Sediamoci: Chef Gianluca Ruggieri, serving Italian traditions to Toronto tables

If you’re a social media foodie, chances are you already know Chef Gianluca Ruggieri, the Toronto-based, Italian-bred private chef. With over 78,000 Instagram followers, Ruggieri’s follower numbers only continue to grow. From his tiramisu reviews, cooking up authentic Italian dishes and his behind-the-scenes videos of his private dinners, Chef Ruggieri grants followers a glimpse into his working life and Italian food favourites. 

Outside of social media, Chef Ruggieri infuses Italian traditions into every dish, aiming to educate Canadians about the essence of authentic Italian cuisine. From honing his experience at the prestigious 5-star JK Place Roma hotel, in Italy, where he worked with his mentor, Executive Chef Antonio Martucci, Chef Ruggieri now creates unforgettable dining experiences right here in Toronto. 

We chatted with Chef Ruggieri about his culinary career from Rome to Toronto, his mission as a private chef and his growing social media presence. Keep scrolling to read the full discussion. 

Tell us about your transition from cheffing in Italy to Toronto. 

I was born and raised in Rome, Italy, and I have been in Canada for five years now. Toronto has been a second home to me since I was a kid. My grandparents lived here and I would visit every summer. My mission was to work in hospitality, it was important for me to not just work at some random restaurant but at a place where I could express my Italian traditions through my recipes. I never would have imagined becoming a private chef, but from working on a few events during my previous job, I realized this is a way to bring my mission to life and that is when the journey really began.  

The switch from working in restaurant settings to becoming a private chef must have been quite a change. What motivated you to pursue this path?

The transition was quite smooth, but it was a drastic decision. It happened very slowly, I worked in various restaurants in both the front and back of house in Italy and continued to work in restaurants in Toronto until the pandemic, when I began doing private events and cooking classes. The restaurant life can be grueling and the transition to private chef was natural. I was able to build connections from my previous jobs and through word of mouth I started doing more and more dinners. I was able to go full-time in July 2023. 

Every dish you create is infused with emotions and traditions from your Italian roots. What’s your favourite authentic dish on your menu? 

I would say the themes of emotion and tradition are something I’m very fond of. I believe there should be a story behind the dish you’re eating, which is why most of the dishes on my menu have a story that puts my clients into my mindset to feel the same emotions I did when I first experienced the dish. 

My favourite dish I prepare is panzanella. Simply put, it is a tomato and bread salad. My grandmother used to make this for me every day after school. When people eat that dish, I want them to imagine that they are seven-year-old Gianluca after school eating panzanella made by his grandmother. I want to bring emotion into my dishes and transport people into my story, whether it is to my childhood or to when I first created a dish. 

Chef Antonio Martucci is still your mentor to this day, what advice has he given that you would pass on to the new generation?

I started as an intern with Chef Antonio before he hired me as a full-time chef. During my time with Chef Antonio, he taught me about work ethic and being professional in the kitchen. But the one thing he taught me that I will never forget is respect. You have to respect the food and every ingredient that you prepare. As a chef it should be our mission and responsibility to cook every dish the best we can so we can enjoy serving it to our guests.

How do you use social media to show your passion for authentic Italian cuisine?

Social media is my best friend. We live in a time where everything is literally a thumb away, so why not use it as much as I can to give people the opportunity to find out more about me? I see social media as a tool. I invest my time, money and energy into it.

When I first started my Instagram, I was only posting photos of my dishes, but a friend gave me the advice to put myself out there as people want to see who is behind the food. As soon as I started showing people who is behind the dish, my social media grew. I created the “Flavours of Italy” series, where I cook a dish from every region in Italy to show we are more than just pasta and pizza. People love “Flavours of Italy”. I want to show people how different and amazing Italian food is. To be able to do it now means I have accomplished one of my many dreams. 

How do you think social media has influenced the way people perceive and engage with food, especially when it comes to exploring different cuisines?

I’ve noticed people are curious and willing to learn. In my “Flavours of Italy” series, I’m not an expert in every region so I do a lot of research. I sometimes get comments from locals in a region saying “actually, this is how we do it here”, and I am grateful for that because now I am learning from the locals. Social media has allowed me to teach but also learn at the same time.

Food is the universal language we all speak, and I love being able to create a community where we can teach and learn from each other. 

To learn more about Chef Ruggieri’s private dining experiences, visit his website. You can find the “Flavours of Italy” series on Instagram at @gianlucaruggierichef


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