If you don't know anything about cooking this is probably perfect for you. I am over 60 and have been cooking for my family for many years and have adult children who also are accomplished cooks. I don't have a degree in culinary arts but have sold food to restaurants and been approached to teach cooking classes in New York City. As I know a lot about cooking, this, for me was a waste of time, energy and money from the beginning. Emails and phone calls were not answered very promptly and fter asking many times if these classes were hands on or demonstration, I got answers such as "If we bought a pork loin for every student, we would go out of business,"from one of the owners via email. Stupidly I signed up thinking it would be all right.
Being told to be at the meeting point in Florence at a specific time as the van would leave without me, I arrived 10 minutes early. One of the owners was to pick me up but she showed up over fifteen minutes late making me late for the first class I was taking. She told me about the professional kitchen I would be cooking in which was less professional than my home kitchen. There were plastic bowls in the kitchen and knives which have not been sharpened in ages and won't cut soft vegetables such as zucchinis and tomatoes. When I asked for a sharpener from the chef, I was told there wasn't any way to sharpen them. And the cutting of vegetables was one of the few hands on part of the class for most people. Most of it was demonstration. Making pasta was a hands on section of the class. But instead of giving each person the flour and eggs to make pasta dough, the class was divided into three sections one for each of three groups (twelve people in the class making each group four people). So at least three people didn't get to do much for the pasta dough. And instead of rolling the dough by hand which is the traditional way, a pasta roller was used which doesn't make the dough very tender. Anyone could read the ingredients in the cookbook (more on that later) but getting experience on the feel of the dough when it is ready to roll and rolling it by hand should be something everyone gets to experience. The teacher basically made everything else with the except the chicken liver pate for Tuscan crostini and the risotto. The chicken liver pate was something I wanted to learn to make and was allowed to make some of it but not allowed to use the immersion blender to puree it. For the risotto, I taught two people to make it during the class as I make it at home all the time.
The chefs use recipes from the cookbook the owners have written but make adjustments to them so if you don't follow and take notes, you really don't have the recipe to take home. They change measurements as well as ingredients to accommodate their preferences as well as what is available for the class. There are only three wooden spoons in the drawerof utensils to be used and very few strainers. There are two ladles of different sizes but that is all. The utensils were sparer than those in my house and reminded me of renting furnished beach houses. And the plastic bowls are usually metal in a professional kitchen and in kitchens where cooking is taught. They are not something I didn't see all over Italy as they were easily available.
I signed up for two 5 hour classes on two consecutive days which were the advanced classes. What apparently made them advanced was the fact they were five rather than four hours which included eating what had been prepared. Most of the participants in the class had little experience in the kitchen and some confessed to me that they never have cooked. These were the people who expressed they had learned some things in the class. The students who knew something about cooking (incuding the women in the class who had cooked for their families for years might have learned little or nothing. They people who were so un-advanced they didn't know what egg whites beaten to stiff peaks were, much less could they do it in the small plastic bowl they were given and the hand mixer they were supplied with. This was normal for the class (a word I use loosely to describe the experience).
All in all, these classes were a waste of time and money. And is it advanced? Well, the regular class is 4 hours, both include the time it takes to eat after the food is ready and I suspect there is no difference. Everyone making pasta would have not cost the owners a significant amount of money and something would have been taught to everyone hands on instead of listening to someone tell what they were doing. Even the meat one day was preseasoned and tied before the class. As for the chefs, one was quite good and good at explanation the other mediocre at best. After taking three series of cooking lessons in Bologna and Tuscany, I know anything is better than this school. Don't bother if you are really interested in cooking as you won't get too much experience and learn anything here.
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