McQueens HQ is based in the heart of London’s bustling Bethnal Green. One of our favourite things about the district is the eclectic range of inspiring businesses around us. When we met our neighbour and gastronome, Emilia Strazzanti, we were immediately captivated by both her effusive passion for Sicilian cuisine and the exquisite patisserie brand she’s built, Strazzanti. The almost-too-pretty-to-eat cakes can be found in Fenwick, the Conran Shop, and Sotheby’s. Emilia’s Mediterranean ambition doesn’t stop there – she also founded and developed the Sicilian Supper Club. We sat down with our entrepreneurial neighbour to find out more about some spectacular feasts…
What’s the story behind the brand Strazzanti?
Strazzanti really started from our childhood. Along with my sisters, I was born in the West Midlands to Italian parents, who had left Naples and Sicily with my grandparents in 1960 to start a new life here in the UK. We grew up surrounded by our Southern Italian roots especially with our grandparents who would cook and feed us all of their local regional dishes from their childhood.
I started cooking with my Neopolitan grandad from an early age which grew into a passion and eventually my professional career as a chef. I trained with some of the most influential chefs, including Anton Mosimann, and that led me to a career at the Dorchester Collection in Paris within the 3 Michelin-starred restaurant, the Dorchester Hotel, London and the Principe di Savoia, Milan.
After moving to Italy to discover more about my Italian heritage and improve on my language skills, I couldn’t shift this constant call to return home to Sicily to explore my origins. I began working for the Planeta family and the Michelin-starred chef, Accursio Craparo, before soon realising how attached I felt to this island.
Meeting the local farmers in Sicily re-ignited my passion for ingredients, products and their history. This inspired me to partner with the talented people behind the ingredients and my sisters to bring their products and my grandparents’ story over to the UK.
Sourcing and using premium Sicilian ingredients imported directly by Strazzanti, I began to create Sicilian experiences such as The House of Peroni 2015, pop-up delis and supper clubs, as well as our East London based Sicilian Bakery.
The cakes look exquisite. What’s the inspiration behind the designs?
I am classically and professionally French trained as a chef and pastry chef, and my training allowed me to have a strong discipline in this world. I wanted to combine the experience from my career and the passion for my love of Sicilian flavours. The Sicilian Bakery is inspired by the Sicilian pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds.
How did the Sicilian Supper Club come about?
After setting up the Sicilian-themed House of Peroni in 2015 where we created a one-month supper club, I just loved the way the supper club brought a community of like-minded people together. It’s an event where you can go alone and meet
We love that many of your suppliers are local. Can you tell us who’s involved?
I came up with this menu inspired by three food artisans of East London who are also my personal favourites.
E5 Bakehouse, my local bakery are so passionate about their produce and products I feel they are a major part of the backbone of the East London community. We will be using their Hackney Wild bread with the starter of classic Sicilian Caponata.
Burro e Salvia, perhaps I’m a little biased here as I was their pasta chef for quite some time, but they truly are one of the best pastificio I know in London. The pasta dish we have created together is inspired by a time when I was working in Modica: slow cooked pork rib sugo served with burro e salvia cappellacci pasta, filled with ricotta and pecorino cheese, encased in a fresh marjoram infused pasta.
Hackney Gelato. These two guys, trained chefs, were simply missing quality gelato here in the UK so they decided to create it themselves in their London Fields kitchen, and if I do say so myself, they have gone above and beyond to create an outstanding product.
Who is your culinary icon?
Anton Mosimann; he was my mentor when I started in the culinary world and is a huge inspiration to me. He was the first ever and youngest chef to gain a Michelin star in London at the Dorchester Hotel. He told me the secret to his success and I used it every day to motivate me: I’d love to be a great chef and business owner like him one day.
We know you’re a flower fan. Can you choose a favourite?
Oh, that’s like asking me what’s my favourite dish! It really all depends on my mood and of course the seasons but I have a great fondness for the wild fennel flower – it reminds me so much of the Sicilian sun, and also the herbs that can be found there. In Sicily wild fennel is used in a classic pasta dish from the capital, Palermo so it not only beautiful but delicious too.
We will be continuing our series of The Sicilian Supper Clubs in east London so we will keep everyone posted on the next one in November. We also hope to soon be moving the Supper Clubs across the city, visiting other parts of London, and working with the local communities there. Fingers crossed we will be hosting one in Sicily, too!
#thesiciliansupperclub #strazzanti_co #thesiciliancollection