We featured celebrity chef Gabriele Bertaccini way back in 2017. Since being featured in Compete Gabriele has gone on to star in Netflix’s Say I Do in 2019. In the series’ first episode the chef revealed he is HIV positive.

Who could forget that smile of Compete Magazine MVP Gabriele Bertaccini.

Hometown: FIRENZE, ITALY

Current Residence: PHOENIX and LOS ANGELES

Current Sport(s) Played: I am an avid cyclist, an enthusiastic swimmer and a very passionate sailor!

Favorite Athlete: Serena Williams

Favorite Team: The very Italian TEAM LUNA ROSSA (wing-sailing team) as well as my hometown soccer team – FIORENTINA –  which you are born within and you are not allowed to change for any reason!

Interests/Hobbies: I am extremely lucky as my profession is indeed my passion and dedication. For me, food and wine for are an integral part of my interests and one that i share on a daily basis with each and every guests of ours. In my spare time there is nothing i enjoy more than organizing dinner parties for my friends and bringing them all around the same table. The conversation and connection that always spark from those moments is exactly why many years ago i decided to open IL TOCCO. To share memories around the dining table and create new ones with the ones you loved the most. Life shouldn’t be a race..but instead a nice paced jog that allows us to enjoy everything and everyone we are surrounded by. Besides always being up to throw a dinner party with friends one of my greatest passions and hobbies has always been traveling. Being from Europe I have been lucky to be exposed to an array of different cultures and background, a cluster of history and knowledge of our past and origins. I am of the opinion that, unless we step into uncomfortable territory we will never know our deepest fears, limits and dreams.

Why You Love Sports: The short answer is that sports inspire us. In spite of the corruption, cheating and scandal so prevalent in today’s headlines, world-class athletes continue to demonstrate the fundamental nature of competition by giving us the strongest, the quickest, the smartest and most inspired performances on the planet.

What’s Your Day Job: I am the Owner and Executive Chef at IL TOCCO FOOD & CULINARY MISCHiEF.

What is that led you to get involved with the ALC and in what year did you first participate: The AIDS LIFE CYCLE experience is much more than just a charity bike ride. The community spirt on display over the course of the week each June is something that many carry with them throughout the rest of the year. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has touched generations in many different and dramatic ways and has always been a cause very close to my heart and for which i have always been personally affected by. Ask the 3,000 cyclists who participate every year to this amazing experience and everyone will give you a different reason on why they are riding. I ride so that the many young men who keep testing positive, have the support, the access and love needed to live a great future. I ride so that the kids in high school get access to important information about HIV/AIDS. I ride so that those who are positive, and those I know who have survived for a long time, continue to have a bright and healthy future. I ride so that the beautiful souls we have lost are never forgotten. But mostly I ride for the future – your future and MY future. A future where living with HIV/AIDS is a future of living health, without stigmas and facing life with a smile on our faces.

What keeps you coming back to the ALC each year: Completing 600 miles on my bike in six days, peddling from SFO to LA was probably one of the most challenging things i have ever done yet the most rewarding. The physical strength you need to complete anything like that is just one part of the equation as emotionally and mentally you are continuously challenged. The sense of community that forms during this incredible ride, the long lasting friendships you create, the stories you share and the struggling moments every rider goes through are something that touches me and moves me deeply. Everybody’s barriers are completely down and we are all allowing each other to be fully vulnerable. We call it the “LOVE BUBBLE” and it is something I look forward to every year.

How much money have you raised over the years you have been riding and what is your goal for this year: The last two years combined brought my fundraising efforts to $19,000. However, I am very lucky to have been a part of an amazing team of friends, TEAM OUTSERVE, which since its beginning two years ago brought more than $140,000 to the San Francisco Aids Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.  Last year Aids Life Cycle raised a grand total of $17M! It is so moving standing there early in the morning at the Cow Palace in San Francisco getting ready to ride out and listening at the staggering fundraising efforts that all the riders and friends have been gone through. There are a lot of tears on the ride, a lot of time to reflect and a lot of moments to understand that it is only by helping others that we can help ourselves.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about participating in the ALC for the first time: I would tell them what i told myself when i first decided to ride the first year: “Why are you riding?” – It is an amazing experience but challenging and very impactful on a personal and spiritual level. You have to be ready for it mentally, physically and most importantly you have to have a reason. Every day I ride for someone who I have known who I lost from HIV/AIDS. When I feel my legs are falling off, when i am hot, sweating, when You have the wind against you and the road is getting steeper and steeper….i see them in my mind. I see their faces and their names, their words and i tell myself that what I am doing is the bare minimum to pay respect and homage to their struggle and their life. What is in your heart is what will make you go through this intense week. The body will follow.

Greatest Personal Achievement: I have always believed that as human beings we are all measured not based on our wealth or the level of success we are able to achieve in our lifetime but by the opportunities we are able and willing to give back to the ones around us for them to bloom and embark on their own journey and dream. Being socially responsible and conscious when it comes to giving back to our communities it is something that i already consider for myself a great personal achievement. Throughout the years we have helped raised  almost 1M dollar for charities and organizations that are and will always be close to my heart. Being able to do so brings me so much joy as it is truly the minimum I can do for everything that life has given me and continues to provide me.

If given the chance, what would you tell/teach your younger self? “DON’T WORRY SO MUCH” that is what i would tell my younger self. We are brought up in a society that teaches us to constantly overthink. We create false realities from nothing so often, but the things we think are major issues always pass, and we forget about them within a few months. Focus on loving more, being more gentle, being true to yourself, be confident and not worrying as much. Reject fear and embrace love, be extremely grateful for what you have and appreciate fully the people who love you and show it to you. But most importantly, when you make a mistake acknowledge it, ask for forgiveness, forgive yourself  and learn from it. We are all humans and sometimes we make stupid choices: the important part is growing from it and let that be fertile soil for the next adventure. Stop trying to control everything: If it comes let it. It if goes let it. TRUST.

Photo Courtesy of: Constance Higley