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Established in 1996, The Rhode School of Cuisine offers gourmet cooking vacations in stunning villas in Provence, Tuscany and Marrakech, which provide luxurious and relaxing surroundings. Large gated estates with pools, tennis courts and manicured grounds provide the perfect safe and fun environment that will allow guests to relax. The following all-inclusive itinerary has been custom designed for Mirepoix USA.
This exciting culinary adventure will be hosted at the spectacular Villa Lucia and Villa Michaela just outside the beautiful and historic walled city of Lucca, in Tuscany, Italy. Each day will be a balanced mix of hands-on Italian cooking classes, cultural excursions and time to relax and enjoy the beautiful property and surrounding countryside. Executive chef, David Verzello, will conduct the cooking classes in the villa’s amazing demonstration kitchens. The chef presents exciting and creative ways of involving each guest in the preparation of the meal.
Whether you are a novice or skilled cook, you will leave our cooking classes with the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to create your own culinary feasts at home. The Rhode School of Cuisine has the many years of experience needed to bring an ideal educational culinary vacation to you.
You will arrive at Pisa airport and be met by our driver Bruno, who will bring you to the Villa, about a ½ hour drive. Settle in at the Villa and enjoy the afternoon with a game of tennis, a dip in the jacuzzi or a walk around the town of Vorno. Our resident chef will be preparing for dinner starting in late afternoon if you wish to join him. This evening your hosts welcome you with a Champagne reception where you will have the opportunity to meet our chef and the other guests as our chef prepares a Tuscan regional buffet for dinner, including locally sourced Wild Boar Ragout with Creamy Polenta.
Your day will begin with a typical Italian breakfast of fruit, pastries, cereal, juice and coffee and depending on your mood you can either dine inside or outside in the beautiful garden. Afterwards, we will leave for Lucca for a guided tour of the city with a bilingual guide.
Lucca is a charming old town whose historic center is dotted with remnants of its ancient Roman and medieval past; its protective walls have now become parklike oases amid the towers and narrow winding streets. The layers of history are visible in every plaza, church, and embellished facade. Delightful shops and restaurants alternate with the remains of noble houses built in the era when Lucca rivaled Florence in wealth and power.
We will return to the Villa for lunch and the first cooking demonstration of Porcini Pappardelle. Monday evening will find us enjoying a demonstration by our chef of a Rack of Lamb served with Homemade Lamb Shank Ravioli.
Featured Wine: Brunello from Montalcino
After breakfast at the Villa this day will be totally dedicated to one of the regions most fascinating and precious gourmet products. October marks the beginning of white truffle season! Our coach will leave at 9:00am for a ride through the Tuscan hills to a guided truffle hunt where guests will follow real truffle hunting dogs. The truffle hunt lasts about an hour and a half. Then it’s time to move to the farm and wine cellar for a tasting of local products and a guided sensorial analysis of the white truffle.
The afternoon allows for free time at the Villa where you can relax, take in a massage, manicure or spa. For dinner we will enjoy the fruits of our morning activities and a cooking demonstration featuring Pan Seared Sea Scallops and White Truffle Risotto. At the end of this day guests will have an excellent understanding of why the truffle is such a sought-after gourmet delicacy!
Breakfast will be served at 8:30. This morning we will be visiting the bustling market town of Pistoia to help the chef choose fresh produce and regional delicacies for dinner. You will have plenty of time to explore the many piazzas and stop for a coffee in a local café. We will return to Vorno to have lunch at Cucina Dello Scompiglio, a lovely country restaurant at the bottom of the village of Vorno. Views from this restaurant are far reaching, across vineyards and organic vegetable gardens towards the Apuan Alps. After this exquisite lunch we will walk back off the road to Villa Michaela along the picturesque Vorno River.
Guests will return to the villa for a cooking lesson featuring the local ingredients from the Pistoia farmers market where porcini will be a highlight in this savory meal of Beef Tenderloin and Porcini Fritte with a Foie Gras Demi Glace.
After breakfast we will leave by coach for Florence. We will be guided through this Renaissance city by a local art and history professor. Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. The city lies on the River Arno and is known for its history and its importance in the Middle Ages. Famous for its wealth of art and architecture and cultural heritage, it is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. Perhaps most famous of all, it is home to Michelangelo’s “David” at the Galeria dell’Academia in Firenze.
Lunch will be served at a local restaurant in Florence and sightseeing will continue in the afternoon. After the day of exploring Florence, we will return to the Villa. In the early evening we will join the chef for preparation of dinner, which includes Seared Duck Breast with a Cherry Balsamic Reduction and a demonstration of Tiramisu and other Italian desserts.
Featured Wine: A flight of Tuscans featuring the “Super Tuscans”
The morning is open to our guests to enjoy breakfast at your leisure. A hands-on cooking demonstration of Porcini and Pumpkin Risotto will begin at 11:00 and lunch will follow at 1:00. Guests will have the opportunity to taste local olive oils and some of the region’s finest balsamic vinegars.
In the late afternoon we begin with a cooking demonstration of Squid Ink Pasta, Lobster Tails and a Lobster Caviar Cream Sauce.
At 6:30, guests will gather in the Chapel for an opera recital by Elisabetta (soprano) and Flavio (tenor) accompanied by master pianist Nadia. Famous arias from Puccini and Verdi will be sung followed by stirring Neapolitan love songs.
Our farewell gala dinner and graduation ceremony will follow the concert. Diplomas for The Rhodes Cooking School will be given to all guests.
Formal dinner will take place at 8:30 in Villa Michaela.
Featured Wine: Wines from the Bolgheri Region
After breakfast we prepare to leave for the airport. Those with later flights are welcome to spend more time at the Villa.
This Italian American began cooking at the age of 8 by teaching himself to make fresh pasta from the Time Life Cookbook series. His passion for food grew throughout his life to where he eventually left his successful career in Real Estate to study at the renowned California Culinary Academy where he earned multiple academic honors.
David began cooking in Italy at Villa Lucia as a student with the Rhode School of Cuisine back in 2004. He has brought groups of food enthusiasts to the school every year for authentic culinary vacations and he is currently the Executive Chef. At home, David works with the Cooking School at Draeger’s in San Mateo, California. He is currently writing his first cookbook on seasonal Tuscan cuisine, due to be released in 2013.
David believes in ingredient-driven cuisine combined with classical technique, where FLAVOR comes first.