I’m glad my daughter and I took the Cooking Classes in Rome course last Saturday. Via dei Fienaroli, 5, in Trastevere. Ten of us from U.S.A., two no-shows. Dio benedica America. We were welcomed by thirty-something Erica, a pleasant American-Italian.
1. The cucina was fully appointed, though a bit small, with cutting boards and implements for all. Andrea, a forty-something Italian food fanatic, presides there. He goes daily to the Monteverde wholesale market for the freshest possible produce. Entirely local. (Except their mozzarella di bufala is from Naples, where the buffaloes roam better.) As we have discovered, Italians don’t import produce – so everything is in season. So, in July, artichokes are as rare as a heavy snowfall.
I’m an experienced cook, but I learned some valuable techniques from Andrea.
• Baking vegetables with the ends uncut seals in the flavor and makes them easier to core.
• Don’t peel garlic.
• Douse plum tomatoes in simmering water. The skin slips right off – good start for a simple
• It’s fun to crank fresh pasta out from a machine. (Especially if someone else makes the dough and cleans up afterward.)
• Diced fried zucchini flowers go well on sautéed zucchini.
• Unfiltered and cloudy olive oil tastes better.
Andrea is a decidedly Alpha male whose devotion to cooking sometimes takes the form of needling adult clients. For example, he called a favorite of mine, the open-air San Cosimato produce market, the worst in Rome. (Maybe better to say that his market was far superior.) Also to my daughter, “You Americans like plates full of raw vegetables with ranch dressing, don’t you?” (Or, nothing like a good vinaigrette.)
Several items bothered us.
After laudably having us wash hands before cooking, there was only one towel for all.
Several sizzling pans had handles sticking out.
A nine-year-old girl (who did a lot of the cooking) flambéed peaches with brandy.
2. Despite the drawbacks, the lessons were valuable. But at the following lunch we had helped prepare, things went downhill. Erica and Andrea served sporadically. Paper napkins and cold plates. No bread. Wine glasses skimpily poured late, no refills. Greasy baked potatoes.
A good cook may teach well, but isn't necessarily a good chef. Q.E.D.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
July 31, 2013
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As always, we are glad to read that you picked-up a few things from the cooking class. And as always we're glad to receive clients comments when they are truthful, but having spent most of your time out of the kitchen, I'm sure you may have missed things.
First and foremost your comment comes from a point of view of a client like yourself that spent most of the time of the cooking class sitting in the dining room, rather than partaking actively to the class. It's not a problem that you needed to sit and relax but when Erica asked if you would like to sit closer to the kitchen so you could follow what was going on your response was "I'm fine right here". It seemed you preferred to be in the dinning room eating and enjoying the food I had left on the table for the morning snack, instead of in the kitchen with the rest of the class.
You may have found that I was an "Alpha" male (as written), because of my control in the kitchen where I had continuously tried to keep all the foods separate for your daughter during the preparation of the meal (as she explained very insistently that she does not eat pork). But as soon as the food was ready and served to taste, you came into the kitchen and with 1 spoon (always the same, without caring to wash it after each taste or bite) you started to taste all the dishes mixing all the non pork dishes with the pork dishes. At that moment, I needed to take the situation into control and ask you not to contaminate the pork dishes with the vegetarian ones, in respect of your daughter. We worked so hard and long to keep things uncontaminated and you mixed them back together. In a cooking class we usually prepare 4 dishes, and during your class we had 8 dishes served for lunch in order to satisfy everyones needs and requests, including your daughter's.
As for the comments about the markets, you had asked my opinion, if asked, I will tell you what I think. But no one said my opinion is better than yours or vice versa, they are just opinions.
And in all honesty about the "American" comment, you may not have been listening closely: 1. I never use "You Americans" (it's definitely NOT my style) and 2. If I am making comparisons it is not to say one person does it better, it's that the two cultures do it differently. This is mentioned several times during the lesson- no one does it better- just different. And regarding your daughter, I remember clearly that she kept eating raw vegetables and all I asked was: "Do you like eating raw vegetables? and Do you like to deep them into some kind of sauces?". There was no direct comment made as you wrote about insulting the culture or something else. I respect your point of view, but I do not think your comment is fair towards me (there may have been something else personal that you didn't like about me).
Lets always keep in mind that you were at a cooking class, you were not dinning at a restaurant. The "cooking" is the largest part of the class, don't get me wrong the meal is a large part too because you get to taste your creations but I don't understand how paper napkins on the table are a problem. And also there were no plates served cold, other than the marinated peppers, which are served cold.
There was only 1 dish served slowly- as I cleared announced to the whole table- that for Carbonara to make it come out the way it was needed you have to sauté it in smaller portions. For this reason everyone else from the table joined the kitchen to take part to the preparation of this dish, but neither you or your daughter returned to the kitchen. I normally try to avoid Carbonara on the menu as it takes a few extra minutes to get all the plates out. During your class it was a request from a client, and I always do my best to full-fill the request and accommodate the client's wants.
As for the bread (like mentioned in previous reviews) it is not served at the dinner table because otherwise everyone fills up on bread and you won't enjoy all the dishes prepared. I need to mention again that we served 8 dishes for the meal, and no one would be able to make it through the whole meal with bread included. I normally do not mention this during the class as there is so much food on the table that usually no one is looking for bread. Again you were at a cooking school not a restaurant, the service is different.
As for the comment regarding the 9 year old girl, I personally think that it is inappropriate. During the class I always ask everyone if they want to participate in the cooking or not, and she was the one that offered herself to do it. Her mom was with her, I think the mother would have said something if there was any danger. I am always in control making sure no one is running any risks and everyone is having a good time. Maybe you would have preferred to do it yourself. In this case you should have volunteered, and not just sat back and commented about it.
All-in-all, you may have been looking for a different experience but we don't believe you took on the full experience as you did not pass much time in the kitchen and at the dinning table you had expectations of being in a restaurant, instead of a cooking class.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.