Chef Antonio's Recipes for Revolution

Peter Malone MSC 8 March 2022

Antonio is a chef in Asti, Italy, running a restaurant and a hotel. The hotel is for his trainees in his kitchen. The difference is that the trainees all live with Down Syndrome and find a way of llfe and working with Antonio.

CHEF ANTONIO'S RECIPES FOR REVOLUTION, Italy/Australia, 2021. Directed by Trevor Graham. 99 minutes. No rating – probably PG

Looking for a positive story, frequently heart-warming, then why not visit the Alpine Italian town of Asti? There you will find a big jovial chef, Antonio de Benedetto often smiling at camera, a cheerful presence in his kitchen. And, there are quite a few cooking sequences, of course, and actually, for those with a love for tastes Italian, the tagliatelle and the special pizzas look pretty good.

But, there is much more. Chef Antonio’s recipe is for food to change life, even to change the world.

His recipe? An idea that he realised in a kitchen, working with his brother, that he should train and employee young people. Nothing startling in that. Except that these young people are all living with Down Syndrome. Over a period of time, he trained them at a restaurant in Asti, finding enough money, eventually, to buy a hotel in the city and use it as accommodation for the trainees as well as an opportunity for skills in hotel management, changing and cleaning rooms…

So, we are introduced to several of these young people, especially Nicola who was there at the beginning, with Mirko and some detailed sessions of how to train for kitchen work, from learning how to sharpen knives, slice tomatoes and vegetables, mix ingredients, prepare cakes and delicacies.

While the film shows the story of Antonio and his family, as well as Fiorella who shares in the training of the young people, we get the background, with photos, of Nicola, Mirko, and their girlfriends Jessica and Francesca and Irene. There is the pathos of the mothers discovering the children had Down Syndrome, some escaping from, others taking on ,the responsibility (with one mother forever dominating, cheerfully, her son and his girlfriend).

Antonio’s aim, after opening the Albergo Etico in Asti, was to have similar hotels around Italy, travelling to Rome to receive an award and acclaim, to open a hotel in Rome – with the trainees/employees enjoying the sights of Rome (as we do with moving postcard glimpses of all the popular sites).

Information is given that similar hotels have been opened in Argentina and Slovakia.

And the Australian connection? The writer-director, also involved in cinematography and editing, is veteran Trevor Graham, whose documentaries go back to 1980s with politics, Red Matildas, to the 1990s with a documentary about Eddie Mabo, and more recently the rather exotic kitchen documentary, Monsieur Mayonnaise. This film has investment from Screen Australia as well as from Film Victoria and the Victorian government.

And, at the end, the good news that recently a similar hotel was opened in the Blue Mountains. Here’s hoping.

Sharmill films
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