How I became an Italian chef in a day: Florence Food & Wine Academy

Italy is known for it’s food. Art, yes. History, yes. Fashion, yes. {now i’m only being reminded of how AMAZING Italy is}.. But the FOOD, oh the food! Cooking and food is a lifestyle and passion that forever lives on all over the country. Unlike the states, I saw very few “grocery stores.” In fact, I didn’t see any until we made it to our third city – Florence. Instead, you have fresh markets or little shops and stands specializing in a specific item (ie: bakeries, butcher shop, produce stand, etc). I even wondered if Italians ever ate frozen food like we Americans love so much (ick, why WOULD you with the alternative available??). My question was answered when we wandered into a tiny grocery store down the alley from our  bed and breakfast…in the very back was one freezer with some frozen vegetables and cool whip. Ha!

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Point in case: In Italy, food is about QUALITY, fresh, and in-season ingredients. Eating isn’t done on-the-go…maybe if you’re a student, in which case you would grab some “fast food”. Let me clarify that “fast food” for them is still a freshly put together panini, pizza, or salad that ranks better than Panera or Atlanta Bread Company. This is probably why overweight Italians are hard to come by. They eat well, and they get out and walk around town. …My kind of lifestyle!

I found an opportunity for us to take a private cooking class while in Florence and jumped on it! It was the best decision, and by far the most enjoyable day of our whole trip. Mom agrees.

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Our 5 hour class began as we followed our local chef to the fresh market in Florence to buy our ingredients. There we were also educated on olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette…VERY fascinating and taste testing included!

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Once we had everything we needed, our small group walked to the “ristorante” to learn how to be an Italiano in the kitchen!

That’s Andrea, our chef, turning on some background music to set the real Italian mood…

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we put on our aprons and were ready to COOK!

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we started off preparing our dessert – Tiramisu – all whipped and mixed by hand…

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i was so PROUD of my accomplishment. after chilling in the refrigerator all afternoon, it tasted like heaven…

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my pictures are a little out-of-order : Here Andrea was drizzling the bruschetta (pronounced Broo-Sket-Uh…he always corrected my calling it “broo-shet-uh”) we prepared with extra virgin olive oil.

Note: toast the bread and then rub it with a fresh whole garlic clove and always only use ONE herb for seasoning. More than one confuses the flavors. We chose fresh oregano (with a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper). My favorite bruschettas that I had were topped with zucchini and mozzarella, and the other with grilled porcini mushrooms.  Tomatoes suit me though just as well. YUMMM!

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Before making our homemade pasta, we prepared a Bolognese Sauce (with soft fresh sausage…none of that harder crap) and a Vegetarian Sauce…both with simple ingredients but more flavor than I can describe!

Andrea is a funny man, he liked to give me a hard time. Though he showed me the trick to chopping fast like the pros and not worrying about my fingers! I still need to practice.

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While the sauces were a-simmering, we made the pasta! Eggs, a pinch of salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and “00” Flour is required…such a pain that it’s not so easily found in the stores around Atlanta. Whole Foods let me down.

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i rolled out my dough paper thin…folded it over…sliced it my desired thickness….and voi-la! Ready to cook!

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I learned that after placing the fresh pasta in boiling water, you know it’s done when it floats to the top. (it only took not even a minute i don’t think)

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cook, combine, and ready to eat! (am i the only one who loves that mini ponytail?! i bet he plays soccer, too. i forgot to ask.)

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Believe it or not, this was the best meal i ate our entire trip! I had seconds. And then dessert. I don’t think I can ever eat boxed pasta again and find it tasty.

and yes, we graduated!

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We’ve since re-created the entire meal for my dad….only I added caprese salad to the menu :)..of COURSE!

I am just a LITTLE italian food obsessed now. Or more, fresh food obsessed. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though. Just harder on the pocketbook.

love, whit

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  1. -TIRAMISU! I was drooling, stomach skipping with euphoria, when I had that when my landlord invited me to eat at their casa. I tried to enjoy one in Starbucks andfelt *blurrgggg*.

    -The tomatoes on the bruschetta are big slices. I’m used to eating it with square bits.

    Your images are clear and magazine-like.

    Anywho, any Italian food experience is good. No doubt about it. To have chef-fing experience in Italy is even better.

    1. DELISH, i know! I’ve never tasted a tiramusi quite like the ones in Italy. It was perfect. It was heaven. haha! Though you are entirely right, ANY food experience over there is amazing.
      Funny, I was used to the big tomato slices and a little thrown off when in Sorrento, I was served ones with the little diced pieces. Though, I’m partial to either or.
      And thanks! I owe the crispness to my camera, she’s a doll. 🙂

  2. Always fun to taste the oil and bring home those great sundried tomatoes from the Mercado! I’ll look up the school in Florence and sign up on our next trip. If you are ever in Lucca, Italy, there is a great school there as well – Int’l School of Italian Cuisine. We’ve gone twice and LOVED it both times! Great photos of the class and creations – it’s fun to read your post and have it bring back memories of our trips to Florence. Tasty Tasty!!


    1. You definitely should! It was the best experience we signed up for. And SO FUN! I had heard that Lucca is a must-see…yet we didn’t make it. I’m rather bummed about it. I’m a Tuscany lover though, so if the opportunity presents itself…Lucca is on my next itinerary! ThankYou for the suggestion. I will remember it for the future.

  3. Wow amazing photos. You have no idea how jealous I am. Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip. I can’t wait to eat and drink my way through Italy… one day 🙂

  4. I have never wanted to travel to Italy more in my entire life!!! I’m so sorry I’ve been so blog-lame!!! I have a LOT of catching up to do, which really only consists of reading everything on your blog. But, this really looks incredible.

  5. Hello there,

    You have really beautiful pictures, really do want to fly and experience the same experience,
    You may not agree but I’d love to show your pictures on my site, my clients will see the experience of cooking in Italy, and may want the same Italian dream 🙂

    I’d love a response.


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