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I'm Melissa!

A Food Network chef + mama obsessed with travel, and mouth watering food. I also own a gorgeous cooking school in Italy. My mission? To share the secrets of La Dolce Vita so you can create a healthy, beautiful, delicious life filled with joy!


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It kinda feels surreal sitting down to write this post. I cannot take the smile off my face and I keep fighting off the urge to pinch myself. Afterall, I don’t want to wake up from this dream. We have CLOSED on a house in LUCCA ITALY. I cannot breathe from sheer joy….

For most of you that have visited my website, you will see that under my name, I have included a logo I designed myself. If you haven’t seen it yet, I will tell you what it says…. Born in South Africa/Living in L.A./Retiring in Italy.I have had an ongoing love affair with this country, since I visited it at the age of 21.

About 8 years ago, I visited it again with my family, and instantly declared, that I wanted to die and be buried on Italian soil. I am not sure what it is about the place that captured my heart. Maybe it’s the food, the people, the slow pace of life, the history, the values… And the continuous supply of vino and gelato doesn’t hurt. I cannot pin point one thing. But on that trip, I informed Saul that we were retiring to Italy.

And I have harped on this fact for 8 years. He has tried to take us to other countries and places. He likes to adventure and see new things. But after every trip to another destination, I have stood firm and told him, to make sure the next trip was to Italy.

About 4 years ago I began my search for a home. I was lucky that Saul had always carried an Italian Passport, so buying in Italy was a real possibility. I wasn’t earning any income (and believe it or not I still don’t… since all my videos and recipes are free). But I planted it in my brain, that we would buy a farmhouse with a big fig tree! And continued searching the endless real estate listings…

About a year and a half ago I launched my new website. You helped me pick the color scheme and design the logo for which I am eternally grateful. I spent hours inputting and coding data into the backend of it. So I was ecstatic when it went live.

I called my mom (who at the best of times was technologically challenged). And I waited to hear how much she loved the end product. Well, she did not like it at all. Under no circumstances could I put down that I was retiring to Italy.

“With what house are you retiring?” ,“With what money are you buying this farmhouse?” ,“People are going to think you are mad” “ You cannot write that till it happens”, “ You are acting like a lunatic”….. my mom said. On and on and on the list of reasons I needed to remove it from my website grew. “You will be the laughing stock of South Africa Melissa”.

But if you have ever met me in person, you will know one thing… No and can’t are not words in my vocabulary. I am an eternal optimist and a dreamer. I believe everything and anything is possible. You just need to manifest it. My head is always in the clouds, and once I set my sights on something, I make sure I realize my dreams.

Just ask Saul… Within 5 minutes of meeting him, I said I was going to marry him and I did. And I lucked out, because as fate would have it, Saul has never ever crushed my dreams. He has always let me be big, bold, loud and proud. He loves my crazy totally unrealistic plans. And after telling him enough times about Italy, he at least agreed to keep an open mind.

During the years that followed, I whiled away many an hour, dreaming about my farmhouse. I could see the swimming pool and green rolling hills. I could imagine my grandchildren helping me pick fruits and veggies from our garden. I could see us rolling pasta and firing up the pizza oven. I lingered over the 2 hour lunches and afternoon siestas. I could even picture the house, down to the furniture and the friends we would celebrate simchas there with.

I manifested every last detail….And I kept on manifesting it… 8 years in total. I could see the BIG FIG TREE (you may have seen my farmhouse has a fig tree). Well that is cause my Aunty Sylvia, who made me fall in love with food and cooking, had one at her home. I spent most of my childhood in it’s branches, dreaming big dreams that I am now in the process of manifesting.

I kept on and on and on about Italy. I was like a broken record… But another thing you don’t know about me is I refuse to quit. Why should I not be allowed to dream? What makes me different from all the other people out there living and manifesting their ideal reality?

And the answer is nothing. Nothing makes me different. I am a child of the Creator BH” and He wants the best for His children. He is your biggest fan and your biggest cheerleader. You only need to open yourself up to His light.

In June of 2016, we were headed to Italy and had lined up a ton of relators to show us some properties. Four days before we are schedule to leave, I get a call from my mom telling me that they have found a mass in her liver and pancreas.

Stunned and devastated, I informed Saul that I can’t go to Europe. He being well aware of the fact, that my mom had never visited Italy (or Europe for that matter), jumped into action. The following day my mom, sister and nephew all had tickets to Italy. They were going on their first trip to Europe and we’d celebrate at least one of Jade’s  birthdays (something my mom still never got to do in the flesh).

They were meeting us a week later in Italy. We’ve organized a wheel chair to take my mom to see the sights of this place that feels like home.The first week we were there, we found a house and put in an offer. I was so excited. My dream was materializing.

Fast forward 3 days…. My mom had been given a morphine patch, a morphine drip, morphine syrup and morphine pills by a Hospice nurse. I am sure some of you remember my urgent Facebooks post asking you to help me find a ticket out of Italy, back to Johannesburg. Well, it is because she flat lined.

