Chef Lania Survived 9/11 and Found Happiness Through Cooking

Chef Franco Lania - Happiness & cooking

Chef Franco Lania – Happiness & Cooking

“Chef Lania survived 9/11 and found happiness through cooking”, pretty much says it all.  As a chef, my view of cooking, restaurants, food and life in general was completely altered on that day, as were the lives of so many others. I was headed to 2 World Trade Center to take a mandatory test for the  Department of Health in order to obtain my Food Handlers Certificate for a new chef job I was to start the following week.

A few months prior to September 11th, I had returned to the United Stated from Italy, where I studied at an Italian Culinary School in the Piedmonte region.  After graduating this Master Chef certification program , I was hired to cook at the 2 Michelin-starred Sadler Ristorante in Milan, Italy.  With all my new-found cooking skills and knowledge, returning to New York, was a dream come true.  I arrived home in late May 2001 and by the end of June, I was employed by the BR Guest Restaurant Group of Manhattan to help open their new flagship Italian restaurant called Fiamma. My Food Handlers Certificate had expired while living in Italy, therefore, the company arranged for me to take take the test on 9/11 at the South Tower of World Trade Center.

Graduation Day - Culinary Arts Institute, Jersey City, NJ

Graduation Day (1995) – Culinary Arts Institute, Jersey City, NJ

The test was to begin at 9am. I arrived in the designated test room at 8:30am to go over some notes and meet some of my new colleagues.  Within 15 minutes or so, all hell broke loose across from us in the North Tower, which had just been hit by an airplane. People screamed!  What we saw from the windows of our room was horrific. Panic spread throughout the test center and we all started to evacuate for fear that our building would be in grave danger.

I was successfully evacuated from the South Tower of the World Trade Center, only to watch it crumble down shortly after. It was the first building to collapse. I froze in time and space as I could not believe my eyes.   Cooking and food became insignificant to me after this experience. My elation over a new exciting beginning in New York City vanished. Nothing excited me anymore. Slowly, over time, cooking crept back into my life, but this time cooking was more like an old dear friend. Cooking gave me the warm embrace I needed to get up and going again.  After so many years of cooking for others in order to make them happy, I started to cook for myself. I even made the simplest of dishes like sautéed chicken breast and onions.

Cooking for happiness demo ( at sea)

Cooking for happiness demo at sea.

To be happy is not always easy. It takes practice, persistence, hard work and a bit of faith to regain happiness after it has been lost.  For me this process was expedited via the invigorating act of cooking. Cooking and happiness are very similar because they are both something that we can create. Unlike any other self-help technique, cooking supplies us with an end result where we can actually experience all our five senses. Ultimately, we eat to nourish our bodies and minds back to health and out of depression.

It has been 13 years since the horrific attack on the World Trade Center.  I hardly talk about it any more. On the yearly anniversary of 9/11, I always reflect. I’m so appreciative of the emails and text messages that I receive from friends and family reminding me how glad they are that I made it out on that dark day.

Recently I was interviewed by a gentleman by the name of Ed Barmakian. Ed is the chief editor for the local online newspaper of Chatham, New Jersey called the Alternative Press. We met at a local Starbucks and were supposed to talk about my new product, Minnesota Wild Rice Griddle Cakes. As we started talking the World Trade Center disaster came up in discussion. I froze, got quiet, and said, “Ed I am a 9/11 survivor.” Ed, being an excellent reporter with 25 years experience with NJ’s favorite newspaper The Star Ledger, immediately took out a handheld recording device and our interview took a wild turn.

Please follow this link to read Ed’s interview. Chef Lania Survived 911 and Found Happiness Through Cooking