Is Netflix’s From Scratch a true story? Real events of Tembi Locke’s life series is based - is there a book

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The miniseries on Netflix stars Zoe Saldaña and Eugenio Mastrandra

While From Scratch was only released on Friday 21 October, it has quickly climbed the ranks of Netflix’s Top 10 TV chart, with viewers across the globe having their heartstrings pulled by the series starring Zoe Saldaña and Eugenio Mastrandra.

This is everything you need to know about the true story behind the new series - and how it differs from what happened in real life.

Spoilers ahead for the Netflix series From Scratch

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Is From Scratch a true story?

While the names of characters have been changed, From Scratch is actually based on the true story of Tembi Locke’s life - her travels in Italy, her romance with Saro Gullo and the tragic loss of her husband following a diagnosis of a rare form of cancer.

The series was co-created by Locke and her sister, Attica Locke, and stars Zoe Saldaña (Maya and the Three, Guardians of the Galaxy) as Amy Wheeler, an American who moves to Italy to study abroad when he meets Sicilian chef Lino Ortolano, played by Eugenio Mastrandra (La Fuggitiva, Carlo & Malik). However, their love story takes a heartbreaking turn when Lino falls ill.

Zoe Saldaña and Eugenio Mastrandra star together in the new series (Photo: Netflix)Zoe Saldaña and Eugenio Mastrandra star together in the new series (Photo: Netflix)
Zoe Saldaña and Eugenio Mastrandra star together in the new series (Photo: Netflix) | Netflix

The official synopsis for the eight episode series from Netflix reads: “An artist finds romance with a chef in Italy and embarks on a life-changing journey of love, loss, resilience and hope across cultures and continents.”

Much like Amy in the Netflix series, Locke moved to Italy after she graduated from high school, which is where she met her future-husband, Gullo. Things between the two weren’t always smooth sailing, with Gullo’s family unhappy with his decision to marry a Black woman from Texas.

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Locke ended up moving back to the US while Gullo remained in Florence, however the two reunited in New York and ultimately moved to Los Angeles together in 1995, which is where they tied the knot.

It was in 2002 that Gullo was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that grows in the smooth muscles. Smooth muscles are found in the hollow organs of the body, including the intestines, stomach, bladder and blood vessels.

Saro Gullo passed away after being diagnosed with cancer in 2002 (Photo: Instagram/@tembilocke)Saro Gullo passed away after being diagnosed with cancer in 2002 (Photo: Instagram/@tembilocke)
Saro Gullo passed away after being diagnosed with cancer in 2002 (Photo: Instagram/@tembilocke) | Instagram/@tembilocke

After his diagnosis, Locke and Gullo went on to adopt a child together, however, after 10 years of treatment, he passed away in 2012. Locke chronicled her and her daughter’s life after Gullo’s death over three summers spent in Sicily, as the two attempted to navigate life without him.

Staying true to the real life events, the final episode of From Scratch see’s Amy carry out her late husband’s final wishes by returning to Sicily and bonding with his family, who are also grieving over his loss.

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Is there a book?

From Scratch is based on Locke’s memoir called From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home, which was published in 2019 by Simon and Schuster.

Locke’s book was a New York Time bestseller and a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick, with Witherspoon describing the book as a “personal journey of love, partnerhood, and ultimately the loss of her husband, Saro”.

She said: “[Locke] learns to heal in the most beautiful way - through the support of three generations of women - and yes, there’s Italian food. Lots and lots of Italian food!”

What are the differences between the show and the book?

As is standard with any film or TV show that’s based on something else, in this case a memoir, there will be changes made to the final product for a variety of reasons.

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While From Scratch strives to remain true to the source material, almost all of the characters’ names have been changed, with Locke explaining that she hoped that this choice would create a “psychic distance” between the actual people from her memoir and their on-screen fictional characters.

She told Today: “I needed the space to allow the character to grow, to bend and to fictionalise things.”

(L-R) Tembi Locke and Attica Locke attend Netflix’s “From Scratch” Special Screening at Netflix Tudum Theater on October 17, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Netflix)(L-R) Tembi Locke and Attica Locke attend Netflix’s “From Scratch” Special Screening at Netflix Tudum Theater on October 17, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Netflix)
(L-R) Tembi Locke and Attica Locke attend Netflix’s “From Scratch” Special Screening at Netflix Tudum Theater on October 17, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Netflix) | Getty Images for Netflix

Even though the names are different in the show, a lot of thought still went into the naming of the characters, especially Amy’s name. Amy’s full name in From Scratch is actually Amahle, a South African name. Locke’s full name is Tembekile, although Tembi is her shortened name, although growing up in Texas, people often changed Locke’s name to Tammy, or some other Anglicised version.

Locke said: “Amy’s name is a wink and a nod to having an Afrocentric name and the ways in which it changes. But her parents always called her Amahle.”

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Locke’s sister, Attica, also explained that the two sisters are actually quite different from their characters in the show. Attica is actually the younger of the two sisters, but in From Scratch, her series equivalent, Zora, is the elder.

Attica also added: “I also have a caustic sense of humour. I’m mouthy. I think that Zora is a good sister, and I hope that I’m a good sister. And I’m not a teacher.”

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