I flew back to South Africa, heavy with the weight of the fact we didn’t get to have this last trip. Full of regret that my mom wouldn’t get to stand on Italian soil… But I was still excited about the house and I spoke for hours with my mom about the trip we would take there.

While in Johannesburg, I get a call saying the offer fell through. But I had bigger things to deal with, so I let it go into the Universe. My sister in law Carla, told me it wasn’t meant to be. And maybe she was right.

I always do a huge Breaking of the Fast. Ninety people…. But this year I wasn’t up to it. So we went to Saul’s parents, Sonje and Jack, in Nashville, Tennessee. While we were there, a house came up on a search. It had huge big windows (something that is rare in Italy). I am all about LIGHT and detest dark spaces. When looking for our first home, I would often turn around in the entrance hall if it was dark.

It was also in my favorite city, Lucca. This is where I wanted to live. I called the realtor and asked her to do a walking tour. I don’t know what it was that called to me to this house….but this was the house. I felt horrendous heading to Italy when my mom wasn’t well. I should be doing another trip to South Africa.

I discussed this with my mom and she immediately put her foot down. “You go and you see the house Melissa”, she said. “This house is calling to you. It is your destiny. You have always dreamed big and I have always squashed your thoughts. You go there and get this house. I am sick and tired of people laughing at you. I am sick of hearing them giggle as I tell them, that no, she does not have a house in Italy. So you got there and get one. The only thing I ask, is that you planet a big red plum tree next to your fig tree, so I can watch over you and play and cook with you”.

So off I went to Italy. Heavy with the weight of sadness. But the house was all I had imagined it to be and so much more. My mom and Hashem were bringing this blessing to me. Within seconds of being inside it, I knew I would spend my last days there.

During my trip I called my mom every day. I would take her on 2 hour walking tours of the city and describe every single taste, sight and smell. I promised her, she would get to see this house. But it was not to be…

On November 7th she lost her battle with cancer. This day is forever etched in my brain and I don’t think the pain of it will ever subside. It is like an empty void. A hollow space in which I would trade everything for one more hug. But it is not to be.

I know as I type this now, with tears pouring down my face, that she is smiling today and she is whoop whooping me from up there. She is so excited that my dream has actualized.

My keyboard is now wet with the tears of utter joy I am feeling today. I know she will watch over me from her giant plum tree next to my fig tree. Each of the family members have in fact picked trees. Saul wants a cling peach tree and Jade wants bananas. Limes, lemons, avocados, pears and apples have also been claimed.

And I will be buried in the soil on some Tuscan hillside and my remains will allow the trees of my ancestors to grow and thrive.

In December, months before we had closed, I started furnishing the house in my mind. I even went so far as to take advantage of the Christmas sales. A month after my mom passed I took a leap of faith, and purchase items for my dream kitchen. My garage has been piled high with Cornigware and all clad pots. Mad I tell you. Mad. Or was I???? To make things happen in life, you have to act as if they already have happened.

And I kept manifesting it. Today, the 27th of January 2017, just 3 months after seeing a house, Saulie and Hashem made all my dreams come true. And I feel it important to add that Saul and Jade have not seen the house. They are just blindly trusting my choices. Fingers crossed. And at the very least, as of today, The Mayo Family are retiring to Italy….. To Casa Leonore’ (my late mom was Eleanor). Dreams do come true.

So this is my wish for you my beautiful friends. Dream big!!!!!! Never ever sensor or limit yourselves.

You are a part of the Divine. You are a child of creation. You have the same molecules and atoms as the next person. You breathe the same air that Picasso, Michelangelo, Einstein, the Rebbe and Aristotle did. And you will return to the same dust that they did. But while you are here, you need to live aloud.

Shout, scream, go big, be heard. Let your beautiful voice bounce down from the Heavens. Let your deeds leave a trail. Be remembered. Step into your ideal future. It’s our actions not our possessions we will be remembered for. Know that any path you want to take will rise up to meet your feet.

Everything you desire is here for the taking. You just need to be open to the light. So as I make the brocha over my challah today, I will say a blessing for you. For all of the Universe’s children. For all of you, with hopes and dreams. And…. as bumpy as the road may get, I am here to tell you not to lose focus.

Don’t give up and don’t be afraid of falling. Cause it’s the valleys on this journey that make the mountains so splendid. Shabbat shalom. Only love, light and blessings.

May the dreams you dream be the future you find

xxx Chef MM

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I'm Melissa, your host & tour guide.

A Food Network chef, author, mamma, eternal optimist, wannabe-mermaid, spice mixologist, and “dough therapist” (yep, it’s a thing)—

I'm also the founder of Susina Cucina, the gorgeous, Italian cooking school I manifested into my reality. I’m obsessed with Aperol spritzes, travel, and mouthwatering food… especially pizza and pasta.

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