Future chefs and food business leaders studying at The Culinary Institute of America can now immerse themselves in an academic concentration in Italian cuisines and culture that includes a 15-week study trip to Italy. The concentration for students pursuing CIA bachelor's degrees in management features a semester abroad at the Castello di Ugento, a newly restored 900-year-old castle in Puglia, the heel of Italy's "boot." The program begins in January 2017 in collaboration with the Puglia Culinary Center and will be offered in both spring and fall semesters.
In addition to learning about Italian culture, indigenous ingredients, and culinary techniques, the CIA students traveling to Italy for the program will participate in "field trips" to markets, wineries, and local producers of products such as olive oil and cheese. Each student will also complete a three-week internship at a restaurant serving authentic Mediterranean cuisine.
"In the Italian Cuisines concentration, students will cook and learn within the historical and cultural contexts of southern Italy," says CIA Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Michael Sperling. "They will interact with chefs, growers, and food producers, and participate in the restaurant culture of Puglia. It is truly an immersion into that region."
The student "dorm" is a restored 18th century farmhouse in the city of Ugento, a 10-minute bike ride from the castle where their classes will be held. Cooking classes take place in a new 8,500-square-foot environmentally sustainable teaching kitchen within the castle. The restored Castello also has an area dedicated to teaching desserts and gelato, an "oleoteca" to study olive oil, and a 400-year-old wine cellar retrofitted with modern oenology technology. More than 100 varieties of herbs and fruits are harvested from a 300-year-old garden on the property.
"To be a true chef of Italian cuisine, you must master all the different techniques, tastes, and textures of the cuisines of the various Italian regions. The cuisine of Puglia, with its use of vegetables and fish, became the basis for other Mediterranean cuisines," says Odette Fada, house chef and director of the Puglia Culinary Center. "I am delighted to be part of this collaboration with the CIA and look forward to sharing my enthusiasm for this land and its cuisine with our international guests."
Italian Cuisines joins the concentration in Asian Cuisine Studies as CIA international semester abroad opportunities. That program, which launched in 2016, is based at the CIA's campus in Singapore. Other concentrations for CIA juniors and seniors are held at the college's three U.S. campuses and include Advanced Concepts in Baking and Pastry; Advanced Wine, Beverage, and Hospitality; "Intrapreneurship;" and Latin Cuisine Studies.
"This newest CIA education program continues to expand both the international and domestic learning opportunities available to CIA students," Dr. Sperling says. "The world cuisines concentrations allow students to learn about cuisines in their own terroir. During their semester away from campus, they fully experience the regions from which the ingredients come."