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Italian Cuisine 2001

The Inauguration

Monday, 27th August 2001


A midst the clashing of crockery and roar of assent, thirty impassioned Italo-Australians clamour for culinary authenticity and launch a journey of rediscovery. Furious as Orlando, they are gatheredat 501 receptions, Footscray, to hear the appeals of two enlightened chefs, Serafino Di Giampaolo and Michele Usci.

Highly qualified in their profession, they will be mentors and guides through 600 hours of tuition, emblazoning a path to the revival of regional Italian cuisine in the Antipodes.

Celebrating the inauguration of the course.

To foment the enthusiasm of these adventurers and outline their objectives, is a presentation by Dr Giovanni Butera from Euroform, the Calabrian based based company which initiated the project. Adding is words of support is Mr Henry La Motta, Secretary General of the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Australia. The Chamber and the Italian Government are responsible for financing this novel crusade

Finally, a speech from Dr Ivano Ercole, manager of Rete Italia radio station and Il Globo newspaper, arouses insuppressible nostalgia. Dr Ercole's captivating story of the seduction and abandonment of Italian Cuisine offshore reachs a moment of poignancy when, to the students of Italian Cuisine 2001, he poses the question: what is your first memory of savouring food?

After pausing to reflect, the students react with a barrage of emotive memories. More follow of authentic tastes lost trough time and assimilation.

"Le ricette sono cambiate e cucinate diversamente dalla loro origine."

"The recipes have changed: the dishes are no longer cooked as they originally were."

-a comment from one of the course participants

The descendants of Aeneas, having sacrificed so many ties with the motherland he pained to find, are launching a new journey. The Italians who Emigrated to Australia in the twentieth century, and their children, have appeased the hostile Angloceltic Australians and conquered their palate. Now, in the twenty-first century, they need compromise no more.

The Chefs

The Virgils of the enterprise are Serafino di Giampaolo and Michele Usci, two Melbourne residents originally from teh Marches and Abruzzo regions of Italy. with vigour and discipline each leads his class of fifteen students through 600 hours of theory and practice in the art of regional Italian Cooking. Both graduates of the Istituto Professionale di Stato per i Servizi Alberghieri e della Ristorazione, Commerciali e Turistici Alfredo Panzini, where Serafino also taught, they qualified as chefs in Australia, with the Diploma of Manager of Hospitality.

Michele founded the Italian Federation of Chefs, of wich he is president, and Serafino teaches at William Angliss Institute of TAFE. As official Ambassadors of the "Italian Cuisine" they have presented radio programmes and written articles and texts on the regional cuisine of Italy.

Joining them in the final stages of the course to assist in the preparation of the Gran Gala dinner, is Sergio Maggiore.

From left: Serafino Di Giampaolo, Sergio Maggiore and Michele Usci.

"Sono molto preparati sia a livello tecnico che a livello culturale e didattico"

"They are well preparated, at a technical level, but also at a cultural and didactical level"

"Gli insegnanti hanno tanta volontÓ di farci capire tramite la loro esperienza"

"The teachers have such a desire to make us understand through their experience."

After graduating at the Istituto Professionale per i Servizi Alberghieri e della ristorazione in Turin, Sergio taught there for many years and worked in restaurants around Europe.

Having opened restaurants in Washington DC, wich offered authentic Piemontese cuisine, Sergio has also opened his own restaurant in Melbourne.

All three chefs are distinguished in their field with invaluable experience as trainers. Yet they conduct the course with humour and humilty.

The Students

Here are the descendants of Aeneas. Many are survivors of tribulations as terrific as his, and journeys as strained; they are heroic in their own right. Italian citizens by prerequisites of the course, they are also proud representatives of their individual regions.

These include: Sicily, Tuscany, Friuli, Emilia-Romagna, Calabria, Abruzzo Lucania, Lazio, Apulia, Basilicata and Piemonte. Most bring distinctive food traditions with them.

Students, teachers and some special guests outside 501 Receptions

Spanning half a century, the difference in age amongst the students is no barrier to communicating spirit and adventure. all have energy and enthusiasm to contribute and diverse knowledge to share.

while most are comfortable speaking and understanding English and Italian, classes are conducted in both languages for maximum clarity.

Amongst these adventurers are the intrepid immigrants from a poorer Italy who have known every linguistic and cultural obstacle, but have manteined respect for their roots and an eagerness to impart their knowledge to fellow immigrants and Australians of non-Italian background.

The focused class

A thist for adventure is not the only force motivating these inveterate travellers. Irked by spruikered restaurants, globalised flavours and subtituted ingrdients, never mind misspelled menus, their mission is clear. They have resolved to return authenticity to Italian food in Victoria.

