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Students were treated to a three-course demonstration of fine Italian cooking in the Rata Room kitchens at Nelson Marlborough Institue of Technology's (NMIT’s) Nelson campus – and were then able to sample all the wondrous treats.
The special menu included aubergine parmigiana, gorgonzola risotto and a dessert called “Francesca’s Ricotta Delight.”
The verdict from students and others who were the fortunate guests? Belissimo.
At the end of the demonstration and sampling, students had been inspired with new ideas and the passion of those involved – and the impressive NMIT kitchen facilities in Nelson had a huge thumbs-up from the visiting chefs.
“It was a fantastic occasion,” said NMIT’s Head of Trades, Justin Carter. “It just showed the sort of opportunities our cookery students get to learn and be motivated by world class chefs. Mixing our students with the best in the industry is a big part of our ethos.”
In fact, it was perfect timing for students who were facing an assessment of risotto creation two days later.
The cooking demonstration was based on the use of Italian cheeses, produced by Nelson-based Milkdrop which also used the occasion to re-launch their company with a new, more Italian-sounding name, Viavio which is aiming to increase its cheese sales throughout New Zealand.
Viavio’s owners, Flavia and Flavio Spena, invited their friends from Rome, Alessandro Cannata and Francesca Fucci, to come to New Zealand to help with their re-branding and to show students at NMIT how to showcase Italian cheeses, including some not well known in NZ.
The two Roman chefs are from Moma restaurant and have worked in Michelin-star restaurants throughout Italy and France.
Continental cheek air kissing and cries of “Buongiorno” and “Ciao” gave a hint that the cookery
students were in for something different when they arrived to watch the star chefs create a special three-course menu.
And so it proved to be as the two chefs, assisted by Viavio’s cheesemakers, set out to wow the NMIT crowd showing them how to make the likes of beef fillet tartare with strachhino and a quinoa, mushroom and melted Viavio fontal fondue – and then to taste each of the seven dishes which incorporated seasonal vegetables.
Flavia explained that Italian cheeses – although produced for more than 3,000 years and a prized part of the Italian diet – are less well known and appreciated in New Zealand than, say, French cheeses. Viavio is slowly changing that perception in Nelson and Marlborough but is now taking its cheeses to much wider clientele throughout New Zealand.
Flavia stressed that many Italian cheeses are made to be eaten freshly-made – and not stored in the fridge for days on end.
The lessons were not lost on the NMIT students who were among about 60 guests who included well known Nelson Italian chef Stefano Bonazza and the chairman of Wakatu Incorporation, Paul Morgan, whose companies include food and wine group, Kono.
For students it was a memorable experience to see the passion and precision of the highly talented and experienced Italian chefs; the exact way they prepared and then presented each course – and surely inspired some to new heights of ambition.
NMIT’s Culinary Arts programme includes full-time Certificate and Diploma qualifications.
Certificate graduates can pursue intermediate-level career opportunities while those who move on to the Diploma specialise in cookery or patisserie and learn to master techniques required to work at the highest level in New Zealand or overseas.