By Lauren Fuschillo, ICC Italian Culinary Arts student.
(Read Part 3 here)
5:00AM – Alarm goes off, hit snooze and pretend its the weekend and like I’ve got all the time in the world.
5:15AM – Hit snooze again.
5:30AM – 3rd alarm and I remember that nope, it’s not the weekend. Stretch and grab a banana as I begin to get dressed.
5:43AM – Laces tied and earbuds in; I go for a light jog around the farm by my Colorno apartment. The sun is rising and its absolutely gorgeous. It’s going to be a great day.
6:33AM – Time to get dressed and ready for class. Throw a few stride spot wipes into my bag because, more often than not, I wind up with sauce splatters on my white chef jacket. Take a quick shower and opt out of post-shower moisturizer because I’ll probably sweat like hell in the kitchen all day.
7:02AM – I’M EARLY! Sit outside for a quick cigarette and espresso as I think about the day’s schedule. It’s going to be busy and interesting. I know, the cigarette is unhealthy, especially after that jog, but I’m really cutting back!
7:15AM – Walk to school and pass that farm again, then a little old church and a small brooke that runs through town and alongside the castle, my school.
7:33AM – Hit the lockers and suit up! Time to meet my classmates in the courtyard for our morning espresso. (Italian coffee – you are a beautiful thing)
7:55AM – I grab a cutting board, a few trays and some bowls before I lay out my chefs knife, maybe a pairing knife and a spoon and fork. Yes, a spoon and fork. Man, I love the simple tools they use in Italy!
8:00AM – Here we go. Chef Bruno Ruffini, a really cool dude and an amazing chef and teacher, calls us up for the demo’s for today’s recipes. I check out the chef’s mise en place and get excited. I see a ricer and potatoes. The freshly cracked eggs join in on the potato fun. Then the flour is mixed in… And then Chef Bruno casually yet elegantly throws flour on a great wooden board.….’YESSSSS! WE’RE MAKING PASTA AND GNOCCHI’ shouts my inner voice. I love making any kind of pasta, and so, I’m happy as a clam…or in today’s case, a little ball of gnocchi.
9:31AM – We’ve finished watching today’s demos and now it’s time to start the fun. My boyfriend and I divvy up the list of ingredients we’ve got to get in order to set up our mise en place. (Oops, I forgot to mention. Yes! I’ve got a boyfriend in class! We met at ICC after he mentioned he’s fluent in Italian and I asked for extra help. The rest is history and yes, he looks great in a chef jacket.)
9:56AM – We’re elbows deep in flour and rolling out the dough for macaroni alla chitarra. Chitarra means guitar and it’s a particular pasta cutter that we use by rolling out dough to cut strands of pasta… and it’s a great arm workout. We work some magic in the pan and create a beautiful sauce that we add our new fresh pasta.
10:04AM – We present our dishes to Chef to receive a critique. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad if they’re under/over seasoned or poorly made. For this dish we hear words of praise – “Bellissimo, Brava Lauren! Perfecto Giuseppe!” I high five my boyfriend and now we’re on our way back to our station to tackle more pasta.
11:55PM – With 3 great dishes down, we start assembling the dough for the gnocchi and by this hour I’ve got flour all over my blue apron. But so what if I get a disapproving look or two?! I’m having a blast! How many people get to say they’re making fresh pasta in their school that is an old castle…in Italy…with their boyfriend? I don’t have that answer but I can tell you that I am psyched and very lucky to be one of them. We roll the dough onto little gnocchi boards forming those adorable little ridges and then we start our emulsions. I plop those babies in the boiling salted water for a quick swim and then we add them to dance in our pans with butter and sage.
12:30PM – Another presentation with Chef. My emulsion was a little over seasoned but the shape was perfect, still tasted delicious and the emulsion DID NOT break. A broken emulsion is like a sin at culinary school and I’m so glad that I aced that again.
12:37PM – My classmates and I scrub down our stations to the point that they sparkle like diamonds!
