TuttoToscana: The Culinary Caravan
A special team, a special project that literally travels. FUA’s TuttoToscana program expedited a team of faculty and students to NYC in order to impress audiences with the real flavors of Tuscany. What are the elements of this culinary caravan that prepared and presented 4 successful gastronomic events in an international food capital?
1 Culinary Concept
The 2012 event concept was "Contemporary Chianti" and focused on the rich food culture in the territory located between Florence and Siena. The name Chianti derives from the wine denominations that can be legally produced in this area and has given birth to important Tuscan recipes that enhance the territorial wines and local ingredients. The goal of the theme was to present Chianti as something beyond the "rolling hills" depicted in cinema and literature, but also as an area that is home to innovation both in wine and in food, Chianti as it is lived and tasted today.
Ties between the US and Italy have always been very involved, especially considering historical and war-related alliances, Italian immigration to the US, current US students seeking Italy as a study abroad destination. The year 2012 is especially poignant for US-Italy relations thanks to the 500th anniversary of the death of Amerigo Vespucci, the Florentine Renaissance explorer (and subject of the Medici family) who inspired mapmakers to give his first name to the continents of the New World.
Program academics were held in Florence for 3 weeks and continued in a practicum format at real-life events for a week in NYC. These two cities are a constant stimulus for program participants. NYC is undoubtedly a global food capital while Florence represents not only one of Italy’s most important cities but is also the capital of the Tuscan region noted for many famous gastronomic exports. The “foodscapes” of both cities are important for program participants to grasp for successful event operation.
3 Event Locations
The 1-week event cycle took place at three locations in NYC, each chosen for its unique operational approach to be implemented by the team and a particular variation of creating a special event.
Academic Event: Hand’s On Food Workshop at CUNY Queens College
Commercial Event: Professional Demo at De Gustibus Cooking School located at Macy’s Herald Square
Institutional Events: Formal Lunch and Dinner at the James Beard Foundation
The Contemporary Chianti concept generated 4 menus for the 4 events to be presented in NYC. The Queens event, developed as a hand’s on group workshop, featured Tuscan recipes in their traditional and “lighter” versions in order to provide an analytical approach relevant to the university studies of the Queens nutrition students. The De Gustibus demo called for gastronomically sophisticated recipes to entertain an audience that observed the faculty chefs’ live demo of the menu. The James Beard Foundation lunch and dinners were similar in their formalized, multi-course and table-seated formats, both were intended to feature the capstone interpretation of the concept while the dinner menu was slightly more articulated given its evening timeframe.
4 Wine Producers
2012 presented 4 wine producers handpicked for the event theme and presented over the course of the lunch and dinner events at the James Beard Foundation. Santa Cristina, a property of the Marchesi Antinori group, is a historic company who is dedicating immense efforts to contemporary communication methods for client engagement as well as label design. Mazzei, perhaps the most emblematic of the producers for its ties to Chianti territory, carries forth its commendable answers to the perennial challenge between tradition and innovation. Cappanelle is a younger company who has demonstrated an extraordinary ability in interpreting through excellent quality the historic standard of Chianti wines. Salcheto, straddling between Chianti and Montepulciano, is creating new precedents in sustainable and environmentally conscious winemaking.
6 Faculty Members
The faculty body of TuttoToscana consisted of 6 professors from diverse backgrounds, nationalities, and professions. The represented fields were culinary arts, pastry, event management, public relations, wine expertise, and digital media. Faculty members hailed from the Italian regions of Tuscany and Liguria, the Ivory Coast, and the United States.
Lastly, but most importantly, is the most important element of the TuttoToscana culinary caravan. The student group featured 15 extremely bright individuals from different walks of life, countries, and experiences, who accepted the challenge of expressing Tuscan cuisine in the United States. Each had a specific role throughout the learning and event production phases; some had overlapping roles. Ultimately, all of them provided the essential ingredient to answer and overcome the challenge. Their presence and outstanding results offer the finest example of exploration as interpreted by the TuttoToscana project – Newcomers who integrate and execute professional events with passion and acquired expertise, who share an intimate knowledge of Tuscan territory and cuisine in an international destination such as New York City.
Read more at the program blog and stay tuned for the unveiling of 2013’s culinary concept!