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Cristina Bowerman

From Lawyer to Michelin- Starred Chef


By ALFONSO ISINELLI

April, 2023


Cristina Bowerman Michelin starred Chef

Cristina Bowerman is not only a Michelin-starred chef and the star of Glass Hostaria in Rome, but also a multipotentialite who has and continues to go above and beyond the expected. As president of Ambasciatori del Gusto, an association that seeks to promote Italian excellences abroad, which includes some of Italy’s leading chefs and food producers, she promotes the importance and value of Italian cuisine.


My model, which has been economically and culturally successful to date, is to let those who work at Glass participate in all aspects of running the restaurant—this could be a winning formula for the entire restaurant industry in Italy.



gourmet dish

She’s also involved in international food sustainability projects (her restaurant is one of two in Italy to be certified plastic-free); she’s always been at the forefront, rejecting the concept of women’s cuisine, in the fight for an increasingly important role for women in a world that’s still intensely masculine, that of cooking; and last but not least, she’s also become a style icon in an often conservative environment: modeling her hairstyles on where she is in life (she’s known for her pink hair) has solidified her image.


Today, her success is undoubtedly recognized nationally and internationally. But what’s more important is to talk about the chef herself: Cristina began her career very late, even though her family had always had a passion for cooking (her great-grandfather owned a restaurant, her father was a passionate researcher of raw materials, her mother was a curious experimenter in the family’s everyday life), but nothing professional.


Cristina, a native of Cerignola, a town and comune of Puglia, graduated from law school and started working as a prosecutor in her region before deciding to continue her studies and legal background in the United States. She landed in San Francisco in the early 90s but soon realized that the legal world was not for her. She then successfully entered the world of graphic design, moved to Austin, Texas, and everything indicated that this was the path her life would take.


But cooking was knocking on her door:

  • She was great in the kitchen.

  • Friends were coming over on weekends.

  • More and more people appreciated her dishes.

She realized she needed to go deeper and enrolled in culinary school, got her degree, quit her old job, and, at 35, began working in increasingly prestigious restaurants until she decided to open her own in Austin. “I had already found the locations and selected some of the staff, but before I started, I wanted to go back to Italy briefly to see how the restaurant business worked.” In 2005, she began interning at important restaurants, most notably Angelo Troiani’s Convivio. She never returned to the United States, the Austin restaurant never saw the light of day, and Glass’s great adventure began a year later.


As is often the case, it all happened by accident: A few years earlier, Glass had opened a restaurant in the heart of Trastevere with a unique design for its time, landing almost like a UFO in one of Rome’s most historic neighborhoods.


But the cuisine did not match the style of the restaurant; it offered traditional Roman food in a neighborhood with fierce competition. “The restaurant was only open in the evenings, and I had a large catering business and needed space to handle the volume of work. I asked if they could rent me the kitchens for the mornings, and they did. Seeing how I was working, they soon asked me if I wanted to take over the reins of the Glass kitchen, and I did.” After only three years as a chef, the restaurant began to make a name for itself.


The first success: in 2009, the restaurant owners asked her if she wanted to join the company, Cristina accepted, and the restaurant as we know it today was born. In 2010, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star and a rapidly growing and loyal clientele. And it is getting younger and younger: a few years ago, Glass launched an initiative where guests under 25 paid 25- percent less on Wednesdays, and they became regulars over time.


 

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How does one eat at Glass? Over the years, it is a cuisine that has maintained a unique quality that Bowerman describes as “contamination. Starting from Rome, cultures, materials, experiences and trips I have taken and continue to take are mixed into the dish. The concept of health is also important. The customer should never leave the table feeling heavy.” And so, those who dine at Cristina’s restaurant will enjoy dishes where the cooking techniques are precise to the millimetre without sacrificing pleasure. With this philosophy of contamination, in menus that are constantly renewed, the restaurant brings Trastevere from the heart of Rome, a crossroads at all hours of the day and night for young people and tourists, to the center of the world.


Gourmet dish with veal and potatoes

CULINARY SPECIALTIES


The veal heart with smoked mashed potatoes, habanero sauce and coffee mayonnaise; the ravioli stuffed with goat’s cheese and almond paste or with 60-month aged Parmesan with asparagus and Isigny butter; the spaghetti with goat’s cheese, roe and friggitelli; the lamb with sumac, chicory and pecorino; the chocolate with sesame seeds and dates. These dishes are complicated to prepare but immediately explosive on the palate. Expect to find many utensils, the result of Cristina’s intense research so that each is always functional according to what you’re eating, even if in the comfort of your own home. The delivery service during lockdown was excellent: you could eat at home, along with all the dishes and utensils needed to make the customer’s experience perfect, and then they would pick everything up the next day.


Healthy Cuisine Meets Healthy Relationships:


Bowerman took full ownership of the restaurant but immediately gave some of it to her longtime employees, expanding the division of labor and responsibility. “My model, which has been economically and culturally successful to date, is to let those who work at Glass participate in all aspects of running the restaurant—this could be a winning formula for the entire restaurant industry in Italy.” The uniqueness of Cristina Bowerman is not only found in her menu, but in her choices: An Italian who had gone to America for professional growth but found her own different path to success and satisfaction upon her return to Italy.


Credits:

Photos courtesy of Laura Carrozza / Struttura Films



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