"Some Italian restaurants in Australia don't have the knowledge about Italian cuisine: the pasta isn't al dente, the marinanra they give you cheese and they put cream nearly in everything."

-one student's concern for Italian cuisine in Australia

The first generation Australians (of Italian-born parents) are no less zealous. The youngest of their number is only eighteen, and their apirations for the course, and beyond, are ambitious. Most hope to enter the restaurant industry using knowledge newly acquired from the course.

"una cosa che disdegno Ŕ la corruzione della cucina italiana e dei propri sapori tipici regionali."

"Something I loathe is the corruption of Italian cuisine and its typical regional flavours"

In addition to daily tuition, the students receive textbooks, uniforms, and lunch.

"Tutti ben sanno i mari del sud del Mediterraneo sono ricchi di pesci e molluschi di ogni genere... Profumo di mare inconfondibile, sapore fresco e prelibato di mollusco e di pomodoro, uova prezzemolo e formaggio gli altri ingredienti che la Puglia offre in abbondanza."

"Everyone knows that the southern Mediterranean seas are rich in every kind of fish and mollusc... The unmistakable aroma of the sea, the fresh and delicious flavour of mollusc and tomato, eggs, parsley, and cheese are the other ingredients that Apulia offers in abundance."

A quote from one of the students

The co-ordinators and venue

Like the crew aboard a ship, the facilitators of the project perform numerous indispensable and often invisible tasks throughout the course. Daniela Di Cintio and Rosa Cicero see to the daily co-ordination of students, teachers and the staff of 501 Receptions.

They are instant counsellors, translators and organisers, who administer subscriptions, ensure and register attendance, see to kitchen supplies and are always on hand for assistance and advice.

501 Receptions is nothing less than the vesse in wich the journey takes place and the co-operative staff there foster a close rapport with the stuents and staff of Italian Cuisine.

The space provided by 501 Receptions is ideal for the project's purpose, facilitating classroom and kitchen activities, as well as serving midday meals to students and staff.

The course

The fifteen week odyssey takes the students through 300 hours of theory and 300 of practice in the kitchen. their goal is to gain a sound practical knowledge of how to manage a functional, professional kitchen, and work as part of a team, to produce cuisine authentic to the regions of Italy, in all their variety, and design appropriate menus.

The booty of their travels through Italian Cuisine will be evidenced to great effect at the conclusion of the course when the Gran Gala takes place.

Teamwork and a vegetable creation

At this event, all their experiences of the previous weeks en route will be called upon to present a scintillating meal of pure flavours, in full consciousness of the regional and historic significance of the menu they will have devised.

Their discerning guests will be some 250 prominent members of the community and the Victorian restaurant industry.

Invaluable on a journey of discovery is a sure knowledge of the vessel. The design, organisation and operation of a professional kitchen is the firs step of the adventure. Serafino and Michele explain and emphasise issues of hygiene and the instruments and personnel of a successful kitchen.

Now truly launched, our adventurers form two fronts, both essentials to Italian cuisine. On the one are grains, flour and basic types of dough (impasti di base); on the other, sauces (salse).

From here on, several mornings a week, students will be on shifts to produce a great variety of breads, filling 501 Receptions with tantalising aromas.

New land and exciting new territories are encountered, as meats and game are introduced and explored.

By the fourth week our hearty crew are casting their nets and their reward is Neptune's larder

And next the fields, in Mediterranean abundance: vegetables to enrich the cuisine and delight the eye. Individual creativity blossoms in these bouquets of humble vegetables.

Soon eggs, cheese and wine will be added to the students' appraisal of Italian cuisine.

The helsmen, Serafino and Michele, draw upon many resources to edify students, including text books, multimedia tools, and representatives from the restaurant and related industries, who have direct and daily contact with the culinary world.

One such guest is Mr Rosario Scarpato, the Australian correspondent for the highly regarded Italian gastronomical magazine, Il Gambero Rosso.

To record the progress of the course, Mr Germano Spagnolo, professional photographer for Il Globo newspaper, made frequent visits to 501 Receptions

One of many moments of seething passion on the Italian Cuisine journey. An embrace of peace and love after the stormy creation of the perfect menu.

It is a typical Italian Cuisine class situation with a tremendous outpouring of creative energy. Will asparagus be the ideal seasonal vegetable for this regional menu? Can a traditional plate like il cacio con le pere maintain its athenticity if warmed, and how should it be described on the menu?

