These were the words that changed the way writer and food blogger Daniele Foti-Cuzzola looked at food forever.
Writing the social pages for The Sunday Times Magazine, much of Daniele’s time is spent on the Perth party scene, brushing shoulders with socialites, models and celebrities at prestigious events.
While this glamorous lifestyle leaves little downtime for Daniele, the 24-year-old uses every ounce of it wisely: celebrating his Italian roots through delicious dishes.
“As cliché as it sounds, food is so integral to my DNA,” he says.
“Both sets of nonni came from agricultural backgrounds where they grew up harvesting their own produce and using what they could to feed and nourish their families.”
Daniele’s parents were born in the province of Messina on the southern Italian island of Sicily, and originated from the same small town, Tortorici.
When Daniele’s mother was just six months old, her father embarked on an adventure in search of a fresh start for his family.
Destination: Western Australia.
“My nonno worked hard to establish himself first, with the hopes of having his wife and children reunite with him in Australia,” Daniele explains.
“Unfortunately, it took four years for the reunion to happen as nonno was badly burnt in a gas explosion and was in hospital for close to two years.”
Once the whole family settled into Australian life, purchasing and running banana plantations before moving to Perth, they began returning to Italy regularly.
It was through these frequent visits that Daniele’s parents met and fell in love, and his father eventually followed his mother back to Australia where they went on to raise a family of their own.
Daniele’s family brought their culture and traditions from Sicily to Perth, and much of his childhood was spent on the family farm or in the kitchen with his nonna.
“Unlike my school friends who spent their weekends going to the movies or having picnics at the park, mine involved making sauce, olive oil, sausages or wine,” he recalls.
“Some of my fondest memories come from those days at the farm with my cousins. That’s where my passion for food began.”
While Daniele always knew that he ate well in the capable hands of his parents and grandparents and enjoyed contributing to the preparation of family meals, it wasn’t until his university years that he discovered the real importance of food.
Which brings us back to the quote: “What we eat and like in our childhood we remember with delight in our old age”.
These 16 words had an immense hold over Daniele, and gave him a new appreciation of the life and home that his family left behind in order to come to Australia.
“I became more interested in my Sicilian heritage and looking at preparing dishes that comforted my nonni and reminded them of their youth,” he says.
“There’s something really powerful about food and memory; the taste and smell of a dish can really take you back to another time in your life.”
Daniele refers to cooking as a “selfless hobby”, which is rewarded in the form of smiles on loved ones’ faces.
The young foodie wanted to extend his passion for Italian cuisine beyond his family dining table to the rest of the world, and so his blog Dine with Daniele was born.
The blog is a celebration of Daniele’s Sicilian heritage, passion for food and travels to Italy, which have been a regular recurrence since he was two years old.
“I love Sicily - the history, the rustic feel, the food and the fact that a lot of my family and friends live there,” he says.
“Last year I visited the Aeolian Islands for the first time and I can’t get Panarea and Stromboli out of my head.
“I also left my heart in Positano and Capri; the granita, the sunshine, the water, the food - it was all so magical.”
While you can find anything from delicate deep-fried zucchini flowers to rich and decadent torta alla nutella on Daniele’s blog, each and every one of his creations follows his number one rule: always cook with seasonal produce.
Daniele has also proudly represented his heritage on our screens, featuring as a contestant on SBS’ new series ‘The Chefs’ Line’, where he and three other home cooks of Italian background went head-to-head with professional chefs during Italian week.
As word of Daniele’s innate cooking abilities begins to spread, the passionate cook hopes to build on his blog and share his tips and tricks through workshops and demonstrations.
As if this 24-year-old powerhouse hasn’t got enough on the horizon, he's also working on a bilingual children’s book, combining his passion for writing with his previous career as an Italian primary school teacher.
“I was surprised by the lack of stories out there that are specific to the Italo-Australian experience,” he says.
“Sharing these stories is something I definitely want to contribute to.”
A person with a burning passion is a powerful thing, and it seems that Daniele’s desire to share his heritage and love for food is leading him on a long and exciting journey.
The world is his oyster...and we bet it’s a tasty one!