This week’s Feast Yr Ears features the incredible story of Franco Lania.
As a troubled teenager trying to find his way, Master Chef Franco Lania says, “food saved my life”. Freshly out of high school, Franco’s father took him kicking and screaming to Kings Supermarket in Short Hills, New Jersey for a job. By the second week, Franco was enjoying his training where he discovered flavors and tastes that he never in his wildest dreams knew existed. Franco started to come alive. Through that job, he slowly but surely fell in love with food. Not only did he want to taste new things like ambrosia salad, he wanted to learn how to make them. Franco found his passion from which he later created the philosophy,“as you design your dishes and design your meals, you can design your life.”
And design he did. Franco made his way to Le Cordon Bleu in London where he graduated with the Grand Diplôme. Franco wanted to continue his quest for knowledge, so he attended the Master Course at the Italian Culinary Arts Institute in Costigliole d’Asti, Italy. Upon finishing his education, Franco’s culinary talent earned him the Sous Chef position at a new restaurant, slated to open in New York City. The job required that he take the Department of Health test for a food handler’s certificate. Franco arrived early at the World Trade Center on that beautiful, but tragic morning, September 11, 2001. Franco escaped, but the restaurant opening was delayed, and thus began a series of professional and personal hardships that sent him to the base bottom of his life. Franco could not even begin to think how he could move forward with his life, which left him subsisting on Pringles and orange soda.
After a move to Miami, Franco took a job at a small Italian restaurant on South Beach that served delicious, simple food. He started to feel a nourishment that he had not felt in a long time. Franco was able to start orchestrating a plan. He realized his brain needed real food. Basic pasta. Chicken with onions. When he would make his chicken and onions dish, he discovered it was like therapy. The mouthwatering aromas enlivened him. He felt that he could face life again. Not only did the cooking act as therapy, it nurtured him. He carries that inspiration inside of him, and he shares it with his thousands of fans across the globe.
Franco’s journey has brought him to the stoves at some of the most highly-acclaimed restaurants in the United States as well as Europe: La Grenouille, New York City; River Café, Brooklyn, NY; Pinot Bistro, Studio City, CA; Blue Door, Miami, FL; Dorchester Hotel, London, and the two Michelin-starred Sadler, Milan, Italy. His love for travel and cuisine lured him onto luxury cruise lines. On Oceania Cruises, whose culinary department is headed by the world-renowned Jacques Pepin, Franco was the first American to hold the Italian Chef position. He frequently appears as a guest chef on Celebrity Cruises’ transatlantic crossings. Through his unique experiences, Franco has attained the “marquee level” of a Certified Culinary Professional on land and at sea.
Currently, Franco explores New Jersey’s diverse food culture through his show, Jersey Gems, airing on HomeTowne Television (HTTV); he is often the “Green Grocer” for their evening news. He is a member of the Culinary Advisory Board for ConAgra Foods. Franco has appeared twice on The Food Network’s 24-Hour Restaurant Battle.
Chef Franco Lania now travels the world teaching people about the joy of food, cooking and how it has changed his life. He headlines conferences, is a celebrity chef at private events and represents large food brands for culinary demonstrations.