Regulars and Shorts

Chef Profile: Giovanni Bouderbala

By Katherine Pioli

Full of love, for food and planet: Katherine chats with One World Café’s new head chef.
by Katherine Pioli

What could possibly entice someone raised in the beautiful land and rich culture of Tunisia to settle in the mountain city of Salt Lake? For Giovanni Bouderbala, new head chef at One World Café, it began with a springtime nap under a cottonwood tree almost two years ago. “I joined a friend on a trip from Los Angeles where I was at the time,” he recalls during a quick break from his morning prep work. Dressed in his white chef’s coat and hat, subtle, scholarly glasses framing his dark Mediter­ran­ean eyes, arms covered in cooking scars, Giovanni looks ready for a long, creative day in the kitchen. “We went to Sugarhouse Park,” he continues, “and I laid down in the shade and fell asleep. In all of my seven years living in LA I never fell asleep in a park, I never felt comfortable enough. Here, I found peace.”

So peace brought Giovanni to Salt Lake but it was One World (and a lovely wife, a native of Salt Lake, and their two young daughters) that convinced him to stay.

The union between chef and restaurant Giovanni recounts, began online. “I found Denise’s ad [One World founder Denise Cerreta] for a chef on Craigslist while working as a back-up chef for Roma Ristaurante. The day before my interview I came in to look at the kitchen and the menu.” Giovanni was surprised to find a kitchen without a menu and a restaurant working on the philosophy of eliminating world hunger. He was intrigued. Four months after starting work in Utah’s most alternative kitchen, Giovanni is still smitten by his new job, like a young husband still showing his honeymoon glow.

“Cooking is beautiful,” he says with genuine enthusiasm. “I chose this career although my associates degree is in business. I want to be in a kitchen, working around people and all of the smells. I especially love One World because we cook organic, really healthy, affordable food that you can’t find anywhere else. Our way of running a restaurant is challenging and expensive, but I love it.”

As Giovanni lists some of the dishes being prepared for the day-pineapple pork roast, creamy pumpkin soup, tilapia with a lemon and caper sauce-it is hard to believe he never formally studied the culinary arts. When he was an 18-year-old student of international business in France, he took a job in a little restaurant. He started as a cleaning boy but after a few months found himself working on the kitchen line.

Since that time, says Giovanni, “I have learned all that I know from the many chefs I have worked under. I remember one chef took the time to show me how to chop on onion.” The details of cooking, Giovanni has learned, are important.

Although Giovanni Bouderbala dreams of some day opening his own restaurant, complete with adjoining organic farm feeding fresh produce into the kitchen, his time with One World is just beginning; And his love for the job remains so fresh that even taking out the trash can provide a small epiphany. “The first night that I closed the restaurant the trash was already separated into three groups: recycling, compost and waste and the bag of waste was so small. Attention like that, to reducing waste, does not happen at any other restaurant. Looking at that tiny trash bag I felt so proud of us and of One World because I like our planet. I want to keep it safe. One World has changed me,” says Giovanni, “and I will never be the same again.”

– Katherine Pioli

One World Everybody Eats
41 S. 300 E.
Open daily, 11am-9pm
Sat.-Sun. brunch 9am-2pm
Tel. 519-2002

This article was originally published on January 30, 2009.