‘Holy Chow’ With Cincinnati Chef (and Chili Expert) Joanna Trimpe
“The cooking is spreading God’s word and love.”
An Italian woman born in Venezuela and later raised in Italy and the United States, Itala Maria Giovanna Delli Carpini-Trimpe — better known in Cincinnati as Joanna Trimpe — has gained a culinary reputation. Staff and parishioners at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains, and likely any Catholic in the food world, would know her by her two cookbooks, Holy Chow (Cincinnati Book Publishers, 2010), packed with international and gluten-free recipes. As she cites in the introduction, her life centers around God, family and the kitchen.
As she recounted her life, becoming a chef was not among her first choices. But, as she noted in her book Holy Chow, her love for cooking began when her mother took her to visit family in Italy to meet her grandparents. They stayed for several years in the remote village of Gallo Matese. While there, Giovanna attended school in a convent, where the nuns taught her to cook. “I was eight years old and I loved it,” she wrote.
When her devoutly Catholic family moved to America, she was already 14 years old and spoke no English. “My mother, who was a citizen of the United States, had to come or lose her citizenship,” she said. “It was very upsetting because I didn’t know any English. I remember all English sounded like Japanese to me. Mumbo jumbo.” She also recalled the freezing cold when they landed at Kennedy Airport in New York, and she really missed the warm weather of her country.
“I loved my faith, and at my First Communion in Venezuela, I looked like a little nun,” she said. “I went to church every day. When we came to America, as a young teenager I did not speak English well so I did not fit in. My teachers said a translation of my name from Giovanna would be Joanne so I accepted that to fit in.” Her family sent her to a Catholic high school, Seton High School, that had a great devotion to the faith.
Later as a young adult, she began dating Michael Trimpe — who was a Gregorian considering the seminary — and together they went to Mass every Sunday. “I slowly began to understand the homilies,” she said. After dating for six years, the couple had a “huge” wedding with a priest who spoke Italian. While raising a large family that all grew up in the faith, her husband decided to become a deacon. “We joined St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, where I loved going to church with such reverence,” she said.
And Giovanna? She began to cook professionally. “I worked for my brother-in-law in an auto body shop because he didn’t speak English doing estimates and the books, but I was out of my element,” she said. “Then I decided I should be making lasagna, and there were two butcher shops near my home. I asked them if they would need me to make lasagna for the store, and I made 20 pounds with meat sauce and cheese. People loved it and I did it for 15 years.”
After that, she was looking for another job and the deacon at the cathedral told her the parish was looking for someone to cook. “The chef was leaving,” she said, “and Father Bramlage was not sure about hiring a woman to cook. I went in for the interview, and several weeks later, he said, ‘Let’s give it a try. You are hired.’”
After only five weeks on the job there, she decided to write the cookbook, Holy Chow, the name the priests suggested. “It took me a year,” she said, “because I had never measured anything. And my husband who helped with editing did not know anything about cooking, or terms like basting or simmering. This also allowed me the chance to reclaim my birthname Giovanna!”
Since then, Giovanna noted that she has been cooking for six priests and the bishop at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral Basilica in Cincinnati and at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption across the river in Covington, Kentucky.
Since its publication, she has presented 50 different demonstrations, had many book signings, and has appeared regularly on local Cincinnati TV stations. She has appeared at festivals, fundraisers and cooked home dinners. She said that over the past 15 years, she has raised about $300,000 for at least 30 different charities donating dinners at the parish with the pastor and a tour or in homes of the winning bidders. Some of the dinners have been auctioned for as much as $5000.
Thinking of now retiring, Giovanna said that this part of her life and career has been both fun and uplifting. “People think of me as a great chef for the basilica,” she said. “The cooking is spreading God’s word and love.”
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Grandma Trimpe’s Cincinnati Chili
(Published in her cookbook, Holy Chow)
Break up 2 pounds of ground beef in a medium saucepan and add:
- 1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoon of ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 large chopped onion
- 1 chopped garlic clove, or a 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 3 small hot red peppers
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of red or white vinegar
- 3 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons of chili powder
Sinner for 2-3 hours. Serve over spaghetti or hotdogs with grated cheese.