James Beard & Chef Parolari

Courtesy Villa d’Este

Executive Chef Luciano Parolari, otherwise known as the “King of Risotto,” has an endless supply of great stories from his experiences at  Villa d’Este on beautiful Lake Como. There are so many tales to tell (check out “Tales of Risotto”),  from favorites of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Madonna and Gianni Versace. I especially love the story of  Elton John falling in love with Luciano’s risottos and Sir Elton asking to have his private chef spend a week in the kitchen learning Chef Luciano’s risotto secrets!

 James Beard first described  Chef Luciano’s risotto as a little “side dish” in the December 1972 issue of “Gourmet” magazine. Chef Luciano remembers preparing the traditional Risotto Alla Milanese for Mr. Beard himself. This was followed by Risotto With Smoked Salmon, which Mr. Beard promptly renamed Risotto Villa d’Este. The hotel, in turn, named the dish Risotto a la James Beard and this risotto remained on the menu for years. There has been a special connection with James Beard and what later became the James Beard House in New York ever since.


Chuck Williams, founder of Williams-Sonoma, invited Chef Parolari in 1978 to San Francisco to prepare a gala fundraiser in the US. It was the first of many gala events that gave Chef Parolari a world wide reputation.


Enjoy reading a most impressive biography of a great chef.

Luciano Parolari, Executive Chef of the Grand Hotel  VILLA D’ESTE was born in the town of Arco, in the province of Trento, above Lake Garda.

Luciano’s father was a butcher and it would have seemed obvious for him to continue in the family trade, but at the age of 13 he started working in the kitchen of a neighbourhood restaurant owned by a friend of the Parolari’s.  Luciano soon made up his mind to pursue a career in the cooking world.  He attended a Hotel School in the Italian Dolomites during the winter months and in the summer he did his apprenticeship in resort hotels.

Parolari was employed by Villa d’Este 43 years ago and worked in various kitchen departments until he was appointed Chef of the Grille Restaurant. When the Hotel closed in October (Villa d’Este closes every year during the winter) , Parolari worked at the SAVOY in London and the PALACE in St. Moritz and would return in March for the reopening of Villa d’Este.

In 1970, he was one of the chefs at the Teheran Gala celebrating the 2500
th Anniversary of the Persian dynasty.

In 1973, Villa d’ Este started a cooking school and in 1976 Parolari was invited to give fund-raising demonstrations and cooking classes around the U.S., in Australia , in Europe and the Far East.

In 1978, Parolari was promoted to Executive Chef.  His efficient staff of 40 is practically interchangeable; therefore, no one is confined to doing only the salads or cleaning vegetables.  The menu is completely Italian, consisting of a selection of specialties from the various regions of Italy.

Parolari has introduced and created many fresh pasta dishes, but he is still most famous for his risotto.  He is known as the “King of Risotto” in Italy and among  guests.


In 1995, he participated in the Italian Food and Wine Festival at the celebration of the United Nations’ 50th anniversary. On the same occasion, he was a guest Chef at the prestigious New York Yacht Club and at the James Beard Foundation.  In 2002, he celebrated his silver jubilee as Chef  (25 years as chef at Villa d’Este Hotel) at the James Beard Foundation in New York.

In 1999, The “Villa d’Este Cookbook”won the award for “Best Hotel cookbook in English” at Versailles. In 2005, he published Tales of Risotto, with Giovanna Salvadore, his longtime collaborator and Senior Public Relations Director at Villa d’Este.


Luciano is married and has two children, a son and a daughter.


Many thanks to Villa d'Este for providing Chef Parolari's biography. 

 - The Gourmet Review 
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