Welcome to CiboChat!

CiboChat is the Food and Culture blog of FUA Florence University of the Arts. This blog project reflects our aim to share the cultural and especially gastronomic experiences of our students, faculty, staff, and Florentine locals. Check out our Florentine Food Guide for how to dine like a local!


TuttoToscana - James Beard Foundation

4th Annual Alumni Dinner at the James Beard Foundation

By Kerry Callender

FUA Alumni Dinner Closes Off TuttoToscana 2017.

Traveling from as far away as California, to as close by as downtown Manhattan, FUA alumni reunited with old classmates to share memories, network and celebrate all things Tuscan! The rainy weather did little to dampen the high spirits of former students from various academic and professional backgrounds who are all connected by the FUA experience.

The evening’s menu echoed the 2017 TuttoToscana theme, Fragments of Tuscany, and contained whimsical descriptions of the dishes written by the current FUA creative writing students. Featured wines for the evening included a Vernaccia DOCG 2016 and a Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2015, both from the La Lastra winery.

Organized by the FUA Alumni Association, proceeds from the ticket sales will go towards funding a scholarship in memory of Apicius alumnus Cody Durbin. Each attendee received one raffle ticket with the option to purchase additional tickets by giving a donation to the scholarship. The prizes were very interesting this year. First prize was a wine tour for two with Apicius Friends wine producer, guided by an Apicius wine professor. Second prize included a Florence City wine tour for two, guided by an Apicius wine professor. The third prize consisted of a dinner for two at a local Florentine restaurant.

The event was also an opportunity to unveil the FUA Alumni Ambassador Program, which will launch in 2018. The Ambassador Program will draw upon interested alumni to serve as mentors to prospective and current students, act as a point of reference for Alumni peer-networking, support FUA staff in promoting FUA programs and events, and provide feedback and suggestions to the On-Campus Alumni Coordinator in Florence.

As we checked-in our alums at the entrance, gave them their raffle tickets for the evening, invited them to sign the memory book, and directed them to the reception area, we heard story after story about how the FUA experience impacted their lives. These stories of the transformational FUA experience are waiting to be shared with a whole new generation of students, so they too can become a part of the rich tapestry that is the FUA family.

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TuttoToscana 2017 – James Beard Foundation Gala Dinner

By Kerry Callender

The capstone event of the TuttoToscana event week was a success!

The big day had finally arrived and the event was sold out! Months of painstaking planning, weeks of trials and tastings, and long days of intense preparation had culminated in the most anticipated event of the TuttoToscana cycle – the gala dinner at the James Beard Foundation.

Brigade members reported to the James Beard House at 8:00 am to begin production, while the front-of-the-house team huddled in the fourth-floor board room to work out last minute details for the evening’s menu and wine presentation.

Under the curious gaze of some guests and the JBF Kitchen Cam, brigade members prepared a lavish six-course meal reflecting the theme Fragments of Tuscany. The mild October weather proved ideal for serving the aperitivo course in the outdoor garden area and the evening got off to a great start. Guests occupied tables on three floors of the House and seated service began with a baccalà antipasto, exquisitely paired with a Montecarlo Rosso DOC 2015 from Fattoria del Teso.

JBF staff served course after course with clockwork precision and each was enthusiastically received by our guests. From the electric energy of the dining room, to the bare contents of finished plates, to the smiles and compliments from diners, we garnered positive feedback about the guest experience in real time.

Wine and olive oil representatives, Enrico Contini of Vias Imports Ltd. (wine) and Joanne Lacina of Sun Grove Foods, Inc. (representing Pruneti olive oil), were also on hand to talk to guests about their respective products featured at the dinner. Many people took advantage of the opportunity to speak directly with our providers as they both stayed for the entire evening interacting with guests and energizing the front-of-the house team.

It was a great honor to welcome Francesco Genuardi, Consul General of Italy in New York and Deputy Consul, Isabella Periotto to the JBF gala dinner. FUA guests also included faculty and administrators from several educational institutions such as Fairfield University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Johnson & Wales University, Kirkwood Community College, Robert Morris University, Rutgers University, SUNY Stony Brook University, University of South Florida, Truman High School, and the High School of Fashion Industries.

Dinner ended with the presentation of our talented brigade, who were greeted with rousing applause from guests. It was their moment in the spotlight and boy did they shine! Brigade member, Justin Parrish, captures the team’s consensus about the TuttoToscana experience:

From Tuscany to New York City to the kitchen at the James Beard House, this last month has been an unforgettable experience with weeks full of long days, hard work and intense preparation. The honor of cooking in the kitchen of James Beard is something I will never forget and will always cherish. The memories of our flavors, the faces of our team and the feeling of watching beautiful food go out of the kitchen are the moments that I will always remember.

As the TuttoToscana team presented Fragments of Tuscany to a receptive New York audience, the memory of this experience has been indelibly etched in our hearts and minds.

