Food is life sustaining. We prepare food to nourish our bodies. And we feed it to those we love: it is a manifestation of that love. It is a form of expression, a communication between people, between generations.
Like language and dialect, dishes are passed down through families, maintained within towns or regions.
They are an expression of belonging, of identity.
These dishes form a part of the culture which defines the cooks and the consumers. It describes their environment, their climate and their needs. It symbolises their relationship to one another and to the rest of the world. Cuisine marks our place in history, and the influences that have come to bear upon our lifestyles and knowledge. It speaks our moods, our minds and our desires.
Through food we celebrate life and we nurture tradition. And this is just what Italian Cuisine 2 achieves.
With the founding of Italian Cuisine 2001, the precedent was established for a unique event: the instruction of a group of Italian citizens in the art of producing the authentic cuisine of their forebears.
A joint initiative of Euroform RFS and The Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Melbourne, it was supported by the Italian Ministry of Employment and Social Security.
It was an extraordinary venture, not least because those Italian citizens were resident in the state of Victoria some 16,000 kilometres from the origins of the dishes they learnt to prepare.
Moreover, they represented diverse regions of that peninsula called Italy, and while some were born there, others had never seen its shores. Their ages, like their experience of food preparation, varied.
The constant was the professionalism and enthusiasm of their Teacher-Chefs. The outcome was an unqualified success: both in terms of the standard of food preparation attained during the course, and the world of employment opportunities it opened for the students.
Now, in 2003, the Italian Cuisine Project is itself becoming a tradition. Undiminished is the appetite of Italian citizens in Victoria for the challenges of the course and the employment opportunities it creates.
Italian Cuisine 2 is training 30 Italian citizens - in two courses, in fact, of 15 students each - in the authentic regional cuisine of Italy and its preparation. These classes entail a total of 600 hours of training, consisting of four theory modules of 475 hours and a further 125 hours of work experience.
The duration of the course is 15 weeks, having begun in March 2003. Specifically the aims of the project are:
- to offer professional training taking into account the individual knowledge and capabilities of students thus strengthening their ability to acquire, organise and pass on information;
- to train people to interact effectively with clients on a day to day basis, as well as meeting the needs of the restaurant; and
- to provide a professional profile with individuals capable of planning kitchen activities and of creating exclusive Italian dishes that contribute to the character of a particular restaurant.
The course helps students to achieve placements in commercial kitchens, restaurants and catering facilities.
Recently a close interface was established between the Italian Cuisine project and the William Angliss Institute of TAFE. On completion of Italian Cuisine 2, students receive a Certificate from the Institute, providing an evidentiary record of achievement. The Certificate will also assist with entry into further, more advanced level courses offered by the Institute. Certificates of ‘Food and Safety Supervisor’ are also issued to those participants successful in the final exams.
Expected outcomes for the students include the opportunity to begin a career in the food and hospitality sector and the fostering of a passion for cooking in the best of Italian regional tradition.
Fundamental ingredients in the success of Italian Cuisine 2 are its promoters, partners and those who finance it. The project depends on their partnership and cooperation, and the chefs, Serafino Di Giampaolo and Peter Cubeta. The project principals are:
Euroform RFS - the Promoter
Founded in Cosenza, Calabria in 1996, Euroform is a non profit making organisation whose role is one of partnership with the regional and national Governments of Italy to create opportunity, particularly through training and skills enhancement projects. Besides its specifically Europe focussed aims, Euroform seeks to empower and help young people to know, and anticipate trends, and prepare themselves to meet the challenges of the new labor market. The spirit of initiative, aspiration and achievement, paramount to the Italian Cuisine courses, reflects the aims of Euroform.
The Italian Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Melbourne. Inc. – the Partner
In this project the Italian Chamber contributes significant strengths. These are the results of its long history of leadership, commercial enterprise and dedication to the creation of Italo-Australian business opportunities.
The Chamber in Melbourne offers a diverse range of services including information on major trade fairs and exhibitions, business opportunity development for bilateral trade, seminars and training services, guided searches drawing on databases and partner location, and market opportunity studies.
Cav. Alfredo Acquaro FCPA, Treasurer of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Australia with Euroform representative Dr Giovanni Butera.
Italian Cuisine 2 attracted a real minestra of students. While their age, gender and background were various, they did have in common - as a pre-requisite to their selection for the course - their Italian citizenship and Australian residency. They were also unemployed and required professional qualifications or specialisation.
- Lucia Abate Patrizia Bonciani Giuseppina Brancanti
- Caterina Briganti Roberto Buatti Angelina Carlucci
- Aurora Chighine Lina De Angelis Anna De Fazio
- Damian Di Manno Daniel Di Pietrantonio Vince Di Pietrantonio
- Adriana Falcone Lucia Formica Maria Stella Greca
- Melanie Granata David Liistro Enrico Luccarini
- Marina Marri Caterina Patamisi Roberto Polverini
- Nadia Rinaldo Melissa Rizzuto Teresa Rizzuto
- Antonietta Sensi Franco Sidari Isabella Silveri
- Maria Sireus Teresa Starczewsky
The course commenced in March with significant enthusiasm and activity, and within a few weeks it was time to put the initially acquired skills on show.
