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A Texan in Toscana: A moment turned into an hour, a day, and a lifetime…

Following our sold-out Tuscan feast last Wednesday, a lot of folks have asked me about my time working and cooking in Toscana (Tuscany) and how I got to know Tuscan cuisine so well. I am very grateful to everyone for the positive feedback and I’ve decided to share a short piece I wrote when I returned from Italy 10 years ago, after studying at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in northern Italy. Here’s the first installment… Thanks for reading!

Above: One of my jobs when I worked at the Ristorante Il Pino in San Gimignano was cooking the massive Porterhouse, known as the “bistecca alla fiorentina,” a dish that has become one of our signature entrées (and one of our best values) here at Siena Ristorante Toscano. Those are fresh porcini mushrooms on the side!

Aside from being visually stunning, Tuscany is rich with wild game, fresh produce, abundant seafood, excellent olive oil, marvelous wine and beautiful people. I had just completed two months of culinary classes in northern Italy and since I would be opening a Tuscan restaurant back in Texas, I chose Tuscany as the region to complete my externship. Fortunately, I was assigned to Il Pino, in San Gimignano, where I would work six days a week, eleven hours a day, doing everything from scrubbing pots to grilling the massive Porterhouse bistecca alla fiorentina. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to immerse myself in a cuisine I had studies and attempted to reproduce over the past eleven years. What I came away with was more than a culinary education.

In all my years of cooking nothing could have prepared me for the transformation I would undergo while working at Il Pino. I would connect with a place inside myself that had gone to sleep or rusted from lack of use. A place that exists inside all of us that had been buried under too many years of chasing the dollars, wolfing down cheeseburgers, running to board meetings, and buying bigger houses. It was a moment that turned into an hour that turned into a day that became the first of many. And I remember it vividly…

To be continued…

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