I’m Italian. I like to eat. I especially like to cook.
I come from a family of cooks, thousands of Macciolis from Abruzzi. Every single one of us has cooked. But no one has ever had a chance to make a living at it, including me. Until now.
I’m at the Cooking for Italian American Officeworkers (CIAO) national headquarters in New York City. They’ve partnered with The Food Network to organize a competition for the best Italian cooks in the states. First prize is a 5-year sponsorship to develop cookbooks and tour the country, demonstrating Italian cooking skills to the nation.
I entered. I was accepted. I’m here now, waiting in the wings to be introduced.
The Master of Ceremonies starts the show, playing to the audience with his stupid Italian jokes. The crowd laughs like they always do, even the TV cameramen, managing to keep their cameras focused despite their laughter.
I’ve been sitting here, watching my competition – the cannoli maker, the meatball man, the puttanesca expert. Amateurs. Hacks. They have nothing on me. Just one more and I’m on. Glory bound.
The prosciutto sandwich maker finishes. He exits the stage to a smattering of applause. The emcee reaches for the microphone. I straighten my tie and brush back my hair. I make sure my fly is zipped. It’s my turn now.
He announces my name and I walk to the stage to warm applause. I take my place in the make shift stage kitchen.
“Mr. Maccioli, ” the emcee shouts, “will be presenting his interpretation of one of the marvels of Italian cuisine. One of the greatest dishes of any culinary style. He will show us how to make the perfect plate of ravioli!”
The crowd cheers. I see a few giving me a standing ovation in anticipation. My whole life flashes before me as I savor the moment. My chance has finally arrived. Things will never be the same now.
I approach the microphone. I clear my throat. I take one last look across the auditorium and then begin to speak.
“First, you get a can-opener. . . “