Deliciously Duped by Muz: Cooking Classes in Tuscany
Muz is a man of many talents. Cooking is not one of them. In the ten years we’ve known each other, he’s never prepared a meal that didn’t involve sandwich bread or a Foreman grill. So when he suggested we take a cooking class in Lucca, I happily agreed. A little voice in my head whispered, perhaps husbands can change-maybe he’ll start to cook!
We booked a day of sightseeing and cooking with Gianluca at the International Academy of Italian cuisine (link here.) We started our day at the markets around Viareggio, a seaside town, while Gianluca told us the finer points of buying fresh produce.
After exploring our options at several shops, we settled on fish and fresh seasonal vegetables. When we asked what we were making, Gianluca simply held up the bag and said we’d figure it out. It was a perfect lesson in great cooking-focus on the best ingredients for delicious food.
Along the way to the culinary institute, we stopped at the San Martino villa and winery for a quick tour and tasting. We bought several bottles of their Lucchesi Bianco, a full-bodied white with an unusually golden hue and complex flavors. (I can’t believe I just wrote that. But that’s what it tasted like, I swear.)
After lunch at a hidden gem of a restaurant, we found ourselves at the cooking site. Though the academy offers classes for novices, it’s also a professional school for international chefs. I believe they also rent rooms to chefs and agrotourists. But we weren’t there to check out the lovely decor. Giancarlo put us to work.
We chopped and stirred and simmered while he showed us how to filet the fish. (Some things are best left to experts.) Then he announced that we needed to make pasta dough. Say what? Doesn’t it come in boxes, all neatly prepared for us? But Gianluca doesn’t roll that way.
Making the dough was deceptively simple: it’s about 100 grams of flour and 1 egg per person, mixed and kneaded until smooth and springy. But when we asked how to determine the correct thickness of rolled dough, he said, “oh, you will know after the first few times.” This presumed a lot about our ability to make pasta without professional supervision. But thanks for the vote of confidence!
Despite my assistance, the pasta and the rest of the meal (salad, fish filet, lemon custard tarts) was excellent. I may even try to make my own pasta again, since I could clearly taste the difference. As for Muz, well, he was the one taking all of these pictures while the rest of us worked. So now he’s got a taste for Italian cuisine, but no hands-on experience. Have I been deliciously duped? Maybe. But that meal was worth it.
If you’re interested in a cooking class near Lucca, contact Gianluca through the website link above. He normally focuses on cooking classes rather than an overall Tuscan foodie experience, but he might do it again (if we didn’t scare him off). He’s a delightful person and willing to answer any questions about cooking or Tuscany-highly recommended.