I spent a week in Florence in mid July with my Mum. I booked two tours with FlorenceTown prior to departing Australia - a cooking class and the Bike ride through Tuscany. Confirmation and everything went well and I was very excited, all-be-it a little nervous for the bike ride.
Here, I'm going to talk about the Cooking Class.
I am not an amazing cook. I like to cook, but I am no chef or anything. I have previously done a cooking course in Paris, where I learnt SO much and had a truly hands on experience, which is what I was hoping I would get out of this class. I arrived on time and was surprised to see many more people turning up for the same class.... in the end we ended up being a class of 23, plus the two chefs. This was a bit off putting as my last cooking class had been a smaller group of around 6-8 people and I wasn't sure how we were all going to get a hands on experience. When I booked this tour I was assured that it would not be a large group, so I thought around 10-12. Well, I was wrong. This large number of participants made it very difficult to enjoy the market tour and the demonstration as I was pushed to the back of the shop in the market so that the 22 other people were accommodated. Very disappointing!
Following the tasting we were herded around the market by Giovanni who seemed to treat us as if we didn't know anything about fresh produce, showing us a tomato and explaining what it was. He seemed to have something against Americans, constantly referring to them and saying their food is not Italian. Glad I'm not American! We didn't really get introduced to the market, as we were only taken to a few areas where Giovanni said a few words, picked up some things and then moved on. Again, disappointing.
When we arrived at the 'Kitchen' we were told to leave our things up stairs, wash our hands, put on an apron and sit down. The chefs then disappeared for about 8 minutes, and we all sat awkwardly around the large marble bench. Our 'cooking class' was more a watch and try for two seconds and move on. Not exactly hands on! We got to whisk egg whites for 1 minute then pass it on, mix egg yolks for 30seconds then pass it on, then fold in cheese for a few turns and then pass it on....Following this you can slap together your tiramisu (non alcoholic to cater for the kids and only three biscuits so it ends up mostly being the 'cream' in the glass). We did get to make our own pasta dough and make ravioli and 'noodles' (nothing new). However, you don't get to eat your own. It is all thrown in together (which you don't get to see either) and then served in large platters. Not a big deal, unless, like me, you're left with the ones that have exploded and no longer have any filling, after you had ensured that yours were sealed and would not turn out like this... Awesome. After reading some of the other reviews I'm sure I will get a reply saying that this is the idea, and that it is meant to be a communal cooking class, and not a professional one but I'm sorry, this is crap! At the Paris cooking class we were all given a job to do, which was all demonstrated, and we all got a turn at doing something, completely supervised by our excellent and enthusiastic teacher. We all got to know each other in this setting, and all were happy that we had contributed to the meal and had learnt everything about how to cook it. During the Florence class however, you make the pasta, it's then taken to the kitchen and returns cooked and in the sauce. We were not told what would be happening, how long it was cooked for or anything! I thought this was a cooking class, not a preparation class!
While we ate the Tiramisu Giovanni unenthusiastically threw us our certificates and placed a tip box on the marble bench, after which he disappeared into the small kitchen on the side not saying anything else to anyone. We were then left to put our dishes on the sink (one nice lady actually got stuck washing them!) and to leave awkwardly out of the door, without any directions of how to get back or where we were.
Just to finish off about the cooking class, although Andres who led us too the market place and left us with the first lady in the stall, was nice enough, Giovanni had an arrogance about him that was not pleasant. He acted as though he was above everyone, and criticised people for the slightest wrong doing when making pasta. Luckily mine turned out great, and he acted as though it was a huge surprise, but I witnessed as others struggled and rather than offer encouragement or support, he was quick to criticise and scold, simply taking their dough away and finishing the process for them.
This class seems to be aimed at people who have no experience AT ALL in the kitchen, although the experience you get here probably wont help you that much...
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