February 2019 - The Cut: Michelle Michelotti Martinez of Michela's Bistro
Michelle Michelotti Martinez has join forces with the New Mexico Italian Film & Culture Festival to create some tasty treats every year for the event. But Martinez’s love of food began long before the festival came into view. She took time out to talk to us about what inspired her love for food, her overall goals and what is it about cooking that brings her such passion and joy?
Where did your inspiration for food come from?
I grew up with tradition and food as a big part of life. My mother was Italian and having her family around for any occasion was what brought her the biggest joy! My father still loves the heart of family gatherings and is continually sharing his memories of family picnics and holidays. I don’t think I can recall a time growing up where we didn’t have Sunday dinner or evening meals together. It was a place we learned about each other, shared our joys, our achievements, our losses, our dreams, it was an important stopping point, a layover in the bustle of the day. I still prepare my meals like my mom; complete with vegetable, protein, and carb or starch. I love that, its one of those reliable things in an every changing world. When I was about 25, I went through a tough time. I was looking for something to ground in and went to my first farmers market. We always had gardens growing up and my great uncle was a master gardener but we didn’t frequent the growers markets; but something was calling me there. I can still remember walking up and down the rows in awe at the vibrant colors and learning about varietals I never knew of. I remember thinking the peace and joy I saw in the eyes of the farmers who talked about their produce, it was a deep love in something bigger and I found it contagious. I wanted to know that feeling, that deep passion and connection to something so raw and real. So there was where my quest began.
What is it about cooking that brings such joy and passion?
I started doing a lot of overseas travel, completely in awe about the foods and traditions of the cultures, I drank it all in and still do. I began taking classes and studying throughout Europe. Wherever I am, I learn everything I can capture about the culture, the history, and the food. I constantly pour over cookbooks and flood my library with new collections and I have a big bucket list of establishments that I can’t wait to try. Food is the universal language of love and that alone drives my life purpose. I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years and never tire when I am amongst food; it is something that makes me the best person I can be. My greatest joy is feeding those that I love and when I create food, I show up in a way that always encompasses my best self forward. I just can’t compromise that quality, something so deep down won’t allow it and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
What is your favorite dish to make?
I would have to say pasta. Italian is in my blood and my most loved cuisine. I owned a fresh pasta
manufacturing company for 5 years and during that time, I learned so much about the art of
pasta, variety, types, flavors, the list goes on. There is always so much more to learn and know
with pasta and many of the old types that were handed down by the “nonne” (the grandmothers)
are slowly dying. No one is taking interest and learning the traditions. Our world is fast and these
old ways are time consuming; but nothing brings the satisfaction like making a beautiful pasta
shape and gathering people together to enjoy. It’s a universal love and all cultures have their
version. It’s an ancient art form and that is what makes it so fascinating. I will never tire of coming
up with new pasta recipes or making an old favorite; it’s a guaranteed win to any evening.
Was Michela's Bistro specifically created for NMIFF?
Yes, it was created for NMIFF. Maria Arancio-Berry created the name and together we created the theme for last year’s festival. When I was asked if I would be willing to do one of the evenings where food was served, I was thrilled but I knew I wanted to do something very different than a traditional buffet event. When I talked with Maria, we decided we wanted to have an uplifting, fun evening where people could mingle, relax, and enjoy the music while eating their food. This is where the idea of spuntini or “light bites” came from; we knew this theme could create the atmosphere we were all looking to have. This year the theme will be “apricena”, small bites that constitute a light dinner. It was a really fun night, full of good food, good friends, good music, and great memories. I want to recreate that at this years festival.
What are your culinary goals this year?
My business name is called Eatentions and my husband and I created it as a company dedicated to celebrating amazing people, delicious food, great conversation, sustainability, and experience. We work closely with farmers and purveyors in the slow food movement to source the best organic ingredients to create our gourmet dishes. It’s a perfect marriage. What has morphed from our initial vision, is a sustainable food company that teaches culinary socials (cooking events that capture the marriage of a cooking class and a dinner party), boutique catering, private dinners, and weekly CSM (Community Sourced Meal) boxes where people order weekly from a selection of food items which are delivered to their home. I currently teach my socials at the beautiful Sarabande B&B located in the North Valley of Albuquerque. I am also one of the preferred caterers for weddings at the B&B and do private dinners there as well. It is a wonderful relationship and beautiful addition to the Albuquerque community. As for 2019, we are off to an amazing start. We are booking weekends with culinary socials, wedding and catering events, and private dinners. We will be heading off to some amazing workshops and continuing education experiences, in farming and cooking! We want to continue to grow and provide Albuquerque with a unique and wonderful food and accommodation experience!