Valentina Pergola was born and brought up in Sicily, the biggest island in Italy on the south coast very close to Africa. She describes it as beautiful and very sunny, and full of nature.
Her whole family are foodies and many of them in the food business. Her father is one of the best patisserie chefs in Sicily who now works in Stuttgart, and her uncle owns a restaurant in Palermo.
Her mother and grandmother have - due to this interview - invited me to stay with them and learn traditional recipes and you bet I'm taking them up on that extraordinarily generous offer!
Just LOOK at this seafood - I'd be in HEAVEN ...
I don't speak Italian and they don't speak English but I reckon Food might also be the universal language (together with Love) ... plus we'll have Valentina to translate.
Valentina came to the UK two years ago to learn English, met her fiance, and stayed. Despite her degree being in fashion design, she has made jewellery since the age of 14 and since last October works full time as a jewellery designer in her own business, Excess Jewellery.
I just have to say here that I deliberately don't look at her website too often - as every time I do, I buy something! There's a link at the bottom of this post for you to check her gorgeous pieces out too.
Here's a peek at some of what I now own.
Interestingly, her biggest market currently is Russia. This is surely because everyone (like me!) who comes into contact with her designs loves them - and her Russian photographic model told everyone back home about Excess Jewellery.
So here's what I learned from talking to my very international friend: a Sicilian jewellery designer, living in London with a global customer base ...
1. In Italy, food is very important and brings people together.
2. You all sit down to eat together and everybody talks first about the food and how it makes them feel - and then only after that do they talk about their day and other topics.
And of course, should you be wondering, her family sit down to eat together at the table, with the TV switched off.
3. The importance of food can also make cooking stressful as you are judged on your cooking ability.
The first dish Valentina ever cooked outside her home was this mushroom risotto - she made it for her (then) boyfriend's family and ahead of that 'performance' she practiced making it with her father.
4. Understanding tradition and heritage is important too.
Sicily is known for its oranges and that's why she chose to share this traditional Sicilian orange and fennel salad with me.
5. Tradition, bringing people together, family, nature ... well ...