Master Chef Franco Lania says, “food saved my life”. Freshly out of high school, Franco’s father took him to Kings Supermarket in Short Hills, New Jersey for a job. By the second week in the catering/deli departments, Franco was enjoying his training as he discovered flavors and tastes that he never in his wildest dreams knew existed. Through that job, he slowly but surely fell in love with food. Not only did he want to taste new things like ambrosia salad, but he also wanted to learn how to make them. Franco found his passion from which he later created the philosophy, “as you design your dishes and design your meals, you can design your life.”
And design he did! Franco made his way to Le Cordon Bleu in London where he graduated with the Grand Diplôme. While in London he worked at the world-renown Dorchester Hotel as a pastry chef. Franco continued his culinary quest for knowledge. He attended the Master Course at the Italian Culinary Arts Institute in Costigliole d’Asti, Italy, and eventually worked at the two Michelin Star restaurant Sadler in Milan, Italy. This restaurant was owned by the famous Milanese chef Claudio Sadler.
Upon finishing his education, Franco’s culinary talent earned him the sous chef position at a new restaurant, slated to open in the Soho neighborhood of New York City. The job required that he take the Department of Health test for a Food Handler’s Certificate. His testing site would be in the World Trade Center. Franco arrived early at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It was a beautiful sunny morning that unfortunately turned out to be a very tragic day. The testing never took place as Franco along with hundreds of others were evacuated from the second tower.
The restaurant opening for his new position was now in question, and life in New York/New Jersey was in great uncertainty because of the possibility of more attacks. Thus began a series of hardships and great life changes. Franco could not even begin to think about how he would move forward from such an unfathomable act of evil that disconnected him from his career path in Manhattan.
As people struggle and try to move on from difficult situations their life’s passions and good nutritional habits may go right out the window. Franco began to struggle with even making something good to eat for himself at home as the days after the World Trade Center disaster unfolded. It became much easier to buy fast food and soda. Not the best of diets! And definitely not a healthy way to feed your body and mind when trying to overcome setbacks and move onward in a positive way.
After a move to Miami, Franco took a job at a small Italian restaurant on South Beach that served delicious, simple food. He started to feel invigorated by the simplicity of the cooking. It was refreshing to get back to a “no-frills” approach to cooking. The pure flavors of this simple yet precise cooking reawoken the cooking passions that he had lost during the long uncertain months after 9/11. Every day before service the chefs would sit and eat together. This family meal was usually made in the style of what the menu consisted of. It provided Franco with a source of nourishment he hadn’t had for quite a while.
All this got the wheels turning once again in Franco’s life and connected him with cooking and food in a much different way. This new outlook on cooking along with the nourishing meals he had been eating helped him to start orchestrating a plan. He realized his brain needed real food and it was time to start eating right again. A big part of being “stuck” was the poor diet that took over during this very difficult time period. A basic pasta dish or a quick saute of chicken with onions became building blocks for a new career path. When he would make his chicken and onions dish, for example, he discovered it was like therapy. The mouthwatering aromas enlivened his senses and he felt a sense of invigoration and confidence return. Not only did the cooking act as a form of therapy, but it also nurtured a new outlook on life.
Nowadays chef Franco carries that inspiration inside of him, and he shares it with his fans across the globe. Teaching them the importance of nourishment in times of difficulty. The chef says “in order to get up and over your difficulties, one can not ignore the importance of cooking and cooking something nourishing for yourself.”
Franco’s journey has brought him to the stoves at some of the most highly-acclaimed restaurants in the United States as well as Europe: La Grenouille, New York City; River Café, Brooklyn, NY; Pinot Bistro, Studio City, CA; Blue Door, Miami, FL; Dorchester Hotel, London, and the two Michelin-starred Sadler, Milan, Italy. His love for travel and cuisine lured him onto luxury cruise lines. On Oceania Cruises, whose culinary department is headed by the world-renowned Jacques Pepin, Franco was the first American to hold the Italian Chef position. He frequently appears as a guest chef on transatlantic voyages from New York or Miami. Through his unique experiences, Franco has attained the “marquee level” of a Certified Culinary Professional on land and at sea.
Chef Franco worked with HomeTown Television in New Jersey on a show called Jersey Gems, showcasing New Jersey’s diverse food scene; he has also been the “Green Grocer” for their evening news. He is a member of the Culinary Advisory Board for ConAgra Foods. Franco has appeared twice on Food Network’s 24-Hour Restaurant Battle and was on the winning team both times. The chef has made appearances on Good Day PA, Fox 43, PA Live, and several more television segments. The chef has been featured in the New York Times, Crain’s New York, DiningOut New Jersey, The Italian Tribune, Entrepreneurial Chef, Ocean Drive Magazine, The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, The Sun Sentinal, Miami New Times, and several others.
Franco has recently partnered with Tavola Tours. A boutique travel company offering culinary and cultural adventures in Italy. The chef enjoys travel, teaching people about the invigorating world of food, cooking, and how it can add to your daily life in a positive way. He headlines conferences and has been a brand ambassador for olive oil companies at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. He is often a celebrity chef at private dinners and cooking events. Franco represents large food brands such as Minnesota Wild Rice, Anolon Cookware, and Breville for culinary demonstrations. But, like most chefs, Franco really shines when he cooks for and interacts with fellow foodies.