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

This Year’s Main Event: The Medici Table

JBF Final Dinner 2016

By Brenna Boone

The final dinner at the James Beard Foundation is always an exciting day for the students participating in TuttoToscana. This is the night all of their hard work for the entire week pays off. The culinary and pastry students put in days worth of hard work, concentration and preparation to carry out this amazing meal. The front of house students also prepared and studied to teach the guests about the techniques the culinary and pastry students used to make the dinner happen. The wines were also a very important portion of the dinner for the front of house students; they got to go around to all of the guests during service to explain what wines were chosen for the dinner, why they were chosen, and how they paired well with each course of the meal. Sponsored wines chosen for this year were Sauvignon Blanc 2015 by Macari Vineyards and Vermentino di Sardgena DOC from Olianas during the aperitivo hour. Barco Reale DOC from Capezzana served with the antipasto. Chianti Rufina DOCG Riserva – Lastricato from Castello del Trebbio paired with both primi dishes. Followed by a 2012 Villa di Capezzana DOCG to complement the orange duck secondo, and finally, a Vin Santo from Castello del Trebbio for the dolci.

Members representing FUA affiliate universities as well as members of the James Beard Foundation were in attendance at the dinner. Some of these guests can be very particular about how they want their experience to be at the James Beard Foundation, but the students really satisfied the guests and accommodated all their needs. Before dinner service, we had a reception outside, with passed appetizers and a wine bar setup serving sponsored wines from Macari Vineyard and Olianas. This was followed by a six course meal and wine pairing for at almost every course.

The theme of the menu was the Medici family. An iconic family in Tuscan and Italian history. To showcase the family, the TuttoToscana brigade planned a menu featuring classic Tuscan dishes paired with classic wines to connect all of the elements served. One of the best examples of this was the main course, the orange duck. Orange duck is a recipe that is often thought to originally be from France, but is actually a classical Italian dish. Duck thighs are stuffed with a mixture of broccoli rabe, orange zest, froie gras, and thyme. This is also served with duck breast that is not stuffed. As part of the wine pairing for this course, we used a very classic winery, Capezzana, which has been around since 804. This is one of the oldest places where grapes have been cultivated. To pair with the duck, we choose a 2010 Villa di Capezzana that is both lightly acidic, earthy, and medium-plus bodied. The body of this wine, along with the earthiness paired wonderfully with the duck because duck is rich and gamey. The acidity of the wine helped to balance out the richness of the froie gras as well.

By the end of the dinner, all of the guests seemed very satisfied with what and how they were served. The students were very excited too for completing an intense week of preparation and work. As a tradition, when the final dinner ended, the entire TuttoToscana team had a final toast in the kitchen. This final toast is a very special time, the students get to reflect back on what an amazing dinner they have put on and leave the week long program of TuttoToscana knowing how well they performed.


Photo by David Weiss

Turning the Tables: Brigade Dines at JBF

JBF Guest Dinner

By Gabriella Torcise

Last night the students of FUA were able to dine as guests at the James Beard House with the impressive chefs Jeremy Hansen, Tyler Shales, and Lynette Pflueger. The theme was Washington State of Mind. The goal was for us to experience how service runs from the perspective of guests, so what better way to understand our service for the Gala tonight, and it was extremely effective.

Walking in, we immediately felt excitement with the aperitivo reception. The room was a little packed due to the patio being too cold, but we appreciated the time to talk to each other before the dinner and discuss our expectations. Once dinner began, we noticed how each table was neatly and perfectly set up, our first glass of white wine waiting for us. We sat down and glanced over the menus and all decided which dish we were most excited for. The service was clean and smooth, with no time waiting between dishes.

The wine service was quick and efficient. The food was incredible and wine pairings harmonious. Afterwards, we all spoke about our experiences and what we noticed during our evenings so we knew what to work on or how to adjust our performances for the Gala tonight. Because of this experience, we are better servers to our clients, both front and back of the house brigades, and we appreciated it immensely.

Front of the House learned how we wanted to be interacted with during our dinner so we can apply that to our service. We realised when we wanted to be spoken to and how often, what we wished to have explained and how much interaction we wanted to have that wouldn’t disturb our evening or dining experience. Back of the house discussed plating techniques, flavours combined and cooking methods. They also felt grateful to see how guests will feel during the dinner that they will be cooking. We appreciated this dinner immensely, and we learned a lot of valuable knowledge for our futures.


Photo by Pauline Garza

TuttoToscana Brigade Profiles: Baking and Pastry Part 3

By Brenna Boone, Samantha Lucenti and Gabriella Torcise

Get to know the 2016 TuttoToscana brigade! This is part 3 of our Baking and Pastry students.



Robin Halford – England

Robin is a member of our pastry team. She is half Dutch and half English, but grew up in Greece, but now lives in Italy. She was attracted to FUA when she was taking an Italian program about three years ago. One of the students in her Italian class was in the Baking and Pastry program at FUA and told her about it. She already had an interest in baking and pastry, but this peaked it even more. About a year later she joined FUA on our pastry team. Currently she is in FUA’s Masters in International Baking and Pastry program and will be finishing soon. She loves baking so much that she even does it in her free time. When she isn’t in the FUA kitchen, she is in her own kitchen baking! One of the desserts that she is most excited for during TuttoToscana is the dessert for the final dinner at the James Beard Foundation; she describes this dessert as something chewy, chocolatey and delicious. Something she has been looking forward for in coming to TuttoToscana was getting a change to come to the United States and to see New York. She was also very excited to get her first honey bear. Where she is from, honey does not come in the cute little bear containers; she was so excited to get one herself, that she actually bought two!


