“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” Douglas H. Everett
One cloudy and cold autumn day I was on Facebook commenting below a Food on the Edge symposium related post, and started conversation with young lady who told me that at FOTE I should meet Majken and Jordan who were then just about to open a restaurant in Ireland – she met them at Maemo. I didn’t know that lady, but she was nice and (look at coincidence! – I was actually at the first dinner of the symposium sitting beside Majken) so we somehow started communicating and developed a virtual friendship over time. The lady’s name is Petra Hianu (some people know her by the other name – Andreea, but she prefers being called Petra, she told me). One day Petra invited me to Sibiu, Romania. She and her husband, Paul Moinea, decided that after working in many restaurants around Europe, it was time to go back home and create a change they wanted to see. They founded a symposium called I.D.E.A.L. Evolution and invited me to join the first edition. It was my first ever trip to Romania and my first meeting with this couple who managed to gather in Paul’s home town amazing people from all over Europe to share passion and knowledge about food. They practically did all alone and invested into this event also lots of their own money. I was humbled by their generosity and their beautiful characters full of enthusiasm and determination. I want you to get to know them too!
Frst of all, theirs was a love on the first sight, as Paul likes to say:
“2004 was one of the most exciting years of my life, I was just turning 18 and finished my handball career. I was a young man with many dreams and hopes towards the future. I was always a very positive person, seeing the cup always half full. In July of the same year I met Petra. She was studying at the university and was a friend of my aunt. I was visiting my aunt and I remember that I had to go to a party. Leaving the apartment, I saw Petra coming out of the elevator. I didn’t go to the party and had a very interesting evening with Petra instead, together with some friends and my aunt. I remember also that as soon as I was alone with my aunt I told her that I am in love. After a couple of weeks of chatting and spending time together we became a couple and remained together till this day. 15 years of magic and development as persons. We are really lucky that we share the same passion and have the same drive and ideas. With small exception we always travel together and try to support each other as much as possible. Petra’s dreams are mine and my dreams are Petra’s.”
Petra you are actually a chef. Right?
“If you asked me this 10 years ago, I would go: “Chef? Who…me?”
I graduated at the law university with a master degree in European law and in my last job in Romania I was working as a lawyer for a private company, doing commercial law and public auctions.
But one day, I woke up and I thought: I feel that I’m not happy within my job, I’m just comfortable. So I quit my job in the same day, I left my rented apartment, I sold all my stuff and I left to Italy for a holiday. I was so in love with everything, that I decided to not return home anymore. Soon, Rome became my second home.
This decision changed completely my life and my vision about gastronomy. I always loved to eat, I really love food, but I never thought about becoming a professonal Chef. I think the love for this job was conditioned also by my childhood.
My grandmother was Head Chef in a Hospital. I still remember the early mornings in the cold winter, with her holding my hand, going to work. I was maybe 5-6 years old, and part of my free time I was spending with the kitchen team. I was colouring books between the big pots with soup or rice pudding.
I was born in the countryside, in a beautiful place surrounded by hills and forests. Foraging was something so usual in our culture that we even never talked about it. It has always been a part of our lives, a part of everyday routine. Harvesting mushrooms with my father in the forest, picking herbs for infusions with my grandmother or picking camomile next to the river with my aunt was a normality.
When I arrived to Italy, after some months, I found a job as a waitress at the Adriatic coast. I spent 2 summers there, learning about Adriatic fish, Italian produce and the way how Italians deal with the local ingredients. It was a paradise for me. Amazing stuff and very passionate people. I was totally in love with everything related to food. They are so proud about what they have and try to share their knowledge with everybody.
After 2 years, I knew that I wanted to be in the kitchen and not on the floor, so I come back to Rome and start studying at a private culinary school.
And from there everything went just like a snowball. Learning and discover every day something new. I moved to Malta for a 6 months stage, I was in love with the small island and become my 3 rd home for 5 years. In this time, I was working and travelling a lot in Europe, doing different stages and trying to assimilate as much as I could.”
Paul is not only Petra’s partner in life, he is complementing her also professionally, as a restaurant manager. How did you start your career, Paul?
“In 2009, I had a very stressful year and just before I was ready to finish IT and Management University and have the final exam, I decided to leave Romania and move to Rome. I didn’t speak Italian, but I trusted my own gut and just left. Arriving to Rome, after a hectic period, I managed to find a job as a driver.
I always found the Italian way of eating and living as the best possible way. I fell in love with the culture and of course with the food. After a couple of years in Italy, I met the person who opened my eyes. Her name is Miss Celeste. By job description she was an amazing “casalinga” (housewife). We were invited to a lunch at her place together with all her family. I had the most amazing food experience wth her family. Imagine a table full of impepata di cozze, pasta alle vongole, seppioline alla Luciana, Carciofi alla romana, cime di rapa ripasate, insalata di polipo, every single dish is still in my head after 10 years.
After a period of time I was trying to upgrade my driver’s license and get the permit for a limousine driver. As I was traveling from one side of Rome to another, in the metro, I saw an ad for a cooking school. The whole trip I was just thinking of Miss Celeste’s exquisite lunch. Half way to the driver’s license authority I decided to go home and check this school. I found out that the school is a very serious institution, well recognized in the whole Europe, so I was thinking of changing my career. After a period of time I decided that I have to see also other things in this industry, so I went to Malta and got a job at the InterContinental Hotel. That was the place where I absorbed lots of knowledge and realized that I was made for this job. I was curious to see what is happening on the other side of the wall, so I left the kitchen and slowly became a restaurant manager, again learning and absorbing knowledge from all over the place. InterContinental is the reason that I got stuck in this profession and that I enjoy it so much. That hotel managed to show me things that I never thought I would see in my life. I had the pleasure of working with amazing people from 86 nations. Each and everyone of them taught me something. I believe I have been very lucky for having lived in Rome because there I managed to find what Romania didn’t have: a chance to discover the right career for myself. Not because Romania didn’t give me the pleasure or curiosity to discover and work with amazing produce, but because the system was so rotten, that in the past, when I was a child, I didn’t think of what would really be the right career for me, I was only looking for a job. That’s the reason why Petra and I came back, to try to be part of the change and help building a healthier country with more meaningful values for the future generations.”
Discover more about I.D.E.A.L. Evolution: https://hautdegamme.net/2020/01/31/i-d-e-a-l-evolution-sibiu/
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ―