Twelve of us in Emilia Romagna on a foodie tour... what could be better than to take a cooking class! CIBO's Chef Stefano met us at the market to start our day of cooking and learning. His plan for a menu of traditional Bolognese style dishes was immediately challenged by the fact that we had three non-meat eaters among our group. They did eat seafood, so a quick visit to a fishmonger, with questions about what fish we saw that were familiar from home, and we had a basket full of clams, mussels, shrimp and monkfish. On to the meat market for pork, beef, ham and, of course cheese and the ingredients for fresh pasta. Then down another side street for an assortment of vegetables and herbs. On the urging of a couple of our group we added squash blossoms and a large bunch of red and white beans. Now back to the cooking school, adjacent to his restaurant, to get to work. The classroom is well designed. There are work surfaces for making pasta, and several cooking stations complete with pots, pans, knives and other essentials, each with its own induction burner. With lots of food and too little time, chef Stefano divided us up into working groups to make the pasta and squash blossoms and prep and cook the meat dishes, seafood and soup courses. Moving from station to station with his colleague, Chef Lucia, he dispensed instructions, encouragement and advice. Everyone was allowed to work at their own pace and to the limits of their knowledge, but the instructors made sure that everything was prepared properly, and, ultimately, in enough time to sit down and enjoy a wonderful and rewarding feast. Of course, the wine flowed copiously (both during and after the cooking) and at the end of the afternoon, everyone was unanimous in agreeing that it was one of our best experiences of the week. I would be happy to go back and do it all again.
This wasn't my first cooking class, but I came away with a great respect for the nuances of Bolognese style cooking, combined with a lot of humor, ingenuity, and creativity. Stefano and Lucia provided us with an excellent lesson on how to organize and supervise (and improvise) in a very busy kitchen.
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