San Jacinto College students and staff made the “Taste of Italy” tour as part of an educational activity for the Culinary Club. Pictured in Italy, from left, are: Stacy Farren, Christine Nunley, Leslie Citizen, Victoria Le, Rebecca Eddings, Olga Galvan, Anna Galvan, Ashley McGinnis, Sean Perrodin (culinary arts instructor), Eliana Miranda, and Nefroteria Preston. Photo credit: Angela Russo, tour director.
Culinary students find a ‘Taste of Italy’ tour to their liking
Rob Vanya, August 2, 2012
HOUSTON — A group of San Jacinto College students got to taste genuine world-class Italian cuisine up close and personal, while also learning valuable food preparation techniques on a trip to Italy as an educational activity of the College’s Culinary and Pastry Arts Club.
Club president Stacy Farren said some of her pre-conceived ideas about Italian cuisine were altered during the “Taste of Italy” tour. “The genuine Italian food was not as heavily spiced as I had thought it would be,” she commented. “They use spices, of course, but minimal. Some would say the food was bland because here in America we do not let the natural flavor shine. We salt, and utilize spices in such a way that the original flavor of tomatoes is hidden.” Her favorite dish was a wild boar tomato sauce and pasta, and she also enjoyed a tortellini and walnut sauce dish.
The Italian trip was paid for by a combination of private funds and proceeds from fundraising events. The tour group included nine culinary arts students and faculty advisor Sean Perrodin, who teaches culinary arts at the North Campus. The group visited several well-known historical Italian sites, such as the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and the University of Bologna. They also participated in culinary demonstrations as they traveled through Italian provinces.
In Cuneo, they dined at Della Antiche Contrade Ristorante, and visited a “sustainable” cheese factory and farm called La Bottera. “Sustainable agriculture is healthy for consumers and animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, respects animals, provides fair wages, while enhancing rural communities,” Perrodin explained.
In Alba, they observed pasta being made at the La Monfortina pasta factory, and dined at Michelis il Ristorantino. In Parma, they visited Le Perla, a factory that makes prosciutto, a specialty ham that is air cured.
In San Miniato, they enjoyed gelato ice cream at Camilla Gelateria, and visited the Sergio Falaschi butcher shop, where they learned about charcuterie, a time-honored process of curing meats. They also dined at Antico Ristor La Colombaie Risorante, a “slow food” establishment that serves only locally grown and seasonal cuisine.
In Torino, they attended a chocolate class at Peyrano Cioccolato, and dined at Tres Datre Ristorante Pizzeria. In Florence, they toured an international culinary school called Apicius International School of Hospitality, and dined at a student-operated restaurant called Ganzo. In Bologna, they attended a homemade pasta making class and had dinner at Cantina Bentivolgio.
Throughout the tour, San Jacinto College students got hands-on experience by taking part in live demonstrations. “Our students embraced and experienced the culture and cuisine of Italy first hand,” commented Perrodin. “We toured production facilities, preparing, presenting, and tasting true Italian cuisine. We all learned so much about Italian culture, history and culinary contributions.”
Farren said she learned valuable lessons on the trip that supplement what she is learning in class. “The most important thing I learned was to never assume you know what a nation’s genuine food will taste like, and do not assume you know how the food will be served,” she remarked. “We went to places that the average tourist does not, which immersed us in their culture, and what we tasted and experienced was the most authentic available. The natural flavors of the food was notable in every dish.” The student was also impressed by Italy’s “slow food” methods, which are similar to America’s organic horticulture. “The idea is to let nature regain control of growing seasons and farm animal births,” she noted. “For example, here we get watermelon in December, but watermelon does not grow naturally in December. In Italy, they do not try to get the foods when they are not in season. They do without, and cook with what is readily available.”
Farren, who lives in Friendswood, will earn an associate degree in culinary arts at San Jacinto College in Fall 2013, and then transfer to the University of Houston. Her career goal is to operate a bed and breakfast or small hotel.
San Jacinto College offers a wide range of culinary arts courses and degree plans at the North and Central campuses. For more information, visit www.sanjac.edu/areas-study#culinary-arts.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
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