Interjections, ideas, suggestions fly around the class room. Temperatures rise, the atmosphere is steamy: should it be written in Italian or translated; how will the English flow? "A hot marriage of cacio and pears" is momentarily entertained, then replaced with cooler tones.

"Al contadin non far sapere quant'Ŕ buono il cacio con le pere."

- An italian proverb in appreciation of the goodness of the most simple foods: "Don't let the farmer know that cacio cheese with pears is so good".

Serafino mercilessly eliminates an entire course to invite broader, more creative thinking, and so the process continues. In their coffee break, the students develop the discussion further, returning to the class room with fresh ideas.

Mid-way through the course and exploration of the various regions, and what distinguishes their cuisine, has begun in earnest. Travelling from north to south, students with personal knowledge of particular regions are encouraged to impart what they recall to the whole class.

On one occasion, the students are invited to produce the pasta of their hometown as precisely as they can.

During the course of their culinary journey, the students are frequently tested to determine how well they are acquiring the new information. There are also regular inspections by representatives of those financing the course, including Mr Fabrizio Vergamini of the Italian Consulate in Melbourne. Naturally, These visitors have an opportunity to sample the results.

That special Italian Cuisine feeling...

Having arrived in Sicily, Sardinia and other islands, the voyagers move on to a discussion of olive oil, its properties and its use with preserves.

At last, it is the time to indulge in the sweet life, with the production of pastries and sweets, custards, and alcoholic baths.

The journey,s end is nigh after more studies of the practicalities of the kitchen, from ordering and pricing goods to receiving and storing them.

But so much has been accomplished and the travellers' morale has never flagelled.

Lunch breaks have been filled with guitar playing and songs, and jokes have abounded.

As if a whole day of living and breathing Italian cuisine were not sufficient, evenings were spent cooking favourite dishes, savoury or sweet, to bring, to class, celebrate students' birthdays, or take to class parties.

It would be naive to suggest that there is no hint of competition between the students, while more and more spectacular sweets arrive before 9 am at 501 Receptions.

Such is the energy and appreciation of the people involved in Italian Cuisine 2001, there was no end to the home-grown produce, homemade wines, grappa and limoncello, proverbs, recipes and stories brought to class.

"Working in the kitchen is very enjoyable, because we all learn to team together."

"I enjoyed the company and also the fact that we can all work together in the kitchen wich is a delightful thing for me."

The Results

Shortly after setting out on Italian Cuisine 2001, the students wre asked if they thought it possible to reproduce traditional and regional Italian cuisine in Australia. "La risposta Ŕ semplicemente si!!" ("The answer is simply yes!!") said one, and "io credo che Ŕ possibile tutto, sta dalla volontÓ e dalla speranza" ("I believe that it is all possible with determination and hope") was another response.

Determination on the part of students, chefs and organisers was never lacking during this exciting journey through Italian cuisine. The destination, which is now in sight, has many facets.

Without a doubt, the course will already have served to preserve authenticity in Italian cuisine for the children and families of the students of 2001. But it will be extended to the broader community via the projects that each of them embarks upon subsequent to this course: in restaurants, clubs, schools and community centres.

In the final days of the course's journey, there is a clear perception of where the students have come from and just what they can now realise. As they steer into port, the pressure is on to present themselves as accomplished chefs on the night of nights, the Gran Gala.

In the build-up to this great occasion, the tension mounts and adrenalin pumps. Assisted by Sergio Maggiore, the students perfect their renditions of traditional Italian dishes, anxious to prove themselves on the final night.

Tuesday 18th December will mark the triumphant arrival of the students of Italian Cuisine 2001.

"E' stata una cosa molto bella: siamo un po' ritornati indietro ai ricordi delle nostre tradizioni che quasi andavano perse."

"It has been really beautiful: we have returned a little to the memories of our traditions, which were almost disappearing."

Pasta in all its variety.

List of students

Giovanna Bartucca
Benigno Boccabella
Sebastiano Bonanzinga
Jenny Buccheri
Orazio Capobianco
David Celestre
Sam Celestre
Sebastiana Celestre
Giuseppe Corbisieri
Rosaria Corbisieri
Angela Corelli

Michelle Cropper
Michela Filippo
Lina Finottello
Carmelo Fiore
Teresa Gerardi
Emilio Giuselli
Emanuela Inserra
Alida Margarone
Ian Margarone
Carmela Marzo
Giovanna Natoli

Antonio Pagniello
Tony Pappalucca
Claudio Pecorino
Maria Polistena
Cathryn Polistena
Alessia Riverso
Annalisa Scarlato
Rosa Simone
Lorenzo Speranza
Nicola Tortoni