Every season we invite a handful of exciting chefs from around the world to participate on our chef-in-residence programme. Whilst taking up residence in the beautiful villa, they will work in the kitchen alongside the Villa Lena head chef, lead food and cooking based workshops for guests, and take over the lunch menu once a week. This programme ensures an evolving menu at Villa Lena, and enables visiting international chefs to curate part of the seasonal menu, and to share their vision and recipes for organic, sustainable cuisine.
Each chef brings his or her own take on the local produce and responds to the seasonal ingredients, foraged or grown on the estate. Seasonality is at the core of our ethos: from the first signs of wild asparagus and elderflower in spring, to zucchini flowers and blackberries throughout the summer, to the white truffles and figs abundant in autumn. Each chef brings his or her own take on the local produce and responds to the seasonal ingredients, foraged or grown on the estate.
Our menus also include ethically hunted game.
2019 Chefs in Residence
Christine Li – May to July 2019
Christine is a cook born and raised in New York City. She uses her experiences from cooking at renowned restaurants (Relae in Denmark, The NoMad and Momofuku Ko in New York, Belon in Hong Kong) and weaves them into an effusive cooking style that draws from her ethnic roots, travels, and defining moments of her life. Christine is inspired by similarities in cooking methods across cultures: slow cooking, open fire, and preservation. Her goal at Villa Lena is to share with a community, the timelessness, honesty, and refined simplicity of the Tuscan landscape.
2018 Chefs in Residence
Kristopher Edelen – August to October 2018
Kristopher Edelen, also known as Chef KPE, is reinventing the modern American dining experience, developing traditional and non-traditional delicacies that are multi-sensory, using sustainable ingredients. He takes advantage of technical innovations and scientific disciplines while using sustainable ingredients to create his own culinary narrative. His goal is to help our world rebuild itself by using methods from our prehistoric diets, including foraging, fresh produce, farming, fishing, hunting and entomophagy (the study of eating insects). Edelen promotes local and seasonal produce as a basis for new dishes and finds inspiration by looking at the past, present, and future.
Marcella Ogrodnik – June, July 2018
Marcella Ogrodnik is a chef, baker, and gardener who combines her skills to create meals that are honest in their ingredients. Her professional experience ranges from arranging canapés at Daniel in New York to foraging wood sorrel at Mugaritz in Spain, and roasting lamb saddles at the French Laundry. Marcella has a degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
Aaron Tomczak – April, May 2018
After a brief stint in culinary school after high school, Aaron Tomczak left the Atlantic Cape Culinary College to work full time in order to gain on the job knowledge and mentoring. After moving to New York, he began work at Eataly, spending time cooking at their vegetable and seafood focused restaurants, before moving on to Untitled at the Whitney. Following a return to New Jersey to open the upscale seafood restaurant Daymark, as Sous Chef, he landed back in New York to work at Casa Mono where as of recent he has taken over the whole animal butchery and charcuterie program. Aaron places his focus on strong technique and quality in order to keep the food simple and satisfying, while still creating a memorable dining experience.
2017 Chefs in Residence
Lorenzo Tirelli – July, August 2017
Roman chef Lorenzo Tirelli joins us from Oslo to refine his experiences in rustic kitchens and belief in organic produce. For the past two seasons, he has worked at Francis Mallmann’s restaurant in Garzon, rural Uruguay and in Provence. There, he learned to work with wood burning stoves and re-affirm his interest for appetizing, low-processed recipes cooked with fresh and locally grown produce. Lorenzo has cooked at Oslo’s fine dining restaurant Lokk, Italian inspired trattoria Tekehtopa, Alice Waters’ Rome Sustainable Food Project, and Stefano Callegari’s Trapizzino. Lorenzo is a graduating student in International Environment and Development Studies in Norway and holds a professional degree from the Scuola di Alta Formazione del settore Alberghiero , della Ristorazione e del Turismo, a school specialized in hospitality and Italian traditional cooking.
Nina Rosenquest – May to July 2017
Nina Rosenquest of Raleigh, North Carolina will be joining from May through July. Her diverse culinary background spans from organic farm work and fine dining to whole animal butchery. Before moving to New Zealand to further her studies in lamb fabrication, she worked as Sous Chef at North Branch Inn in upstate New York. This unique restaurant prides itself on using solely New York State ingredients which gave her the confirmation that building strong connections with local growers and highlighting their produce is the key to inspired cuisine.
2016 Chefs in Residence
Peter Klein – September, October 2016
Peter Klein will join us from Austin, TX, where he works at the highly regarded Olamaie restaurant. Previously based in New York City, Peter brings with him experience in both upscale fine dining and casual bistro fare; his cuisine is informed by the seasons and, perhaps more importantly, his Italian-American heritage. He believes that food should be unfussy and is meant to bring people together. Peter will be with us for white truffle season.
Alexis Delaney – July, August, September 2016
Brooklyn based chef Alexis Delaney will be working with the estates organic vegetable garden to create fresh and simple food with unexpected flavour combinations. Alexis has previously worked at Alice Waters’ Rome Sustainable Food Project, where she developed a deeper passion and respect for Italian cooking, history and culture. She has had experience at farm-to-table restaurants in New York such at Mas (farmhouse), Mas (la grillade) and recently worked as Sous Chef at Franny’s, an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn that prides itself on being an environmentally responsible business.
Margot Protzel – June, July 2016
Margot Protzel joins us from New York where she worked at Gramercy Tavern, Maysville and Franny’s restaurants. Coming from Bard College and Wapato School of Permaculture, Margot’s interest lie in organic food and bakery. She also practiced wild fermentation from sourdough to pickles to beer. Margot will be joining us for the black truffle season.