1:05PM – Even though they’re serving risotto milanese and an amazing duck in the school restaurant, I opt out of lunch since I scarfed down all of my gnocchi as if it was my last meal. My friend Marianne and I decide to grab coffee and maybe a pastry or two in the school’s courtyard. We sit in the garden, laugh at any of our flubs from the morning and chat about where she went the weekend before.
2:00PM – Wine class. Each bottle is opened by a student, as there is a specific way to present, open and pour wine for the paying customer. We learn about the region it originates from, the producer, vineyard and the grape itself. It’s quite interesting. Then we swirl, smell, taste and either drink or spit. I have a low tolerance for alcohol, so I take turns between the two. Matteo Pessina is our teacher and this man knows EVERYTHING about wine. We learn how to read the bottles properly and in the correct order. Something I would have never known how to do properly had I not been in this class.
3:05PM – After running around the kitchen all morning and tasting wines, we’re growing a little tired and Matteo allows an espresso break.
3:20 – 4:00PM – We continue to open, read labels, review the region and grapes, swirl, smell and taste.
4:03PM – History of Italian Cuisine with Michele Crippa commences. In this class we learn about the 9 different culinary regions in Italy. Yes, there are way more regions than 9 but that’s how many culinary regions we will study. So, for the next two hours we learn about Apulia (Puglia) which is a region that I’m visiting one weekend and very much interested in for my stage. That being said, I’m on the edge of my seat as he talks about the different produce, fresh shellfish and culinary history of this beautiful region. Shocker: its on the water and is full of white sandy beaches.
5:56PM – The lesson is over and just about everyone raises their hand to ask for travel suggestions in this region, my hand being one of them. Alberobello, Oristano, Vieste Lecce, Ostuni, Monopoli are a few places Michele mentions. All equally rich in beauty, culture, delicious food and history. Well, now I have a jam packed itinerary for my weekend in Apulia!
6:25PM – Most of my friends hang up their whites, I stuff mine in my bag because, again, it’s full of splatters and it can’t be reused tomorrow. That’s alright, I don’t mind doing laundry. A few of my friends and I, some of the original crew from ICC, decide to do taco night. Some of the boys go to the pub to relax from the day and some of us run to the COOP (local supermarket) to pick up a few fixings for our Mexican-themed family dinner.
7:17PM – It’s time to either nap, go to the gym, call our families back home, clean our apartments or in my case, work on a blog post. I sit on the balcony and look out to the community pool. ‘Damn!’ I think. It just closed. Oh well, one less distraction. I throw in a load of laundry and then have some time alone. I type my heart away for you and sip on my favorite drink, succo di arancia rossa.
8:59PM – Marianne and I are seasoning the chicken, sautéing some peppers and doing a bunch of prep work. Mikey is on guacamole and frying up the fish. Andrea is working on caramelized onions, a vinaigrette for salad and we’re all setting the table. Upstairs, Giuseppe, Jason and Michael are making salsa, beef for the tacos, and fresh tortillas. It smells delicious and the music is blasting. Looks like we’ve all got the same ‘happy place’.
10:30PM – Mangiamo! Naturally, there are way more dishes than we planned and enough to feed double the amount of people. We toast, we laugh, we pass plate after plate, share stories and assemble taco after taco; we feast.
11:34PM – Clean up time. Rather than throw everything in the dish washer we each take a job and make the place sparkle just like our stations in our kitchen classroom.
Midnight – It’s 6PM in New York and I speak to my family, tell them about the day I just had, how I miss them so much and hear about what’s going on in their lives at home. Even though I am having the time of my life learning about the thing I love most, I miss them and I hope they visit soon. I tear up a bit and then my brother says something funny, allowing me to end our conversation with a great big smile.
12:29AM – We have Italian Language class with Zoe at 8AM and it’s about time I get to sleep. I wash my face and brush my teeth, iron a freshly cleaned chef jacket; and then lay there more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life but probably the happiest I’ve ever felt.