There are many Lucchesi throughout the world that have worked as actors, singers, writers, bankers, figurine makers. Then there is Damiano Carrara, a young and handsome pastry chef.
Damiano was born in Lucca in 1985 and began working as a bartender. He migrated to Ireland and then to California, where, in a blink of an eye, he opened up “Carrara Pastries” with his brother, Massimiliano.
Perhaps it’s in part because he’s quite good-looking, with a luminous smile and sunny disposition, that the Food Network called him to compete in the Spring Baking Championship, but, more likely, it was a network screen test. The following year, in fact, he became a judge of the Halloween Baking Championship, Spring Baking Championship, and, in 2017, of Bake Off Italia.
He also wrote a couple of cookbooks with his brother: Dolce Italia and A journey through the tastes and scents of Italy and my land, Lucca.
As is the case for many Lucchesi — Lucchesi refers to people (and things) of Lucca and is the plural form. Lucchese is the singular form — although they leave Lucca, they remain forever attached to their homeland: the Walls, the stupendous Amphitheatre Square, the countryside covered in vineyards and olive groves. When they return, they inevitably like to take a walk round town and, in Damiano’s case, risk being stopped every few feet for an autograph or selfie.
On his pastry shop website his love for Lucca is evident. The title of the main post is: “Pane, amore e lucchesia”. On his personal website, there is a video autobiography where you can proudly hear his Lucchese accent and all references to Lucca, its countryside, his mother’s and grandmother’s cuisine.
So why are we talking about Damiano Carrara?
As both an authentic Lucchese and judge of Cake Star, a new reality show that airs on Real Time, Fridays at 9.10 pm, he almost insisted that an episode be shot in Lucca. And the heads of the network readily agreed. If Damiano asks for something, it’s impossible to say no. And that’s because in addition to his good looks and talent, he is also very likeable or as we say in Italian, simpatico.
Lucca, therefore, will be the setting for one of the eight episodes. The other cities chosen are Torino, Bari, Catania, Bologna, Verona, Cagliari, and Naples.
We would like to have been able to watch the shooting of the episode that took place in December, but the set was top secret and off-limits. A friend of ours, who was there to assist, told us a little of what went on behind the scenes but nothing of the episode itself…
“When I arrived on the set,” she says, “Damiano was conversing intensely with Emma, a very young fan, who had managed to sneak onto the set and grab a hold of Damiano. They were talking about cakes, strange preparation methods, custards and other things unknown to me; the way they went on, it was as if they were longtime colleagues. I must say that the girl’s self-assurance intrigued me. I caught scraps of the conversation: something about a recipe for some type of cake and the preparation of gifts the previous Easter. At the end of the conversation, he asked her if she would like to take part in Junior Bake Off, but she declined graciously. She told him that since regulations prohibited participating in both the junior edition and the senior, she preferred to enter the senior edition.
“Such are Damiano Carrara’s fans.
“It’s a pleasure to be around him because he is so down-to earth! The evening before the shoot, he told me that he had given a pastry lesson to his neighbor’s young grandchildren. She had asked him for this favor and he had promised her to do it. He confessed that he had had a great time with the kids. They made a mess in the kitchen but were well-behaved and attentive!
“The shoots in the pastry shops involved were fun and the contestants were intense and serious about the competition.
“The end of the episode was shot in the limonaia (lemon house) of Villa Oliva in San Pancrazio among a proliferation of sweets of every kind.
“I could tell you what the ingredient of the final challenge is….but no, I’m not allowed, but from the promo on FB for the episode, you can tell that it’s for a typical local sweet.”
Damiano is truly fond of Lucca and played tourist guide to his reality colleague, Katia Follesa. He showed cast and crew how beautiful Lucca is, that it is worthwhile to promote it, that it’s Giacomo Puccini’s birthplace…
What can I say… he certainly does his part!
The episode will air Friday, February 9, at 9.10 pm on Real Time, Channel 31 (digital terrestrial TV). It can subsequently be viewed on http://it.dplay.com/realtime/cake-star/.