Alexis Panetta – USA

Alexis is from Long Island. Her passion for baking and pastry began when she was young – she used to bake with her aunt all the time. She started to do it on her own and decided to pursue it as a career. She found FUA through a study abroad program with Johnson & Wales University. She is looking forward to the great experience the James Beard program offers and is hoping to make connections with colleagues and guests. She is most excited to make the breads for each event, particularly the breads served with each dish during the gala event. She is gaining experience in each part of the food and beverage industries before making a decision on what she loves doing most.


Gabby Cambronero – USA

Gabby is from Wantagh, NY born and raised on Long Island. She is a baking and pastry major at Suffolk County Community College. She got into baking and pastry after finishing her general education credits at CUNY Queens College. At Queens her plan was to always follow a career path that was art/hands on driven, but before jumping into a degree program Gabby decided to give baking as a profession a try. She never considered it to be a potential career path until she was about 19 years old. Honestly it was very spontaneous and not very well thought out, but she’s a Gemini so when she decides to do something she gets it done, claiming it was the best decision she made in a while. Gabby was asked to join the TuttoToscana program after studying abroad for four weeks in June with Chef Simone from Fedora and FUA through Suffolk’s four week summer internship program and knew that she would be crazy to pass up an opportunity like this. She currently works by taking custom orders for people as well as in a custom bake shop on Long Island decorating cakes, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops etc., but she’d ideally like to get into a kitchen sometime soon to get more comfortable with commercial recipes and plated desserts. Gabby is looking to go back to Florence next fall for the Baking and Pastry master class, as well as get her bachelors degree online and then a culinary certificate back at Suffolk. She would like the idea of opening a spot that caters to early morning/afternoon comfort foods with a concentration on baked goods as well sometime in the future (outside of NY). But as long as she’s able to live comfortably doing something she loves it doesn’t really matter where she will end up at this point.

Olive Oil Sponsor: Pruneti

By Brenna Boone

Pruneti Olio

Pruneti has been one of our food sponsors for TuttoToscana for the past two years. We get the privilege of using a few different types of their olive oils to enhance our dishes, and showcase some of the traditions of Tuscan cuisine. There are three types that we are using for our different events, Leccino, Moraiolo, and Frantoio. Pruneti’s history dates back to the 1800s in the Chianti area of Italy, San Polo. Pruneti does not mix in any other olive oils with their own, they are 100% pressed from their olives. To test for when the perfect time for harvesting the olives is, a small batch is hand pressed. Once the optimal time is found, they harvest!

Pruneti has adopted new methods of pressing their grapes. The agricola is one of Tuscany’s most respected olive oil producers in the world. Though they have adopted new methods of pressing their olives, they have not lost any of the quality of their product. It is an honor to get to showcase their olive oils at our dinners, and to share them with the James Beard Foundation guests. In many of the dishes we are serving, olive oil will be added at the very end as a finishing drizzle. This often adds a delicate touch of fruitiness to each plate. Each different type of olive oil is used for different dishes and adds a different, subtle, flavor.

TuttoToscana Brigade Profiles: Culinary Arts Part 2

By Brenna Boone, Samantha Lucenti and Gabriella Torcise

Get to know the 2016 TuttoToscana brigade! This is part 2 of our Culinary Arts students.



Palak Desai – India

Palak is from India and has studied Culinary Arts at FUA since Fall 2015. She has been interested in culinary since she was 11 cooking with her grandmother. Her future goal is to work around the world as a chef. What got Palak interested in FUA was gaining an interest in Italian cuisine. The dish she is most interested in preparing during TuttoToscana’s main dinner is the stuffed duck. Palak is studying the rest of the year at FUA and will graduate in April with her Masters degrees.



Leonardo (Leo) Pugliese – Italy

Leonardo Pugliese is from Florence, Italy. He found FUA through a friend who recommended it. He has always been passionate about culinary arts since he was young, especially with how connected food is in Italian culture. He is hoping to gain experience and excited about the hands-on nature of the program. He is studying to hopefully become an Executive Chef. Leo is excited about all of the dishes, but in particular the main courses. His traditions connect him to pasta dishes, but he also likes the secondo dishes, in particular the Anatra all’arancia. He began studying with FUA two years ago, and spoke no english. After working with students and faculty, currently he is impressively almost fluent.



Victoria Daley – USA

Victoria Daley is one of our talented culinary students. She grew up in Mansfield, Massachusetts and decided to study abroad at FUA during her time at Johnson & Wales University. She has completed their culinary and nutrition program as well as a 4-week culinary program in Florence and is considering doing FUA’s Masters program in culinary arts. Her interest in cooking began when she was very young. As a child, Victoria had the privilege of traveling a little bit of everywhere around the world. While she traveled she was exposed to the culture and foods of many different countries and places and loved it! She is very excited to learn new culinary techniques and skills from the chefs that come to TuttoToscana. Victoria would like to do more things with catering and private chef work and open her own farm-to-table restaurant in the future. When she isn’t in the kitchen, she loves to travel all over the world. She hopes to continue to see more cultures and experience international foods.


Photos by David Weiss

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