Euro Trip! Regional Cooking in Italy and France

Our Food Editor, Sara, is Halfway Through Culinary School!



Euro Trip!
Regional Cooking in Italy and France

Article & Photography by Sara Tane 
I’m really excited to announce that my 7 years of studying Italian have finally paid off. When our instructor told us that we’d be making batches and batches of Pasta All’Uovo, he didn’t need to translate to me that this was an EGG-based dough. Not sure how I recalled this vocab term after a smooth 5 year hiatus of speaking Italian, but I was rather impressed with myself. That said, you better believe that I was completely LOST with all of the French terminology when we were studying France and its many regions. You win some and you lose some, I guess.
Who knew that culinary school also serves as a geography lesson for the taste buds? Throughout the third module of culinary school, we've traveled through Italy, France, and beyond! 

To kick off the third module of the culinary arts program, the structure of our classes took a sharp turn from what they were previously. In module 2, we were focusing on a lot of general cooking techniques and each student would serve individually plated food. The classes were organized based on methods of cooking (think braising and stewing versus roasting and frying). Now that we’re well into module 3 and we have a foundation of cooking methods, classes are structured based on geography (we just completed France and Italy) and the ingredients/dishes that are central to region. Rather than each student preparing separate plates of food, we work in three teams (garde manger, entremetier, and cuisinier) to create a full spread of food for everyone to feast on at the end of the night. Each team is responsible for different courses and components of each of the recipes, so it really feels like a total group effort. I like this structure because it more closely mimics how food is actually prepared in a restaurant or catering setting, plus family style is obviously the BEST style!

How does culinary school also serve as a culture trip for students? Well, starting with this most recent module, culinary school classes are now structured based on geography, and the ingredients and dishes that are central to each region of focus.

We started in France, and I was admittedly lost when it came to the names of these dishes. Language barrier aside, I’ll be honest that French cuisine was not my favorite. It probably comes as no surprise that classic French cooking can oftentimes mean a lot of butter and dairy, and while I strongly believe that cheese is a very good thing, I found a majority of the dishes we prepared to be way too rich. By the end of French cooking, it started to feel like we were topping every dish with a generous hand of cheese, breadcrumbs, and some heavy cream. It was a lot, both mentally and physically. Still a huge fan of your work though, Escoffier!

Homemade pasta = free therapy with a carby reward at the end! Now that's amore!
Next, we headed south east (full disclosure: I had to look at a map to determine this direction) to Italy! The takeaway from this portion of the course is that Homemade! Pasta! Is! So! Fun! Is it necessary? I don’t really think so. Does it taste substantially better than dried pasta? Eh, not so much. Is it like free therapy that has a carby reward at the end? One hundred percent! We learned all different shapes (farfalle, fettuccine, cavatelli, orecchiette, pappardelle, ravioli, etc etc) and even tried our hand at some flavored doughs, such as arugula and squid ink! We whipped up some soft-as-clouds gnocchi, which is a dish that I have always failed at leading up to this chapter. Redeemed is an understatement! I’ve made more bolognese in the last month than I have in my entire life, and that is a very concerning thing to be admitting in July. That’s amore?!
Students are broken down into three teams, and each team works together to create a full spread of food. At the end of the night, everyone enjoys the final product together, family style! Aside from all of the delicious food, a major benefit of this class structure is that it provides an experience similar to how food is actually prepared in a restaurant or catering setting.

My parents always remind me that when I was younger, I’d oftentimes come home from school and ask them relentlessly, “are you sure we’re not even a little bit Italian?” I was always jealous of all my classmates with Italian ancestry during the lessons when we’d talk about cultures and backgrounds. I am not Italian (but I’ve still never taken 23andMe, so I’m still not fully convinced), but after we covered the Italian portion of the module, I like to think that maybe there’s a little red, green & white in me. When I dipped my glove-protected hands into nearly boiling water to turn mozzarella curds into luscious balls of fresh cheese, I felt like I was having a conversation with the Italian ancestors I always knew that I had!

Making pasta, mozzarella, and pizza Margherita was like venturing through Italy on a culinary tour, connecting with the Italian ancestors I always knew I had. I like to think that there’s a little red, green & white in me after this module of culinary school!

I don’t have a Nonna, but I know that if I did, she would’ve been damn proud of that pizza Margherita. For now, we’re saying “arriverderci” to Europe and we’re off to the Eastern hemisphere for Asian cuisines!

Learn more about my journey through culinary school here and below!