Author: Adele Stiehler
The first AMLA-Prue Leith Italian Programme ended last month on a remarkably high note with two of the three students graduating with distinctions.
Scott Dressels, Dylan Petersen and Terence Klaff completed the Prue Leith Chefs Academy Diploma course and attended language and Italian food and culture classes last year at Prue Leith in preparation of their studies in Italy at ALMA La Scuola Internazionale di Cucina Italiana.
On arrival in January in Colorno, a small town in the Parma region in northern Italy, the South Africans joined students from the International Culinary Centre in New York and MSA in Turkey for their full immersion into Italian cuisine.
Weekly lectures included more language classes, lectures in Italian regions and food history, wine lessons and tastings and cooking regional recipes, but the highlight was definitely the guest chef demonstrations. Chefs (many with Michelin star restaurants) spent the day demonstrating the flavours and styles of their restaurants, bringing with them the typical products and techniques from their specific regions. Some of the ALMA guest chefs include Herbert Hintner, Valeria Piccini, Antonella Ricci, Lucio Pompilli, Antonia Klugman, Pino Cuttaia, Marco Gubbiotti, Andrea Fusco, Massimo Spigaroli to name a few. An ALMA education will not be complete without a lecture by maestro Gualtiero Marchesi, father of modern Italian cuisine and Dean of ALMA.
Studies also included culinary field trips to Tuscany, Piedmont, Liguria, Emilia and Romagna, where farmers and producers were visited and traditional lunches were enjoyed to shed more light on the different regional specialties.
After two months of intense study in the Ducale Palace the students were placed on stage to gain practical experience for five months in Italian kitchens. Scott was placed at Locanda San Lorenzo in Belluno (www.locandasanlorenzo.it), Dylan at Casa Grugno in Taormina, Sicily (www.casagrugno.it) and Terence at Papillon Restaurante in Bergamo (www.papillonristorante.it ).
Cooking in Italian kitchens posed several challenges, but it became very clear early on that to be taken seriously you have to be prepared to cook Michelin star food and clean the ovens to the same standards! Kitchens had very small teams and students had to win the trust of chefs and show their capabilities, before they were allowed near prized ingredients.
The impact of seven months in Italy was showcased beautifully in the final exams where students had to create their own dishes from their stage region as well as prepare regional dishes in the Marchesi style.
As head chef of the Academy I attended the exams in Italy and could not have been prouder to see the professional and personal growth in the students. This course has undoubtedly delivered three passionate professionals that we need to keep an eye on as they are destined to do something interesting once they’ve settled back home.
See the Prue Leith Website’s Gallery and Face Book page for more pictures on the ALMA course.