Making Connections Through Shared Meals And Experiences

Making connections is a fundamental aspect of the human experience. Meet Elia Donati, a chef and business owner, who has always believed in the power of strengthening relationships through shared meals. As a business owner, Elia understands the struggle of imposter syndrome that many entrepreneurs face. He shares a pivotal moment in his journey when he received excellent feedback from none other than Harry Styles and his crew. What’s remarkable is that Elia achieved this feat with just 10 hours notice and had to navigate a local market that was about to close in an hour. This experience highlighted to him that his hard work and dedication were paying off, and it reinforced his belief in the value of pouring one’s heart and soul into every endeavor.


Happy friends toasting with wine at dinner table - Making Connections


Food, Family, and Making Connections

Elia’s love for food goes beyond just creating delicious dishes; it’s about using food as a tool to foster connections and create memorable experiences. He has always believed in the power of gathering family and friends through shared meals. Through his Italian background and experiences, Elia has shaped his approach to cooking and gathering people around food. His goal is not just to deliver good food but to create a welcoming and memorable atmosphere where everyone feels like they’re part of something special.


Cooking Bond

One impactful experience Elia shared was with a dad who initially lacked confidence in cooking for his family. However, after spending time with Elia in the kitchen and learning how to use equipment more effectively, the dad gained confidence and realized that he could indeed cook for his loved ones. This transformation not only created a new way for the family to bond but also allowed the dad to explore his culinary skills and share special moments with his family, such as cooking their favorite dishes and making homemade hummus.

Elia’s passion project, Cooking Bond, is his way of giving back to people by using food as a medium to foster bonding and connection within families. Through Cooking Bond, Elia aims to help more people like his dad feel empowered to connect with their families through cooking and creating meaningful experiences together.


Elia’s Take On Leadership in The Culinary Field

In the kitchen, Elia sees himself not just as a chef but also as a leader, responsible for guiding his team through both smooth operations and challenging moments. Elia’s approach to leadership involves knowing his team members well, recognizing their strengths, and assigning tasks accordingly. He believes in leveraging each person’s skills to create a cohesive and effective team. For instance, he might assign someone skilled in customer service to handle interactions with guests, while another team member might excel at organizing events or cleaning up efficiently.

He also values adaptability and problem-solving skills in his team members, citing instances where individuals have stepped up during challenging moments without needing constant supervision. Elia understands that leadership isn’t just about giving orders but also about empowering others to take initiative and find solutions when faced with unexpected challenges. As with any team, there are days when things don’t go as planned, whether it’s food not turning out right or unexpected issues during preparation. One example he shared was a cake disaster, where he had to think quickly to salvage the situation and avoid disappointing a client.

Overall, Elia’s leadership style emphasizes resilience, teamwork, and the ability to make things work even in difficult circumstances, ensuring that the customer experience remains positive and memorable.


“Lead by being you”

Elia’s belief in “lead by being you” is a powerful testament to the value of authenticity in leadership. He realized that in the beginning he had been overly concerned with external factors like industry trends or others’ opinions. However, he came to understand that what truly resonates with people is his unique perspective, his take on cooking, and his genuine self. His message is clear: it’s not about claiming to be the best, but rather about embracing who you are and what you bring to the table. He encourages others not to be afraid of being themselves, as authenticity is what attracts people and allows them to lead effectively by being true to their own values and strengths. Elia encourages trying things differently, especially when the current method doesn’t yield the desired results or connections. 


Can Food Help Bring Teams Together?

Food can indeed play a significant role in bringing teams together and creating shared connections. Food has the power to break down barriers and promote bonding among team members. Whether it’s enjoying a meal together during lunchtime or engaging in food-related activities like cooking sessions, the act of sharing food creates a sense of camaraderie and strengthens relationships within the team.

For Elia, cooking certain dishes like Tagliatelle Ragù holds special significance as it transports him back to cherished memories of his nonna’s house on Sunday nights. The aroma and taste of the dish evoke a range of emotions and feelings, creating a deep connection to his past experiences. This connection through food extends beyond personal memories; it also helps others relate to us on a personal level. Whether it’s sharing stories about family recipes or experiencing the nostalgia of a familiar dish, food can spark conversations and build bonds beyond work.


Appreciating Life’s Small Pleasures

Elia shares a personal example of a breakthrough during COVID, where a short meditation session on handwashing sparked curiosity and introspection. This simple act of mindfulness opened new perspectives and led to a deeper understanding of the task at hand. According to Elia, meditation doesn’t always require closed eyes and deep breathing; it can also involve removing distractions, enjoying music, and celebrating the present moment. He highlighted the significance of appreciating small pleasures, like the aroma of oranges, as a way to find joy in everyday experiences.

Elia’s message resonates with the idea of savoring life’s moments and finding happiness in the present, whether it’s through cooking, appreciating flavors, or cherishing time with loved ones. His perspective encourages us to shift our mindset and embrace gratitude for the little things that often go unnoticed.

You can listen to the full Making Connections Through Shared Meals & Moments podcast episode here. Elia also shares a secret ingredient that transforms his pasta dish into something extraordinary!

Let us know your thoughts about this episode. We would love to hear your stories about how food has played a role in building connections, whether in your personal life or professional journey. 

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