A Launch Buffet was held displaying contributions from all students who had created their dishes with as little as one day's lead time.
Photo - from left: VIP guests at the opening buffet included Dr Giovanni Butera, Coordinator from Euroform, with his colleague Euroform President Giampiero Constantini, Cav. Alfredo Acquaro, 501 Receptions, Ms Paola De Angelis, Secretary General of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, Lidia Nuzzolese Course Project Manager, Comm Paolo Mirabella, President of the Chamber and Maurizio Tommasini, Commercial Attaché Italian Consulate, Melbourne.
The Buffet guests included representatives from Euroform who were visiting Australia from Italy, from the Italian Chamber of Commerce, the Italian Consulate and the Italian media in Melbourne.
Notwithstanding the challenging time frame for preparing the buffet, everyone was delighted with the outcome.
A steady hand, some advice on selection and a real sense of achievement as the students put their perfections to the taste test by members of the VIP party attending the opening buffet.
Just before that it was all hands to the task in the 501 Receptions kitchens.
Benchmarking is a critical process and how better to put the progress of Course members to the test than by having them show their skills, their creations, their sample menus, before the most demanding judges.
Italian Cuisine was again fortunate this year to attract interest and support from some of the leading members of Melbourne's brigade of chefs.
The judges included, Simon Humble from Scusami, Rita Macali from Caterina's Restaurant and Frank Italiano from
Photo - The big test - presenting our achievements before an industry peer group.
From left: Franco Italia, our own Peter Cubeta, Simon Humble, the indefatigable Serafino Di Giampaolo, with Rita Macali.
Caffe e Cucina. Next in the benchmarking process was a similar invitation to leading members of the Italian media in Australia. The three member taste test team comprised Gabriella Pignatelli from SBS, Rocco Di Zio, Editor of Italy Down Under and Germano Spagnolo, the creative genius behind the lens from Il Globo, whose photographs have constantly appeared in Melbourne's leading Italian language publication as well as providing the illustrations for this brochure.
Both panels of judges were unanimous in their assessment - "fantastic" across all dimensions of the presentations made to them including pasta, meats, fish and sweets.
Difficult though it was to reward individual members, especially as students were grouped in three person teams to undertake their allocated contributions to the menu, Vince di Pietrantonio was judged as excelling.
In teams of three, teamwork, timing and making a personal contribution to the outcome were what really mattered.
Afterall, coffee is an important constituent of Italian life. So naturally there was a significant contribution to understanding and not just making the perfect coffee.
Photo - Master Barista, Gianfranco Luchetti from Coffex Coffee shared his skill and knowledge with all the students.
The students were delighted to receive the benefits of the accumulated knowledge and experience of Coffex Coffee in holding a special tutorial devoted to coffee in all its multi faceted dimensions.
The LecturersSerafino Di Giampaolo To say that Serafino has almost thirty years of culinary experience, taking in almost every corner of the globe, may sound like prematurely ageing him. But it is true - not only is he academically trained, he has knowledge and skills that can only be gleaned from long experience in the field.
He graduated from the Instituto Professionale Di Stato per i Servizi Alberghieri e della Ristorazione where he has also taught.
Asking him about the countries where his culinary skills have taken him causes Serafino to rattle off destinations like machine gun fire.
Suffice to say they include cities throughout Europe, North and South America, Africa and the Asia Pacific region.
Since becoming an Australian citizen almost three years ago, he has worked with the William Angliss Institute of TAFE.
Serafino has held managerial positions in private restaurants and recently launched a charity event to make the longest cake in the world (a record he has set in the past).
Peter CubetaPeter Cubeta has the distinction of a formal training in Europe and the U.K.
Before settling in Australia he worked in Lago di Como in Italy broadening his knowledge of Italian cuisine. Locally in Melbourne Peter has successfully run his own suburban restaurant for many years.
This enabled him to bring a unique dimension of commercial and small business experience to the Course, especially valuable for those students who are considering establishing a small food preparation enterprise or restaurant.
As assistant Chef, Carmelo has been a significant player in the final phase of the course, during the practical stage and assisting with preparations for the Gran Gala.
And also . . .
Italian Cuisine 2 required administrative and support staff in action well before the commencement of lessons. They were responsible for enticing potential students to the course, whetting appetites and sustaining interest.
During the course they assisted students with counselling and support. Their broader roles in general administration throughout the course have been crucial.
The administrative staff include: three Teaching Coordinators, two Tutors, one Monitor, a Director of Administrative Staff, and others involved at various levels in both Australia and Italy.
Those who had the most direct contact with the students were:
Teaching Coordinator - Lidia Nuzzolese
Lidia has attained many professional heights both in Italy and Australia. Her background in promotions and public relations and in the media in Australia also proved vital to communicating all aspects of the course to the widest possible audience.
