A liver burger on a licorice bun, accompanied with chips, sweet wine mayonnaise and mango ketchup. That’s what Cristina Bowerman served up during the culinary expo "Taste of Rome" in mid-September. The 49-year-old chef doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything, especially not of serving a small, industrial-looking sandwich to hundreds of gourmets, or of dying her hair pink and shaving half of it off.
From law school to culinary arts by way of graphic design
Born in Italy, Cristina Bowerman studied law before working in a lawyer’s firm. Captivated by the United States, she decided to leave everything behind and study graphic design in San Francisco. It was there that she chose to pursue cooking. Hardly a traditional path to gastronomy, just like the dishes she makes.
In a recent profile on Bowerman in French newspaper Libération, they describe an appetizer of avocado with a yuzu and miso sauce and a seaweed biscuit, which calls to mind the chef’s time spent in California – the mecca of fusion food. Then it’s back to Italy, with ravioli stuffed with parmesan and a personal twist on spaghetti, served cold with pesto and pistachios, tuna tartare and herbs.
Being this audacious isn't always easy
For the first three years, the clients didn’t understand what Bowerman was trying to do. The restaurant was empty during the week and on weekends; customers would just order traditional dishes like pasta with Amatriciana sauce. Bowerman laments:
"Romans are really sure of themselves, certain that they live in the best city in the world and have the best food."
The rebel chef never sought Michelin stars. She already has one, earned in 2009. Instead, she travels, gives cooking classes, and engages with other chefs in a task force focusing on food and society. She explains:
“Our environment is flooded with logos, sounds and information. We live according to rules that we haven’t chosen for ourselves. The only moment of freedom where I can do what I want and nothing can affect me, is in front of the stove."
She’s a free spirit – light years away from the stereotype of the stodgy chef wearing a white hat.