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The TuttoToscana Team Dines at JBF

By Kerry Callender

The TuttoToscana brigade shed their chef coats to dine as JBF guests.

In a delicious twist on our experiential learning activities, the TuttoToscana team dined as guests at the James Beard House over the course of two evenings. In preparation for our upcoming events at the House, we observed the dining room operations and food production from the guest perspective. It was also an opportunity to meet the JBF staff we would be working with over the next two days.

The baking and pastry teams were guests of chef Michael Rozzi and wine director Michael Cohen of 1770 House restaurant in East Hampton, NY. The theme of the event was “Chef, Farmer, and Winemaker.” The next evening, the culinary and front-of-the-house teams dined as guests of chef Sean Sherman, founder of The Sioux Chef and co-author of a new cookbook. Chef Sherman’s work focuses on revitalizing Native American cuisine and rediscovering their food paths lost through colonization.

Brigade members got a close-up view of the food production during a JBF event. Considered a “performance space” for visiting chefs, the team could now appreciate the ongoing interaction with guests who pressed into the kitchen to observe chefs at work. As the front-of-the-house team members, we were impressed with the smooth efficiency of the JBF staff as they navigated service on four different floors. Wine service combined adept pours with engaging narratives about the wines being served that evening. Dining at the Foundation helped our entire team understand the expectations for service and we felt up to the challenge.

Here, we introduce the final group of the brilliant 2017 TuttoToscana brigade:

Baking & Pastry:
Jordan Moorer – USA
After a successful experience last year, Jordan returned to participate in both the Florence and New York legs of the TuttoToscana program. Jordan is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, with a Bachelor’s and Associate’s degree in Baking & Pastry Arts. This year she took on many leadership responsibilities in the brigade, and considers it a privilege to be mentored by Chef Simone.

Samantha Thomas – USA
Renaissance woman “Sammy” Thomas has a Bachelor’s degree in Modern Foreign Languages from James Madison University and a Master’s degree in Teaching Italian from Stony Brook University. She made the connection to FUA while taking language and pastry courses at Suffolk Community College. After studying at Apicius this summer, Sammy returned to Florence to participate in the TuttoToscana program. As a native New Yorker, it was exciting to showcase her baking skills at the JBF. 

Chen Liang (Brian) Chun – Taiwan
Brian Chun is in his final semester of the two-year culinary arts career program at Apicius and plans to enroll in the Master’s program in Italian Cuisine. With his focus on understanding the culinary world from an international perspective, Brian jumped at the chance to be a part of the TuttoToscana team in New York.

Cora Gains – USA
Cora Gains is studying Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry Arts, along with Food Service Management at Johnson & Wales University. She will complete her Bachelor’s degree next spring and plans to continue with graduate studies in supply chain management. After spending the summer studying at Apicius, Cora returned to Florence to participate in TuttoToscana. Her study abroad experiences have reaffirmed her desire to pursue a career that involves the foods of the world.

Ileana Collado – USA
Ileana is a third-semester Master’s student in the Culinary Arts program at Apicius. A native New Yorker, she considers it an honor to participate with the 2017 brigade to produce two separate dinners for guests at the James Beard House. Ileana is simultaneously pursuing her Sommelier Certification with FISAR, she is currently on the second of the three levels. Someday, she hopes to have an Italian-based gastronomy tourism business.

Kevin Pesapane – USA
Kevin Pesapane is studying Culinary Nutrition and Research & Development at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island. After completing his Bachelor’s degree, he plans to pursue a graduate degree in business administration. Kevin spent the summer mastering new culinary techniques at Apicius and is thrilled to bring traditional Tuscan cuisine to his native New York.

Matthew Greiner – USA
Matt is a Culinary Arts student from Kirkwood Community College in Iowa. As a member of the first contingent from Kirkwood, Matt studied at Apicius this past June and returned to participate in both the Florence and New Yok legs of the TuttoToscana program.

Thomas Jobin – Canada
Thomas will complete his two-year Culinary Arts program at Apicius this month. Originally from Calgary, Canada, participating in TuttoToscana has given Thomas valuable insight into working in the fine dining industry and has confirmed his decision to purse a culinary degree.

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Host Katie Rosenberg with Artist Lorenzo Brini

By Kerry Callender

New York City guests journey through Tuscany via art, food and wine.

The 2017 TuttoToscana event week got off to a great start with an art aperitivo featuring the work of artist Lorenzo Brini. It is the first time in the program’s 13-year history that an art event has been included in the week-long roster.

The exhibition was presented in a private showing to about 60 guests at the home of Katie Rosenberg in New York City. Using mixed media, including ink and watercolor on cotton paper, Brini’s narrative drawings included recognizable “fragments” of Tuscan culture and environment.

Guests were treated to a live drawing performance by the artist during the event and remarkably, all 13 pieces of art were sold by the end of the evening.

