Michele Bendini is a local veterinarian with star qualities, a charismatic nature, crystal clear eyes and a vivid smile. And like a dream come true this local boy has gotten his big break in the form of an appearance on MasterChef Italia, the Sky Television talent show that has taken the country by storm. His profession is pets, but his passion is in the kitchen.
The Mag: Tell us about these last frenetic months
Michele Bendini : «We shot the series over the summer in June and July. Nobody knew what to expect, and when the show aired in December the viewing public really responded positively. MasterChef became a national hit after the second episode and has gotten an enormous amount of publicity support from the Sky network. I didn’t expect such a response. So far I have stayed grounded. I am lucky that in Città di Castello it doesn’t matter so much if you are on TV. But everywhere else I go people recognize me. I have to say I like it, otherwise I wouldn’t have participated.»
The Mag: What was it like on MasterChef Italia?
Michele Bendini : «I got to meet people whom I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. For two months, I lived in Milan with these complete strangers, sharing everything, and we became very close, very quickly. It would take a couple of years to create that kind of intimacy with people in a normal context. The human aspect of the experience is really exceptional, and I want to emphasize that. As for the cooking, I learned a lot. I grew up from that point of view. I also got to experience the television world which was brand new to me. It is very different from my day to day life. I liked it, I have to say, despite the stress and fatigue. You are under lot of pressure and the level of competition is high, as it should be when there is a real prize to win.»
The Mag: Where did you get your passion for cooking?
Michele Bendini : «From my family, my mother. We all love food and the experience of a good meal, but as a kid I found pleasure in watching my mom cook for us. When I was about 16 years old I started preparing a few things myself. During my University years I lived alone and started having fun experimenting. Fun is what cooking is all about for me, it is never a burden. It is about gathering with friends and it is a way to say something about yourself.»
The Mag: At any point in the show did you start wanting to show off?
Michele: «I was always pleased with my performance at every step, every challenge. Many people have asked me: – How could you do so much in just one hour? – The answer is that during that experience your mind is set on cooking, it is like a job and you are surrounded by people from whom you can learn. The real challenge was not only to cook, but to be competitive, especially during the pre-selection, in which you have to really expose yourself in order to be chosen for the show.»
The Mag: But you really think “the television industry” would suit you?
Michele Bendini : «Well, I am intrigued by the question! It may be that I won’t like “show business”. Honestly I don’t know it well enough to judge. I like my world and what I do. I can be very solitary sometimes, and I need to find refuge in nature as I am able to in our green valley.»
The Mag: You moved from the city to live in the countryside. Why?
Michele Bendini : «My work as a vet is so gratifying because it allows me to be outdoors and in nature. I specialize in horses and travel from client to client in my mobile medical office. Although my family is from the center of town, I have been very fortunate to build my personal and professional life more in the countryside.»
The Mag: How important is family in your life?
Michele Bendini : «Family is essential! also friends and work are fundamental to my happiness. But especially my family which gave me a solid foundation. I am very close to my parents and my sister. I am independent of course, and can be away from them for long periods of time, but it is they who fulfill my life, they inspired me without imposing anything on me. I have always been my own person and this is one of the gifts they allowed me.»
The Mag: Can you tell us a bit more about your background? After all you are a veterinarian, expert with horses, so passionate about cooking that you are a contestant on MasterChef!
Michele Bendini : «When I was at University in Perugia I had the dream of opening a small restaurant, for about thirty people. I would say to myself, “Maybe in a couple of years, I’ll have some money to do something on my own”. This idea has always been in my head, sometimes like a dream, other times like a realistic goal. There must be a reason why I have always liked making people happy with my food, I could be in this business.»
The Mag: Tell us something about your time at veterinary school.
Michele Bendini : «That was a wonderful time. I lived in Perugia for several years, even after graduating, and I am really bonded to that city as well to the Veterinarian University Department. I spent three intense years studying horse surgery. I fell in love with the profession and I often go back to the University for work. Apart from that, I met many other students who now are my colleges and friends.»
The Mag: So, now that we know you better, I have one last question: Should we call you Doctor or Chef Bendini?
Michele Bendini : «Let’s stick with Michele. But if I have to choose, I think I prefer Dottor Bendini.»