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The Hazans
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The Hazans

{xtypo_dropcap}O{/xtypo_dropcap}f the commonalities shared by Sarasota’s Marcella Hazan and her son Giuliano, one of the most striking is not that they are both internationally recognized chefs and cookbook authors, but rather that neither of them ever planned on a career in food. Another is that while both are gifted cooking teachers, neither has had formal culinary training. Yet both eventually found their passion in the kitchen and have spent the better part of their lives educating, motivating, and inspiring others to do the same.

As a young girl in Cesenatico, Italy, Marcella Hazan had little interest in food other than eating it. In fact, she didn’t cook at all until after her marriage to Victor Hazan. Prior to that Marcella had earned two doctorate degrees (in biology and natural science), and was happily teaching math and science at a teacher’s college.

Soon after relocating to New York in 1955, Marcella found herself alone and lonely in unfamiliar territory, with a hungry husband and child to feed. With little else to do to pass the time, she taught herself the fundamentals of cooking. According to her, “Cooking came to me as though it had been there all along, waiting to be expressed. It came as words come to a child when it is time for her to speak.” Today, Marcella Hazan is looked upon as royalty among those who prepare and write about Italian cuisine, having taught generations of home cooks how to coax greatness out of simple, fresh ingredients.

Despite growing up in a home surrounded by food, Giuliano Hazan never considered the culinary arts as a career either. After graduating from Swarthmore College with a degree in French literature, he moved to Rhode Island and spent two years studying theater at the Trinity Repertory Conservatory in Providence. It was then that he really learned to cook, because, as he puts it, “I was hungry!”

That was also around the same time that Giuliano considered the possibility of cooking for a living. After theater school, acting jobs were few and far between, so he began teaching local cooking classes to help make ends meet. Within a few years, Giuliano was immersed in the food biz full time, running restaurants, teaching others, and penning successful cookbooks. He reasons that “Everybody has to eat, so there will always be a demand” for what he does.

Nowadays, Marcella and Victor are retired and enjoying la dolce vita on Longboat Key. Marcella doesn’t cook much anymore, except for her beloved Victor. After an illustrious career spanning more than 40 years and the publication of six best-selling cookbooks, she’s earned the rest.

Giuliano, on the other hand, is just hitting his stride. With four cookbooks under his belt, a celebrated cooking school in Tuscany, and a recurring gig on the Today show, he’s making quite a name for himself on the culinary scene.

Currently, there’s a new cookbook in the works, as well as an überslick iPad app. Hazan Family Favorites is set to make its debut in the spring of 2012. It will be a compilation of old family recipes as well as modern dishes that Giuliano enjoys at home with wife Lael and daughters Gabriella and Michaela. And for the first time, it won’t be all Italian. The book will also include recipes culled from his father’s Turkish background as well as from his mother’s childhood years living in Egypt. Giuliano describes it as “an intersection of culinary heritages.”

The iPad app, slated to be released by the end of this year, promises to be much more than the typical e-cookbook. Produced by Emmywinner Geoffrey Drummond, it will feature a cutting-edge interactive feel, with each step of every recipe supported by video. Giuliano likens it to “a TV series on iPad.”

The contributions of Marcella and Giuliano Hazan to the art of Italian cooking in this country are immeasurable. Each has made an indelible mark in the culinary world and in the lives of all whom they’ve touched along the way. Yet their philosophies are simple. Marcella’s is, “Find the best ingredients that you can, and make the best you can out of them.” Giuliano believes that “Cooking is one of life’s greatest gifts. It doesn’t need to be haute cuisine. It just has to be prepared with love and care—and taste good.” Words to live by . . .

—Susan Filson



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