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MILAN — The prospect of cooking for a sultan couldn’t frazzle Paola Budel.

As head chef of the prestigious Principe di Savoia Hotel and its Galleria restaurant, Budel is used to catering to the likes of Queen Rania, Sophia Loren and Luciano Pavarotti. The Sultan of Brunei, through his hotel property The Dorchester Group Ltd., will become the new owner of the Principe come June. And Budel, who started working at the hotel this year, is ready.

This story first appeared in the May 29, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

She may be soft-spoken, but Budel, 33, boasts the determination and stamina of any of her male colleagues. “You must have a real passion for this job because you sacrifice a lot of personal time,” she says. She’s not kidding — this chef begins her work day at 9 a.m. and calls it quits at midnight.

Budel came to the Principe after a three-year stretch with Michelin’s three-star chef Gualtiero Marchesi. “I consider Marchesi my master,” she says. Like Marchesi, Budel uses no more than three main ingredients, always in season. But Budel makes a point of offering regional favorites, like a Milanese saffron risotto and veal cutlet, as well as racier versions of local cuisine. Her Fusilli Gragnano, a handmade pasta, is dried for 52 hours, then cooked for 25 minutes and served with Pantelleria capers, fresh anchovies, olives and candied fruit. Her roasted cod is served with n’duja, a typical spicy salami, bitter chocolate and turnips. Her most creative dishes include a tempura-style fried fish with jelly marmalade, and a rich chocolate flan with bitter berries, and almond-milk ice cream served with feather-light gold leaf.

At Budel’s request, the hotel has already invested more than $1 million in a state-of-the-art kitchen.

“We want the Galleria restaurant to become a reference point,” says Paolo Guarneri, manager of the Principe.

And while hiring a woman, and a young one at that, was considered daring among those in the food community, the hotel’s execs are convinced Budel will make their investment worthwhile.

“I’m proud to say that we have been fully repaid,” says Guarneri. The fashion pack, who flock to the hotel during the show season, will be happy to know that Budel has also cast her magic over the room service menu.

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