Ugo Allesina is the Executive Chef at Prego Mediterranean in Tustin, California. He was one of the 31 chefs participating in the 2018 Chef Masters event benefiting Alzheimer’s Family Center.
1. How did you become a chef?
I learned to cook at a young age, growing up in a family where food was a priority. I spent much of my childhood in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother and had a passion for it since then. I have three uncles who worked as chefs on cruise lines and fine hotels in Europe. My brother-in-law worked at Lido Palace, a 4-star resort hotel in Baveno on Lago Maggiore and I worked under his direction as a teenager. My father had a construction company, but later he took over the Circolo (community restaurant/coffee bar) in our village of 237 people. He would also cook meals for the locals and occasional visitors in the back of the Circolo in a tiny 6’x20’ kitchen, often cooking for as many as 80 people. It still amazes me to this day that he did that. I also saw cooking as a vehicle out of my small village to travel the world because it is something that every country appreciates and brings cultures together.
2. Why did you accept to participate in Chef Masters?
I really believe that if everyone can do what they can and donate what they can, whether it’s time, food, money etc., we can live in a better world. Chef Masters brings passions together with charity and has incredible people giving what they can back to the community. It’s a fun event that truly makes people excited to participate and in turn, benefits a great cause.
3. What is your favorite kitchen memory?
I remember making gnocchi with my Nonna [grandmother] and my mother on Sunday mornings after church. She made me peel the potatoes and it was a tradition to get together, talking and making the gnocchi. We would always make fresh pasta and gnocchi together.
4. What is your favorite dish to cook?
Porchetta – roasted deboned stuffed pig.
5. Do you have a personal connection to Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia?
No, I do not, but I don’t believe the charitable benevolence means everyone needs to be personally connected to the cause. Alzheimer’s disease is widespread and can affect anyone, just like many diseases, so I feel giving back to the right foundation means giving to one that truly impacts the association they are dedicated to, which Chef Masters and Kristin do just that. This is an event that you know will give everything to the foundation.