In addition to the artwork, guests experienced Tuscany through the food and wine. The finger food aperitivo included playful tastings of emblematic Tuscan elements and was graciously served by the TuttoToscana brigade. Menu items were carefully paired with a selection of distinctive Tuscan wines that reflect the unique terroir of the region.

The TuttoToscana inaugural art event was an absolute success, paving the way to make this format a permanent addition to the event roster.

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Visit with TuttoToscana’s Wine Sponsors Vias Imports Ltd.

By Yedi Scargall

The TuttoToscana wine service team meets Vias Imports Ltd, the wine importer and distributor that will be providing the wine for the week of events in NYC.

As the TuttoToscana wine service team, we had the remarkable opportunity to visit the New York City headquarters of Vias Imports Ltd. We were thrilled to meet with members of their operational and sales staff. In a first-time collaboration for Florence University of the Arts TuttoToscana program, the wines being served have been provided by this New York-based wine importer and distributor. Vias offers one of the most comprehensive portfolios of high-quality, unique, and distinctive Italian wines in the U.S. market.

The passion and dedication of the Vias staff quickly became evident as our meeting progressed. The company’s commitment to wine education aligns well with the mission of TuttoToscana as an academic program. Giuseppe Capuano, Director of Operations, encouraged us to develop a sound understanding of the history, geography and technical profile of the wines we will present this week. The culture of education fostered by this company is apparent in every element of their work. As a final treat, we toured the New York City wine cellars with Enrico Contini, Vias Purchase & Traffic Manager, and saw the range of producers the company represents.

Meet the TuttoToscana front of the house team and the final roundup of our culinary brigades:

Kerry Callender –USA
Kerry Callender has changed her career and made the exciting transition into the hospitality field. She earned an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts & Applied Nutrition from the Culinary Institute of Virginia and is in her final semester of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Food Service Management. Kerry met the staff of FUA at the National Restaurant Association Food Show in May and knew immediately that she wanted to participate in the TuttoToscana program. She believes the hospitality field enables her to be her most authentic self and has embraced the learning opportunities provided by the faculty at FUA.

Yedi Scargall – Canada
As part of the front of house team, Yedi Scargall began studying in Florence with a focus in the wine of Tuscany and restaurant management. She is excited to take the knowledge she has learned from FUA and put it to practical use. The TuttoToscana program allowed Yedi to improve her knowledge of the event management field while giving her the opportunity to study abroad. Along with being able to try a variety of Tuscan wines, Yedi’s main highlight was being able to practice FOH skills at the FUA restaurant, Ganzo.

Natalia Gonzalez Restrepo – Colombia
Studying at FUA in the Master’s program, Natalia Gonzalez Restrepo travelled all the way from Columbia to join the Baking and Pastry team. After arriving in Florence in July, she has been able to study in the FUA Apicius kitchens and put her previous experience from her home institution in Columbia to good use. After starting her degree in baking and pastry she fell in love with culinary arts and gastronomy and knew that it was her true passion.

Samantha Yenney – USA
Studying pastry arts at Kirkwood Community College, Samantha Yenney could not pass up the amazing opportunity of being able to work at the JBF. In 2016, her program director made a connection with FUA at the National Restaurant Association. She was then presented with the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy. She will be graduating in December 2017 after completing her program at FUA. She was pleasantly surprised at how TuttoToscana, a full-length program, allowed her to be fully immersed in the preparation and delivery of the JBF Gala Dinner.

Sarah Hegge – USA
From Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sarah Hegge is pursuing a double major in culinary arts, baking and pastry at the Denver campus of Johnson and Wales University. After taking her university’s Introduction to Italy course over the summer, Sarah was invited to join the TuttoToscana Culinary 2017 team. She began her post-secondary education debating whether to study music, special education or culinary arts and in the end decided that her true passion was in culinary field. A culinary degree will allow Sarah to teach and help people not only learn how to cook nutritionally, but also help them to understanding proper diets.

Alice Kolder – USA
In the TuttoToscana Culinary team, Alice Kolder was raised on a farm where cooking and baking was a part of her family tradition. From a family of chefs, Alice followed her passion and decided to get a degree in culinary arts at Kirkwood Community College. She hopes to be able to continue her education there with either the baking program or the horticultural studies, as she loves farming and would love to once again take courses that she could put to practical use with her family. After studying at FUA in June, Alice was invited back and was able to complete the whole TuttoToscana four-week program in both Florence and NYC.

Jill Hamill –USA
Jill Hamill is a recent graduate with a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management from Suffolk Community College in Long Island. As her father battled cancer, five years ago, Jill was motivated to fill in his role as the chef in the house. His inspiration drove her to study culinary arts, which she continues to do today. She works three jobs and does private catering on the side however she feels that her fifteen hour days are well worth it because of how much she loves culinary arts. While she wasn’t certain about starting in this very competitive and intense field, she absolutely loves what she is doing and the amazing opportunities she has been able to experience.

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