooking must rely on the pleasure of donating yourself to the well-being of people, to transmit emotions and ideas.
How do you perceive the role of women in the food industry?
Even if lately we gained an important spotlight, it is still too uncommon to see a fine-dining woman chef. We still didn’t obtain a fair result, but things are changing for the best.
Luckily enough, nowadays, critics often have a very equal approach in recognitions: this allows the topic to enter society and gain people’s attention. It is a cultural problem and we are gradually finding our way out.
Solaika Marrocco is an aware and mature chef, always searching for the warmest tradition to light a fire inside the hearts of her guests. Her Primo is a precious environment in a generous land, like Puglia is. Because innovating doesn’t only mean to change the dress of a recipe, but also to save the biodiversity of an area, to preserve its peculiarities alive. And exactly like us, food, mutates constantly.