MARCELLA HAZAN
Chef/Educator/Cookbook Author
1973:
The Classic Italian Cookbook is published, introducing Americans to the basic philosophy and principles of fine Italian cooking.


It's hard to remember that just one generation ago, most Americans had little idea of the immense range of classic Italian cooking. They were not familiar with ingredients like extra-virgin olive oil or fresh basil. They were unacquainted with the astonishing variety of pasta shapes and pasta sauces. That was before Marcella, a one-name personality to her minions of devotees, introduced Americans to the infinite wealth of Italy's regional cuisines. Culinary leaders hold Marcella in highest esteem. Craig Claiborne, cookbook author and The New York Times food editor for many years, once wrote, "Marcella Hazan is a national treasure...No one has ever done more to spread the gospel of pure Italian cookery in America." Julia Child has designated her "my mentor in all things Italian." The great James Beard was among her students as well. Marcella was born in 1924 in Cesenatico, a fishing village in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region.

During her childhood, she never went near a stove, but spent most of her time studying. A biochemist with two doctorates, she was teaching when she met her American husband, Victor. They married in 1955 and moved to Manhattan. It was only then that she began to cook, preparing traditional Italian meals at home for Victor and their son, Guiliano. Her career as a teacher of Italian cuisine began unexpectedly in 1969 when she took a Chinese cooking class in Manhattan. Her classmates wanted to know what she ate at home. When she told them, they urged her to teach a course in Italian cooking. She did, and enjoyed it. The next year, Victor wrote to The New York Times about her. Victor's letter prompted Times editor Craig Claiborne to visit the Hazan's apartment and taste the foods that she had prepared for her class. Claiborne wrote an article about her, and Marcella was launched. Some months later, an editor at Harper's Magazine Press (an affiliate of Harper & Row) called. Marcella invited him to dinner, and he asked her to write a cookbook. She hesitated: "I don't write in English," she said. But, finally, knowing she would have her husband's help, she agreed. Victor went to work by day and came home at night to discuss Marcella's sessions in the kitchen and to type out the translations of her recipes. The result of that first collaboration, The Classic Italian Cookbook, became a seminal work.

Next, Julia Child came to lunch and suggested that Marcella meet her editor at Knopf. The editor offered a contract for More Classic Italian Cooking, and also bought rights to the first book - an unusual move that proved to be a smart one. Knopf reissued Classic in 1976, and went back to press with it twenty-eight times. Marcella's books have deepened readers' appreciation of Italian culture and taught them, with clarity and precision, how to create wonderful Italian dishes. Thanks in large part to her books and classes, Americans became familiar with ingredients and preparations they hadn't known before. Between them, the Hazans have published six books. A seventh is in the works.

The Hazans have received a number of awards that testify to their significance as culinary figures. Most recently, Marcella Cucina won both the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Mediterranean Cookbook and the equally distinguished Julia Child Cookbook Award for Best International Cookbook. In 1992, Food Arts magazine presented Marcella and Victor with the Silver Spoon Award for "sterling performance" in introducing Americans to "Italian food and Italian wines - as they're served and consumed in Italy." Also in 1992, Essentials of Italian Cooking won the Beard Award for Best Italian Cookbook. Marcella was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America (considered the Hall of Fame of the gastronomic world) in 1986. And her first books, The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cooking, have also been honored, each with a Tastemaker Award. Since 1986, Marcella has been listed in every edition of Who's Who In America.