A convert to Catholicism, Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, who is passionate about every aspect of the food world—from interviewing chefs to supporting local farmers and to making the connection between food and faith
Italian chef extraordinaire Bruno Serato has made his mark in a most Catholic way: he has formed an important project that has helped to feed hundreds of thousands of the hungry throughout the country. And he used his famed restaurant, the Anaheim White House restaurant in Anaheim, California, as a way to fund this charity, the Caterina’s Club.
Serato came into the culinary world as a teen when he worked in his parent’s trattoria in San Bonifacio, a small town near Verona in Northern Italy. “When I was 14 until I was 20 years old,” he said, “I worked with them in the kitchen and then as my mom’s assistant. That was the first beginning of my career. My mom was the best teacher… When I was 14, I knew that cooking is what I wanted to do.”
He credits his mother for helping to build his faith. She sent him to catechism classes, telling him that he must believe in God. “I got more and more involved with my faith,” he said, adding that he has always been devoted to Mother Teresa and to Padre Pio. “And I got to feel that I had a mission from God to feed the kids.”
Serato also credits his mother with saving his life when he was an infant. “When I was six months old,” he said, “I was sick and supposed to die. My mother asked the priest for a blessing, and she promised she would dress me up as a monk.” He survived, of course, but did not become a monk.
Instead, when he turned 20, he left Italy and moved to California with little cash and no settled job. Because of his love for cooking, he started working as a busboy and then, seven years later, he became the owner of the historic and famous Italian steakhouse, the Anaheim White House Restaurant in the city of Anaheim, California. An elegant structure, the restaurant was designed and built in 1909 as a private residence.
Since then, Serato has achieved fame as its chef, creating such dishes as lobster ravioli, assorted pasta and meat entrées, plus a house signature dish, Salmon Chocolat — steamed salmon served with the chef’s Belgium white chocolate mashed potatoes with Japanese ginger.
But when his mother came to visit in 2005, the two went to a boys’ and girls’ club and found that the children had little food, and one of the boy was eating potato chips as his dinner. “My mom said we needed to feed children pasta, and that was the beginning of our effort,” he said. “We do that every day, and now we prepare 5,000 plates of pasta and deliver to 90 locations. We have served more than 3 million kids.” His goal is to inspire others globally because so many children are hungry.
To do that, Serrato has spoken to thousands of people, including at the United Nations and at the Vatican, where Pope Francis gifted him with a cross. “The Pope told me to keep doing what I am doing,” he said. And he has been knighted by the president of Italy and by the royal family of Savoy. He has also written three books: The Power of Pasta; Temptation at the White House, Feeding the Kids in America.
Obviously, Bruno Serato is living his Catholic faith. Note: His Caterina’s Club (www.caterinasclub.org) has three different programs: to offer employment to teens in need of jobs, to find housing for the homeless and to feed the hungry.