Friday, August 28, 2009

Kitchen Work is HOT !

The past 48 hours have been a complete whirl ... with no pictures to show for it!

Thursday began with everyone heading into the kitchens a bit before 9 in the morning, and with one brief break for a half hour lunch, we emerged at a little after 6 at night, having cooked six dishes and been treated to a production of Risotto alla Gualtiero Marchesi, beautifully yellow, smooth, perfect in every way and garnished with real gold leaf. Wow! This demonstration was by my in-school chef for the day, Chef Silvio Salmoiraghi, who is patient, supportive, exacting. Just what we all need!

The morning had us making three dishes ... a lasagne verdi al forno, a potato ravioli and pasta di castagne con fegatini (chestnut pasta with liver). Everything, pastas included, from scratch. The kitchen is what all kitchens become, I suppose ... a function-first workplace, hot and very structured. Ours, however, has a delightful view of the formal palace gardens. The palace used to be used, for over a century, as an insane asylum, and the gardens were tended with precision and their perfect edging, formality, topiary and layout were added to with a more informal park at the end far from the palace. All this presents a lovely brief respite from the kitchens when glanced at. We have little time for the glances, though. We’re here to work, hard, and learn. What great teachers!

The afternoon saw us work our way through a spaghetti with fresh, FRESH tomato sauce (spaghetti al pomodoro), one of my favourite Italian soups, papa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), and we wound up the day with making risotto. Chef made a gorgeous demonstration of Maestro Marchesi’s style, and we did a simpler version.

Following a full clean-up, the entire group met in the ‘Aula Magna’ for a formal demonstration with Maestro Marco Soldati, who demonstrated, then fed us all, a set of delicious Italian ices. What a great way to end up the day!

The evening was spent, as most of them are, in groups in our little agora, sharing stories (some of them true!), enjoying a glass or two, and getting the laundry done!

We cook dinner for ourselves every night, and I will tell you (ladies reading this blog please take note!) that it is truly a delight to hang around with a bunch of men who all love to cook, and are really happy discussing the finer points of a method of dealing with tomatoes, or exactly how to make a particular pasta, or how ‘dente’ is ‘al dente’, or variations on the correct layering for a ‘tarte di nonna’.

All that was yesterday ... today (Friday) we have all been together for 9 hours of technique demonstration and knowledge building. A four hour presentation this morning with Maestro Soldati had students participating somewhat, and we wound up with four students (me included) making the dessert for the entire school for our lunch! “Get creative” we were told.

This afternoon we were treated to a four and a half hour long wine-tasting ... four wines, four and a half hours. Two whites, two reds. Grapes, terroir, the maker’s techniques, history, climate, dozens of other considerations were carefully revealed, discussed and used to make decisions about these four fine wines.

And tonight we are off (in a few minutes) for an evening of fine dining in Parma. Giovanni will roll his bus up; we will all pile in and, with our leader Chef Tomaselli, go off to find out a bit of what Parma has to offer.

More in a couple of days! I’ll blog again on Sunday. Enjoy a lovely week-end, all.