Five years ago today, I was finishing up one of the most amazing weeks of my life! My best friend and I decided to attend a cooking school in Tuscany and never imagined that it would be an experience that still impacts my life today.
In the summer of 2015, while living in Germany, I found out about a place called Tuscookany. It is a cooking school that is tucked away in the hillsides of Arezzo, Italy. It was a week-long fully immersive Italian experience at Casa Ombuto. While learning to cook these incredible menus from scratch, relationships were being built among twelve strangers that I still cherish. My best friend and I represented women of the United States Military. There were also four women friends and sisters from Florida. Two female friends and a male couple from Canada, and a husband and wife from Australia. Most importantly in this group was also our beloved Chef, Paola and also our Concierge and guide for the week, Alex.
This group came from all different backgrounds and we learned to work together on various daily kitchen assignments that created our daily outdoor lunches as well as our three course dinners and desserts paired with various wines and liquors. Tuscookany consisted of a beautiful Villa that had been split into four separate apartment spaces, another separate house for two more couples and the main house with the open patio, kitchen and dining area. There was a beautiful garden, a pool and a Tuscan style outdoor lunch table. Each day started with a laid back morning where breakfast was somewhat continental with access to the kitchen. This is where I was introduced to frothed milk in my coffee and cooking my eggs in olive oil – this changed my life. There was also time in the mornings to exercise or to sit and meditate by the pool and relax. Lunch time is when the work began! We met and ate together family style and then we broke out the recipe books and began the daily lessons. Following the lessons, we met again in the kitchen and the hard work and fun would begin. Paola was a tough Chef, but she taught us important lessons that helped us cook very detailed recipes.
Following an entire afternoon in the kitchen and a few glasses of wine to get through the sweat and fears of screwing something up, we would take a break and prepare for dinner. In the evening the food we prepared would be plated and served as beautiful courses that were presented by those who worked on each one. The Staff would then present a wine that paired well with that particular dish. Dinners lasted 3-4 hours and the table was filled with wine and liquor bottles that flowed until late in the evening. The group became so close that there were birthdays celebrated and even a night of Greek dancing and plate smashing! It was a time to remember!
I think back on this time in Tuscany, the experience and the people, many of whom I stay in touch with still today, and I hope to build a similar community feel at Wine Culture. The experience may be different, but the wines and cheese and special events can still bring people together for unforgettable days and nights to remember. I cherish these memories and cannot wait to build and share some with all of you.