Born in Palermo, Sicily, Ignazio Munna exudes the traditional polite Italian personality with an attitude that reminds others to appreciate life. But despite his calm and kind demeanor, this foodie loves a good challenge. As the new food and beverage director at the Holiday Inn Executive Center, Munna will get just that.
“In this job, you never stop learning,” he says. “I’m always excited and like to have lots of challenges. When I don’t have a challenge, to me, it’s kind of boring.”
First arriving in the United States in 1996 and nostalgic for his home country, the long-time chef has spent his culinary years here recreating genuine Italian food. His first job at Giovanni’s on the Hill in St. Louis presented Munna with the opportunity to cook for former President Bill Clinton.
So when asked to write a new all-Italian menu for Churchill’s in the Executive Center, Munna knew exactly what he wanted. He features dishes from every region in Italy and uses only the freshest ingredients.
“The style I have is different than lots of chefs,” Munna says. “I do everything totally from scratch. I don’t freeze anything. Somebody told me, ‘You’re crazy,’ but that’s what I like. This is what I’ve done for many years. I use traditional recipes, but I like to twist them a little bit my way to give it a little more interesting kick.”
Munna has developed his personal cooking style by slowly mixing 35 years of experience with a generous helping of love for the culinary field.
“When I was young, my father wanted me to go in the navy,” Munna says. “I didn’t like [the idea of] going in the navy. You need to have a passion for everything, and my passion is cooking. It’s what I do. We make other people happy. We make other people have a good time.”
And with Churchill’s new menu, Munna hopes his contemporary plates will complement the timeless fine-dining atmosphere to satisfy everyone. Just to be sure, he says diners will probably find him wandering among the tables, getting to know his customers.
“I love to taste [the customers’] feelings, see what they think of my food,” he says. “The comments make you grow up day by day in this business. I accept any criticism, because criticism makes you better.
So Munna challenges Columbia: “Give us a chance. Come. See. Try. Taste. And then let me know.”