From the Vespucci benches of ’65 to the grand hotels of Europe: the story of the first graduates

from Giovanna Maria Fagnani

Margherita Maierna, 76, and Augusto Celata, 75, were schoolmates: they hadn’t seen each other for sixty years. You ran a 4-star hotel, he was a chef and collaborated with Bernardo Caprotti

When someone asked about the manager, we directed them to my office on the first floor. Many, finding a woman in front of them, thought I was the secretary. In those years I was practically the only one to manage a 4-star hotel in Milan. We housed professionals and entrepreneurs: the Zoppas, the Merloni, the Zanussi. The singers and actors instead went to Marino alla Scala. Margherita Maierna, now 76 years old, was, in her own way, a pioneer and his career has been full of satisfactions. Like that of Augusto Celata, 75 years old, his schoolmate, who worked for hotels in Crans Montana, Switzerland (in the years Richard Burton and Liz Taylor went) and then was sent to Ankara to the Byk Han hotel, to teach international cuisine to Turkish chefs.

The two had not seen each other for sixty years. Their tales are echoed on Tuesday in the lecture hall of theVespucci Hotel Instituteof via Valvassori Peroni, of which they were the first mature, in 1964-65. To celebrate the first 60 years of its foundation, the institute has promoted a conference with the managers of luxury city hotels on the topic of sustainability, coordinated by internationally renowned chef Carlo Romito, himself a former student. At the end, the homage to Margherita and Augusto, representing the first 17 graduates.

At the Carlton, I started as a deputy secretary. The then manager thought women were okay to do the reception, but we were a rarity. Then I became secretary, then head of reception, finally assistant to the CEO: I worked there for 25 years. Then I became director at the Ambasciatori, in the Corso gallery and at the Regent di San Donato and with my husband I took over a hotel in the Milanese area – explained Margherita -. Now when I see the receptionists typing on the computer and not even looking up at the customer, my arms drop. He confides in the students: a job that you cannot do if you do not love them: there is no Christmas, Easter, August 15th, it requires dedication and sacrifice.

Del Vespucci, on the other hand, Augusto Celata was first a pupil and then also a teacher. There were six of us in the cooking class. If we were in the wrong position in serving, the teacher would slap us on the kidneys. Became chef at the Grand Hotel Nazionale in Lucerne, then return to Milan to direct the kitchen at Pio Albergo Trivulzio and to teach at Vespucci. Thirty-seven years ago, the meeting with Bernardo Caprotti, owner of Esselunga who entrusted him with the development of gastronomy. I prepared various lasagna recipes and also put the cost of the shopping list next to it. Caprotti said to me: “But what are you interested in how much lasagna costs? better if we save 500 lire on a kilo of lasagna or if we sell 100 times as much? “. And he chose the best recipe he says before exhorting the students: There will be bad days: the customer left unhappy, the supplier did not deliver, the machine broke. But every day you seek the satisfaction of doing this job. Remember that you are a professional, the waiter is not a plate holder, nor the cook a potato peeler. Always cultivate your training and try to grow.

Many illustrious alumni who came out of Vespucci: Claudio Sadler, Walter Pedrazzi de La Cucina Italiana e Gastone Marcianis, who was the last chef of the Orient Express. With the celebrations, the new school year has opened and will be full of events – he says the principal Luigi Costanzo -. The staff of teachers practically complete, even on the support. Furthermore, the news has arrived that the NRRR will finance the construction by 2026 of our campus with 20 classrooms, an archive, classrooms for support and a gym. The school today divided into two locations, will be united again.

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September 23, 2022 (change September 23, 2022 | 19:58)

From the Vespucci benches of ’65 to the grand hotels of Europe: the story of the first graduates