A Sicilian native, Senior Executive Chef Paolo Lafata brings over two decades of Italian culinary experience to the Olive Garden kitchen. Classically trained at the Cordon Blue Cooking School of Italy and the Amalfi Italy Culinary School, Paolo applies his expertise to the development of new menu items. Paolo is also the Director of Olive Garden's Culinary Institute of Tuscany where he shares his passion for Italian food, wine and culture with the 100 managers and team members who train there every year. Outside of the kitchen, Paolo enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, fishing, and tending his garden of fresh herbs and vegetables.
Recruited by the Olive Garden team from the Lake Garda region of Northern Italy, Flavio Tagliaferro serves as Chef de Cuisine, managing the test kitchen at Olive Garden and playing a major role in the development of new dishes. As a sommelier, Flavio lends his extensive knowledge of winemaking to Olive Garden's recommended food and wine pairings. When he returns to Italy with the culinary team, he loves to visit the region of Trentino to sample the local cuisine and products, such as speck, apples, trout, chestnuts, wine and beer. Although his favorite dish to cook at home is zuppa di pesce (seafood soup), he more frequently prepares lasagna Bolognese – a favorite of his son.
Jennifer loves fresh, colorful ingredients, which explains her passion for the Sicily region of Italy and the robust flavors of its trademark produce and ingredients. As Executive Chef for Olive Garden, Jennifer has enjoyed her travels here and throughout Italy seeking inspiration for Olive Garden's menu and many promotions throughout the year, a process that she helps lead for the company. With a degree from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, Jennifer is an integral part of the refinement process in which hundreds of dish ideas are brought back to the Olive Garden test kitchen, resulting in a few special dishes that will be enjoyed by Olive Garden guests. Asked to name her favorite dish to cook at home, she offers a simple insight, "My family loves anything with pasta…what makes them happy, makes me happy to cook."
Marie's passion for food and cooking was inherited from her mother, who crafted the family's meals from scratch. Marie translated that passion into culinary excellence, innovation and guest delight, by working in the kitchens of some of the country's most illustrious restaurants, including as a guest chef at the James Beard House in New York City. Hooked on the energy of working in restaurants, Marie joined the Olive Garden team in 2006 as the Director of Culinary Development. She now helps transform dish concepts, inspired from Italy, into a reality for guests by supporting executional excellence at more than 691 Olive Garden restaurants. What's her favorite dish? She loves Olive Garden's soups for their freshness, and recommends the Herb-Grilled Salmon for its simple preparation and great flavor.