Competing in a culinary series and cooking up dishes for chefs like Alex Guarnaschelli and Gabriele Bertaccini seems like a dream come true. But the fact that these competitors get to do so while living in a gorgeous Tuscan villa is next-level. When these 10 up-and-coming chefs take up residence in the Tuscan countryside this month, they’ll go through a series of Italian-themed challenges. On the line? A chance to claim the ultimate prize: an immersive culinary education across Italy, complete with training from renowned Italian master chefs.
Read on to learn more about the competitors who are packing their bags for this immersive experience.
Hometown: Avenel, N.J.
This is Omar’s first time in Italy, but he’s ready to soak it all in to bring the authentic Tuscan cooking experience back home with him. He’s excited to then teach those newfound skills to inner-city kids where he grew up. Omar has served as a sous chef in one of New York City’s poshest hotels, and now he’s ready to step up and prove he has what it takes to be a role model and one of Ciao House’s finest.
Hometown: Chicago, Il.
This private chef may have been born and raised in Puerto Rico, but her mother often whipped up Italian fare for the family. Natalia has worked with renowned chefs from around the world and embraces the culinary philosophy, “nostalgic food in a modern way.” On Ciao House, she can’t wait to create Tuscan dishes that incorporate those Latin roots.
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Corey is all about Italian food; in fact, Italy is his dream destination. For now, the chef has worked in legendary kitchens across New York. He grew up with a single mom and discovered his passion for food early on, which led him to attend culinary school. Now, he’s eyeing a Ciao House win to get one step closer to his ultimate goal: opening his own restaurant and buying a house on the Amalfi coast.
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Hometown: Staten Island, N.Y.
As a child of a Sicilian family in Staten Island, Matt has long known the pleasures of Italian cuisine. Every Sunday, he would wake up early and help his Nonna get Sunday dinner going, so pasta is his true passion. Matt is a jack of all trades, having worked in restaurants, as a private chef, and as a cooking instructor. But his ultimate dream is to open his own Italian eatery where he can serve up family recipes and teach others the joy of Italian cuisine.
Hometown: Houston, Tx.
A food truck owner and private chef with an impressive Rolodex of celebrities and pro athletes, Trenica has an interesting background. She has a degree in chemistry and once worked professionally in the oil and gas industry, but she eventually realized that wasn’t for her. So she switched gears and graduated from culinary school. These days she sees a connection between Italian cuisine and the Southern Creole cuisine she grew up with in New Orleans, and she can’t wait to make the most out of this Ciao House opportunity.
Hometown: Framingham, Ma.
Saba grew up cooking in a South Asian household but quickly turned that passion into a profession after graduating from culinary school. She’s worked in catering and spent time abroad to improve her Mediterranean cooking style. If Saba looks familiar, that’s because she once competed (and won!) Chopped, but now she’s ready to push her culinary prowess even further with the upcoming challenges on Ciao House.
Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
Justin once studied to become a surgical physician assistant, but while living in a dorm, he started cooking on a hot skillet and never looked back. On the day he graduated, he switched gears, putting all his knowledge from cooking videos to the test. Justin recently married the daughter of an Italian chef and has been practicing his skills. Now, the family is rooting for Justin to win while they work together to turn a new property into an Italian dining destination.
Hometown: New York, N.Y.
Sarah is all about pasta. She does, after all, run her family’s century-old pasta business in New York City. She’s been into the Italian culinary scene since she was a child and has many food experiences under her belt. She doesn’t have any official training from a culinary school, but this pasta heiress is out to prove that real-world experience is just as delicious.
Hometown: Los Angeles, Ca.
Sustainable proteins, light ingredients and fresh fare are the pillars of Jess’ food philosophy, which began while attending culinary school in New York. Jess was raised by a single parent, is into skateboarding, and has experience as a butcher and as a past vegan. She’s worked in fine-dining establishments on both coasts and opened a bar on the beach in Mexico. Jess is proudly gay and can’t wait to bring her flair to Tuscan cuisine in Ciao House.
Hometown: Dallas, Tx.
Preston is a unique soul, and he wants his dishes to reflect that. A former college footballer, he brings his competitive spirit to the kitchen with each and every plate. He’d rather stand out with his own creativity than copy someone else’s recipes. He naturally gravitates towards Italian cooking and is looking forward to pursuing that career, so entering Ciao House really is a dream come true for this chef.