Tutors- Rose Cicero & Stella Lentini
In meeting the daily administration needs of the Course community, Rose & Stella were a powerhouse of organisation.
As the course venue, the impressive facilities of 501 Receptions provided an exiting and practical venue for delivering the course and accommodating the daily needs of the 30 participants.
It should again be noted that the 15 students in each course are a fairly equal mix of male and female and represent a wide diversity of age and background.
Some members have had long careers in other fields and are in search of new career destinations, others are much younger and seek an entry into the food preparation, restaurant or similar hospitality industries.
Here are some of their stories…
Adriana Falcone is Australian born with her parents hailing from Calabria and the Veneto. In joining the course, Adriana hoped it would prepare her for a career in the food industry having initially worked in the retail and fashion sectors.
"I have found the lecturers and course presentation to be excellent, offering a thorough grounding in Italian regional cuisine. I have obtained a lot from it, especially the contacts with some of Melbourne's top chefs" Adriana said.
As soon as the course ends, Adriana will begin the apprenticeship she has secured with a new French patisserie which will be opening soon in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.
"My participation in the Italian Cuisine course was highly regarded by potential employers when I sought a new career opportunity to follow after I complete the course. It has become quite a rewarding opportunity"
Lina De Angelis comes from a slightly unconventional background. Her career has been in the banking sector with an emphasis on training. Lina is Australian born while her parents have a Campanian background. "I heard about the course through a friend and it represented an opportunity for me to gain a new career direction in the food and hospitality areas."
Whilst regional cuisine has dominated cooking at home, the insights into the broad aspects of the tastes, flavours and presentation of all the regions of Italy is what has impressed Lina. "It has given me a much broader interpretation and appreciation of regional Italian cuisine" Lina said.
Lina anticipates applying her experience in a slightly different vocation, probably in a training role in the food sector, to effectively combine her previous experience with her newly added skills.
Vince & Daniel Di Pietrantonio are brothers who have an uncle with a Mediterranean fine dining restaurant in Singapore. Originally from an Abruzzo family background, they have worked for three years in Singapore and combined this with overseas travel including visits to family in Italy. Back home in Australia both were keen to embrace a new career direction but still focussed on their most recent work experience in restaurants.
"We have probably had a lot of practice in food preparation and presentation by comparison with other course members, but we are both keen to acquire further skills in the fundamentals of regional cuisine.”
“We have both gained a lot of knowledge and feel that the course has been a great foundation for the direction we want to follow" the brothers said.
Their objective is to open "a proper Italian restaurant showing the best of traditional regional cuisine" suggesting that the future achievements of the brothers Di Pietrantonio will be worth watching.
Maria Stella Greca hails from a Calabrian background, having come to Australia newly married. She has two grown children and for many years has worked in the textile sector. Unfortunately the shoe company she worked for closed, ending her employment there and hence a new career direction is quite important to Maria Stella.
"I have learned a great deal from the course, particularly the encouragement to try new things and giving me the confidence to cater for larger numbers of people than my immediate family. I feel quite confident that the Course will assist in steering me in a new direction in the food industry and it has certainly encouraged me to seek additional qualifications" Maria Stella said.
Damian Di Manno is Australian born with his parents having ties with Latina and Trieste. He has worked in a series of sales positions and recently travelled in Europe, spending two months with family in Italy.
"On my return I wanted to take on a new career direction in the food and hospitality sector, so the Course not only came at the right time, but it represented the opportunity for me to gain a foundation in the regional culinary traditions of Italy. I believe I have received a great deal from the training and it has stimulated me to gain more experience."
Damian hopes to be accepted in next year’s level three intake of the William Angliss course and as he said "who knows where that might take me."
Isabella Silveri quite fortunately found out about the course through a small article in a local newspaper in Melbourne's northern suburbs.
Although born in Abruzzo, Isabella came to Australia with her family in 1958. Her recent career was in local government administration, but hovering in the background was a desire to plot a new path, particularly to learn more about the regional influences on the cooking and food of the country of her birth.
"I have found the course to be excellent, giving a very good grounding on the regional influences. Our lecturers are very knowledgeable and they have consolidated the understanding of the Italian style, which although it might be perceived to be constantly changing, is really quite universal.”
Isabella is also hoping to be accepted into the third year intake of the William Angliss course and beyond that who knows? Isabella says she has in mind a small business idea related to the food industry, so perhaps her participation in Italian Cuisine might be the foundation for something quite new and exciting!
Lucia Formica was born in Australia with a family background in Potenza. For some years she ran her own business making bridal gowns. But as a mother of two, Lucia said she has been in search of a broader understanding of the Italian cuisine.
"All my life I have cooked what my mother taught me."
Lucia says that there is nothing wrong with that, except it cultivates an interest to know and achieve more, especially when the flavours and tastes of Italy are complemented by so much readily available fresh produce in Australia
"I see the course as giving me new skills, a greater understanding and at least a new part-time career in some sector of the food industry.
With her husband, Lucia has been active with the Sortino Social Club, and perhaps that will be a good place to put her newly increased skills and experience into practice.
The joy of achievement!