My 23 year old son and I traveled to Siena for three days last week. It was a magical trip, full of some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever experienced. The people, the hotel and the food were all fantastic. And, the highlight of our trip was undoubtedly the private cooking class we took at La Scuola di Cucina di Lella. This was something I had dreamed of doing for many years and to get to experience it with my son made it all the more special. That said, it was Lella herself and her assistant Jackie who stole the show. I had such high hopes and expectations that it should have been impossible for Lella to exceed them, but she did. Between Lella's passionate and playfull teaching (all in Italian) and Jackie who added a lot more value than mere translation, we truly had a day, and evening to remember. This was a very "hands on" experience. My son and I got to make the dough for both the pasta and the biscotti and learned how to make them both by hand. We learned how to make a delicous Tuscan Soup, not the more well known Ribolitta, but a lesser known soup called "Pappa col Pomadora". The hand made pasta was really fun to make, and even better to eat. Coupled with the pork and mushroom sauce we made, this pasta dish was "off the charts good". As good or better than anything I've ever had in some of the world's highest rated Italian restaurants. The main course we prepared was a roast pork in surrounded by potatoes. If you think you know how to make roast pork (I did), you are in for a pleasant surprise. All of this was done in a pristine clean, professional kitchen, fitted out with every cooking tool imaginable, may of which i had never even seen or heard of before. And I have been cooking Italian food for 30 years. Lella takes her cooking seriously, but she takes a lighthearted approach to her teaching. My son and I felt like we were amongst friends, cooking a family dinner. What amazed me most was all that I learned that is not in any recipe you'd find in a book. Lella shared her secrets with us as to what to do and what not to do when preparing this type of food. Let's just say that she opened our eyes to a whole new approach to things I thought we knew. And, once we prepared a dish, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Lella and Jackie and eating it, accompanied by a bottle of the school's own Chianti which paired with the flavors of our food perfectly. (the dinner and wine was included in the price of the course.)
As for the pricing, this in NOT a school for bargain hunters. This is a very high end experience and, with that in mind, I think it was priced quite reasonably. Clearly, when looked at from the standpoint of getting great value for your investment, it can't be beat. So, I'd say to anyone interested, "If you can afford to do it, you've got to visit La Scuola di Cucina di Lella. My son and I are already dreaming of doing it again.
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