Seven young chefs have just arrived in Italy for a two week immersion at the prestigious Alma culinary school with scholarships funded during dinners held for the Year of Italian Culture in the U.S. S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna are ambassadors of the year-long event along with the ALMA culinary school.
Here is Christopher Okorie and Sarah Brewer's journal entries for FDL. Lets find out how the first three days in Italy have been.
Day One, The Wonders of Italy by Christopher Okorie (first one from the left on the cover picture)
"How do I even start to express my feelings about the amazing country of Italy, and the beautiful countryside of Colorno? I’ll try to the best of my abilities, however these have been some of the most eventful moments in my life, and truly the best is yet to come. For myself, this is the first time I’ve traveled away from the United States to another country. To speak briefly about myself, my name is Christopher Okorie and I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. I’ve been cooking for the past 2 ½ years in New Orleans, and also working and graduating from the International Culinary Center of New York City. Enough about me however. Allow me to share with you these incredible experiences my peers and I have been having these past 3 days.
Monday was pretty much the day of relaxing from a very long and exhausting plane ride. A driver picked me up from the airport and drove me from Milan through the countryside on a beautiful sunny Monday morning to Colorno Italy. We were then greeted by the lovely Diana where we had spritzers and potato chips at the cafe and then given a tour of the amazing school ALMA. We were then given our uniforms and ate a delicious lunch at school where we all pretty much got to know each other over a great meal. Bobby, Sarah, two guys named Ben, Kaitlin, and Justin are the other 6 great chefs along with myself are the rest of the chefs honored with the privilege of traveling abroad to observe and cook at this prestigious school. So Monday was all about settling in our temporary cozy apartment, however tuesday we all got down to business.
Day One by Sarah Brewer (third one from the left)
Yesterday evening I sat under that same yellow glow I came to know in the summer of 2011. It was the first time I had come to Italy, this time will be different, the feel of intense learning and professional prestige. I must have been dreaming when ALMA - la Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana, San Pellegrino, Frescobaldi, Masi, Donnafugata and Berlucchi invited myself with 6 other young American Chefs, to spend two weeks learning and travel to world renown gourmet destinations. Since our arrival we have made 3 modern traditional pasta inspired by ALMA’s dean Gualtiero Marchesi. The evening in my Italian yellow was complimented by the congretional arrival of 5 different pizzas inspired by Chef Giovanni at Pizzeria Piedigrotta (Reggio Emilia). Along with 2 delicious homemade beers, limoncello, and coffee.
Day Two Chritopher Okorie
We started the day by learning about how to make traditional authentic Italian fresh and dry pasta dishes. After watching an extremely skilled chef lecture and demonstrate the pasta we divided into teams and made it ourselves, and collectively we all did great. We capped off the night by eating some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life. Culatello, and the Burrata pizzas were my favorite, after the third slice I was pretty much “out for the count”, I’ve never eaten more delicious pizza in my life, this was light years ahead of the pepperoni and “Italian sausage” delivery pizzas you get in U.S.
Day Two Sarah Brewer
Today we are headed at 7:45 to catch the early morning work at Parmigiano Reggiano. A DOP cheese. The Parmigiano is handmade every day of the year. The original cheese is close to 90 kilos and then is cut in two, creating the twin cheeses, 45 kilos each. As we tour the cheese factory we enter room after room full of Parmigiano Reggiano in each stage of its life. The final room is full of 100 ft high shelves of wheel after wheel. Each branded with a burnt seal, proclaiming it passed the metal hammer test. Do you sound right? Tell me your name. I am Parmigiano Reggiano!
Then we continue to visit Antica Corte Pallavicina, a 13 century castle. Here Culatello di Zibello is created, a traditional cured meat. They also believe in sustainable agriculture. The agritourism uses its own traditional bred geese, chicken, turkey, pig, cows, and they also cultivate a vineyard and large garden to supply the 1 Michelin Star restaurant, located within the castle. Lunch was delicious, and satisfying. In fact I think I would have been fine for the rest of the day!
Day Three Christopher Okorie
Wednesday was all about cheese. We started the day by visiting the Parmigiano Reggiano factory where all the parmesan is made in house and manufactured. We then visited a farm, and had lunch at a very amazing restaurant.
Well that’s pretty much all the excitement we’ve had so far, but the will be much more to come.
Day Three Sarah Brewer
Each time I walk out of school I rejoin myself in an Italian painting. Michelangelo paints the colors perfect. His display of Italian life and culture is true. Every time I return to Italy it fits together. I can only think if this were America someone would want to restore everything make it perfect. There is beauty within the raw old worn sculptures that line the roof of ALMA. The worn roman Gods and historical figures, maybe a recognition we too are not perfect. We age, become worn, some faster than others. Each with different flaws, still we fit as we school working the way we were meant to.
Keep following our blog to find out how the next days unfold.