Getting to Know You: Daniela Carnevali Alvizua
Updated: 6 days ago
A series of Q&As with members of the vibrant Irish international community to share their cultural heritage, food memories and stories.
Here we chat to Daniela Carnevali Alvizua, who was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. After honing her pastry skills for almost a decade in Lyon, France, she moved to Ireland and is currently the pastry chef and co-owner of Dublin-based bakery Mona-Mie.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Caracas, Venezuela where I grew up and studied culinary arts.
My love for food definitely started at home through my mom's cooking. She was always very generous with everything she put on the table, trying new ways to make dishes exciting, delicious but above all nourishing.
I remember when my brother had to change his diet due to health reasons, and he wasn't supposed to eat tinned food. My mom would buy tuna tail (the fattest part of the fish), poach it with bay leaves and peppercorns and jar it with olive oil, just to make something resembling a can of tuna. It was amazing.
I could fill pages about all the joy I felt over the years through my mom's incredible food, but one of the dishes I miss the most are her hallacas. Hallacas is what we traditionally eat back home for Christmas, corn dough filled with a rich, sweet and sour pork and hen stew, almonds, capers, olives, raisins; and wrapped in banana leaves. It's super special, all the family helps in this four-day process, sharing the tasks in the kitchen to create an incredible festive treat.
When I was 24 years old I moved to Lyon to learn all things pastry, but I learnt so much more than that. I found a new way of relating to food, and a more balanced way of cooking as well. After nine years in Lyon, I moved to Dublin with my partner. He's Irish and so that's how I ended up here. I love Ireland and the kindness that characterises its people which reflects in their sense of community. I've worked in places like the Fumbally and Lilliput where I've met truly amazing human beings that have given me support and a sense of belonging.
Where do you shop and do you have favourite products?
A big part of my "culinary upbringing" was growing up in a big Italian community. Italian food has always been present in my life, and so one of my absolute favourite shops in Dublin is Little Italy! It makes me nostalgic. I also shop regularly at my local halal store where I buy things like p.a.n flour (Venezuelan corn flour), cassava, taro, spices, tahini, and plantain crisps.
When it comes to ingredients, staples would include parmesan cheese, anchovies, garlic, ginger, all sorts of nuts, and yoghurt. I also always have some chicken stock handy. (None of that store-bought stuff, a good stock made out of bones that solidifies into a block of gelatin in the fridge!)
What is your favourite dish?
Now, what kind of a baker would I be if I don't tell you a bit about my favourite sweet things? I'm mad about coconut, I love it! One of my earliest childhood memories would be drinking cocadas while on holidays with my family. A cocada Is a sort of coconut milkshake, traditional to coastal towns back home.
While living in France I enjoyed pastries in all shapes and colours. Some of the most epic treats include chocolates from a little shop in the center of Lyon called Philippe Bel; a good tarte aux pralines; orange blossom kouglof at Pierre Hermé; a maca'lyon (a macaron filled with salted caramel and coated with chocolate) at Sébastien Bouillet.
Are you excited about the cuisines of other cultures?
In regards to other cuisines that get me excited, I love Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai. I find Asian flavours very satisfying, and I particularly enjoy a good brothy meal -- anything ramen, pho or dumplings floating in umami goodness makes me happy.
Is there anything, food-wise, that makes you go “Meh, maybe not”?
The Lyon food scene is just incredible, but I have to say I'm not particularly fond of traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. There's a lot of offal and things like pig's snout salad and pan fried pig's ears. I remember one particular dish that was incredibly difficult to try. Fromage de tête translates to “head's cheese” and it consists of boiling a pig's head, taking all the meat, cartilage, everything! Then the whole thing was compressed between two boards before finally pan frying. I did not like that!