"The best ingredient in the kitchen? Heart."

Ivan Giancola, with 22 years service in ILVA’s executive canteen, cooked for earthquake evacuees in Lazio.

Ivan Giancola, 43, has spent 22 years working in the executive canteen at Taranto and has just come back from a very important mission: preparing and serving hot meals for people hit by the earthquake in Lazio. “I was shocked by the images I saw on TV. So in August I decided to go there, with the Italian Federation of Cooks, of which I’m a member, and give a hand.”

Ivan worked in Illica, a district of the town of Accumoli, in Rieti province, which was badly damaged by the earthquake on 24 August 2016. “It was a very moving experience. Just think: it has 25 inhabitants but when the cooks and other volunteers arrive in this little village, over 300 people gather from the neighbouring townships! Despite all the ruins, the people have this enormous determination to get everything back to normal as soon as possible.

"My passion for cooking was conceived when I was still very young"

His particular social effort was in the kitchen, as it always has been. “My passion for cooking was conceived when I was still very young,” says Ivan, who has also taken part in Caritas initiatives. “When I can, I put this passion of mine at the service of those in need. At Christmas, for example, and on other holidays. When we intervene in these difficult circumstances, we get a great welcome. People are enthusiastic, it’s reciprocal. And in addition to cooking we entertain people too: some of us put on extempore shows, wearing wigs and dressing up variously. They’re memorable occasions that my trade has luckily enabled me to enjoy.”

Ivan’s commitment doesn’t stop here.

“In October, along with other volunteer associations, I’ll be at the Antoniano in Bologna to cook for 1,000 homeless people. I’m already excited. With my own hands I’ll be preparing meals for women, children and elderly folk who can’t even afford a plate of pasta. It’s true,” sighs Ivan, “the best ingredient in the kitchen is heart.”