Italy is known for its first-class cuisine, and now a Montrealer is known as a first-class chef in making it.
Dollard-Des-Ormeaux native Jessica Rosval has been named female chef of the year in the Guida Dell’Espresso, a guide to the best restaurants in Italy.
“It’s an honour of course, but you know, it just kind of went on normally and then I just started feeling so much love from home, back from Canada especially, about this prize,” Rosval told Global News from Modena, Italy.
“Feeling all of that is amazing and making me very homesick and very proud. It’s been exciting.”
Jessica Rosval has had a passion for food since she was a little girl.
“I was the kid who used to hide myself in the pantry in the kitchen, so I can snack by myself. I always loved eating or food,” Rosval said.
But her gourmet taste developed a little later in life.
“When she was a toddler she always had mouthfuls of sand or dirt or whatever, I don’t know if that was a sign of what was to come,” joked her mother, Sandy Freedman.
Eventually, Rosval came out of the pantry and left her sandy days behind, going on to study at the Institut de Tourisme et d’Hôtellerie du Québec.
She spent the first decade of her culinary career in Montreal before moving to Italy, where she’s reaching incredible heights, including becoming the first non-Italian to receive the Guida Dell’Espresso honour.
Rosval is the head chef at Casa Maria Luigia, a stunning villa in the Italian countryside owned by Massimo Bottura, a three-Michelin star chef known as one of the best chefs in the world.
Bottura took a chance on Rosval after she dined at one of his restaurants and fell in love with the food, according to Rosval’s mother.
Almost a decade later, Rosval is now the one being applauded for the culinary experience she’s crafting for others, including Barack and Michelle Obama.
“This is not her first award or recognition but it’s certainly a very important one for her and we’re very proud of her,” said Rosval’s mom.
The award holds a special place in Rosval’s heart.
“This is something that has double importance in my life,” Rosval said.
Rosval dedicates all her free time to a non-profit organization, training migrant women in a four-month paid culinary program.
“The fact that I’m the culinary director for this non-profit and I’m a migrant myself in this country, to have won this award has given a huge breath of motivation to this association,” the chef said.
Rosval says she can’t wait to visit home: a long-awaited trip back to the pantry that started it all.
— With files from Global’s Anne Leclair