The appeal of an Italian chef: “Please, help my family smile again”

TORONTO – When he arrived in Toronto, almost ten years ago, his dream was the same of many Italians who come here to Canada: to give a better future to their family. But he had one more hope: to recover from a serious pathology and therefore be able to work and give his best for his loved ones in Italy. Sometimes, however, everything seems to work against us: first the pandemic, then the worsening of his physical condition and, now, his daughter’s health problems have shattered that dream. 

Today, Michele Caputo – 49 years old, originally from Bari (Puglia, in Italy) and a professional chef with decades of experience – is in Italy, where he returned to be close to his daughter. But he is in serious difficulty and is asking for help from the Italian community in Toronto where he hopes to return to continue the path interrupted a few months ago.

Michele himself tells us the story: we asked him to put together a timeline for our readers.

“I arrived in Toronto in 2015 because I was suffering from secondary lymphedema in my left leg, with the hope of finding a suitable therapy for my rare disease which in Italy does not yet have precise guidelines or health coverage at a national level: everything needed to treating this pathology requires payment in 90% of cases. Unsustainable. Once in Toronto, with the help of a restaurateur and a dear friend, I managed to have myself examined and through a Canadian doctor we found a simple but effective therapy that combines medicines and compression elastic on the limb: in nineteen days I was back on my feet, I began to work with a lot of energy and passion and thus managed to support myself for a few years between care and support for my family in Italy. Then, Covid-19 arrived, just when I was waiting to have the treatment the aspiration of the fluid in the joint: to make a long story short, I had to stay in bed until March 6, 2020, I lost my job and I remained unemployed for the whole of 2020 and 2021. Subsequently, I was able to resume treatment and therefore also to work: some extras, some part-time jobs, a collaboration with a store as a consultant, some themed-culinary evenings, another collaboration with an import-export company thanks to the help of a dear Italian-Canadian friend, until, in October of 2023, the inflammation started again in a serious way and I found myself back in bed, subjected to heavy antibiotic and cortisone treatments.”

Then, in early January 2024, Michele’s 13-year-old daughter, who lives in Italy, was urgently admitted to hospital for a condition she had been suffering from for some time. “At that point, I left Canada to go to Italy – continues Michele – purchasing the ticket thanks to two dear friends and taking a flight with four stopovers and forty-two hours of travel”.

Now, Michele is in Italy where he shuttles between Puglia, where he lives, and Basilicata where the specialist center to which his daughter was transferred after hospitalization is located. “I go back and forth every week, even three times, and it’s about 1,000 kilometers with a rental car because my car is left in Toronto and getting it to Italy is prohibitively expensive.”

The little girl is improving, day after day, but the expenses for Michele are truly unsustainable also because, due to his pathology, he cannot work: the expenses for her daughter are partly borne by the health service but 30% are borne by of Michele’s family and this 30% amounts to 3 thousand euros per month. “If we don’t accumulate that money now, we risk my daughter being left without treatment.”

His relatives and friends help him, and it is the latter who have decided to open a GoFundMe, that is an online fundraiser: to participate and contribute, just go to the online platform and type “Michele Caputo” in the search window (you can go directly to the Michele’s fundraising clicking here). Michele’s friends have so far donated more than 5 thousand dollars and hope that the collection will continue to allow the chef to look after his daughter and be close to her and, of course, look after himself too.

“Our friends and relatives, and this online fundraiser, represent, at this moment, the only forms of support we have and which allow us to still hope and move forward with sacrifice and with our love for my daughter” explains Michele.

Italians in Toronto hope to see him again soon, behind the stove in the kitchen of some club, intent on chasing that dream again.

In the pic above, the Italian chef Michele Caputo