Donatella Arpaia, that is. You may have visited one of her many numerous restaurants, seen her sitting next to Jeffrey Steingarten as one of the judges on Iron Chef America or recognize her as the winner of Meatball Madness, beating out chefs like Andrew Carmellini. She returns to the New York Food and Wine Festival September 29th to defend her title. We caught up with her before her meatball battle and next big project: the birth of her baby! Read on to see what pregnant chefs crave and her favorite munchies in New York City.
The Daily Obsession: Legend has it that you used to be a corporate lawyer before going into food. How did you decide to make the switch and why? Were you wrestled with indecision?
Donatella Arpaia: I grew up in the restaurant business and my father and brother are both restaurateurs so it’s in my DNA, but from early on I was encouraged to be a lawyer. I enjoyed the study of law but hated the practice of it. At the time I was living in a small studio above my brotherls restaurant, Cellini on 54th st. I was grabbing a bite at the bar when I saw my brother needed help because his hostess didn’t show up I got up and pitched in. That was it! I knew at that moment I needed to change directions. I struggled a bit because I studied so hard and a lot was invested in my education, but really, I had no doubt about the change of course I was about to embark on. I never looked back!
TDO: For many people, pursuing a career in food is a dream—what advice would you give to them for success?
DA: Food is a wonderful and exciting ride but many people have only a very limited idea of what the reality of this industry is like. It’s hard ! I recommend they work in area of food they are interested in to get a really good taste of the reality of this industry. You must be extremely committed and passionate to succeed. READ MORE