A Taste of Asia Dinner Theme at ALMA, The International School of Italian Cuisine

Reggia di Colorno or Ducal Palace of Colorno, the palace where ALMA International School of Italian Cuisine is located.
If you love food and wine and want to do something about it other than (ahem!) terminate all of them with a long satisfied smile afterwards, what would you do? I used to be the food terminator when I was young, then when nobody was cooking for me anymore, I learned to take myself in front of the stove and oven where I started cooking on my own, learning with patience, through failures, successes and more failures. I always believe that the best way to learn is to make mistakes because from those mistakes, you push yourself up and learn not to go back to what you did wrong.

And I became uncontrollable in the kitchen because in the process, I learned that I actually love cooking, and traveling and photography and lastly, wines. And maybe I will stop here. A spark came out and here I am now, at home, typing this post because there is something that I would like to share with you.

The  school's cloister.
If you had been following me in my last posts in my social media, you don't need to guess because you know that I had been to Parma! I had been invited to a special dinner event at the Ducal Palace of Colorno (a few kilometers from Parma) where ALMA the International School of Italian Cuisine is located.

That night, three Asian chefs from Malaysia, China (Hongkong) and India graduated from their superior studies about the Italian cuisine in ALMA. Having finished their course, they were going back to their respective countries teaching the proper ways of preparing and understanding the Italian cuisine in the culinary schools where they teach. They have the important roles of teaching future chefs and restaurant professionals about the genuine Italian cuisine and enogastronomic products. But before leaving Italy, they decided to conduct a special dinner presenting their own local dishes to the school and for that reason, I went for a long drive with my husband from Rome to Parma (Colorno to be exact). 

Being housed in the 18th-century Reggia di Colorno or Ducal Palace of Colorno, the school gave quite an impressive atmosphere. Given the importance of what the school stands for, the Province of Parma gave ALMA the palace to be used as the seat for learning what Italy stands for. The school's headmaster, Gualtiero Marchesi is the most important Italian cooking teacher and chef and is also one of the most famous chefs in the world.

ALMA occupies 5,000 square meters of the building with highly-equipped training classrooms and laboratories which we had a little tour of prior to the dinner that was conducted by the Managing Director of the school himself, Andrea Sinigaglia. Entering the classrooms and kitchens gave me quite an impression. I have big respect for chefs and I know how tedious and difficult their trainings are. Going around smelling the last traces of what they cooked and seeing the instruments and ovens that they are using was like looking at the back room of the masters. I was thinking what an impressive sight it would have been seeing a classroom full of people clad in their chef's whites and toques.

The school also offers managerial courses like its Hotel Manager Course and ALMA Wine Academy has the High Education Course in Sommellerie and Master Sommelier ALMA-AIS which features high profile teachers and state-of-the-art premises.

I was told that graduates of ALMA have a high number of immediate employment 3 months after graduation which is 96%. The rest find their niches within 6 months. It's an amazing high number but having the name of the school and the quality of the education that the chefs get from there, I wouldn't really be surprised about it. 

The school's garden
ALMA has a large network of partner schools worldwide. Together with these schools, ALMA organizes special Italian cooking courses and  trains  foreign chefs who in the end will become ambassadors of Italian cuisine and enogastronomic products in their home country.

Pictures of the chefs' works hanging on the wall.

These partner schools are:

Italian Culinary Center - New York
Il Cuoco - Italian Culinary Institute - Seoul
George Brown College Chef School - Toronto
ITHQ (Institut de Tourisme et d’Hôtellerie du Quebec) - Montréal
Cessa Universidad - Mexico City
Ecole d’Art Culinaire de Miyagi - Sendai
VTC - Vocational Training Council - Hong Kong
Westminster Kingsway College - London
Senac - Centro Universitário - São Paulo
MSA – Culinary Arts Academy – Istanbul
NSI - Northern Sydney Institute - Sydney
Prue Leith Chef Academy - Centurion, Johannesburg
KDU University College - Kuala Lumpur
Mausi Sebes - Buenos Aires
BIC Vocationale Ljubljana College - Ljubljana
Ming Tai School - Taiwan
Acharya Institute of Management & Sciences – Bangalore
SRM College – Chennay
Sarosh Institute of Hotel Administration – Mangalore
Kul In - Sisak

The school's wine cellar
A Taste of Asia. With the lack of Asian food in my system after I moved to Italy, having three Asian cuisines in one night was also a celebratory night for my Asian food-deprived palate. The flavors were very close to home, especially the Malaysian and Chinese dishes. My eyes had a feast looking at the familiar looking dishes (names were a bit far from ours though except for the English-translated Chinese dishes). Needless to say I enjoyed what the three chefs prepared that night. 

Chef Mohd Maharis Bin Mamat (or Mario as he was nicknamed in ALMA), a chef lecturer of KDU University College in Malaysia prepared sup ekor (oxtail soup), kerabu udang sobong (seafood salad), sate ayam (grilled chicken skewers), sate daging (grilled beef skewers), kuah kacang (peanut sauce), nasihimpit, timun & bawang merah (rice cakes, cucumber & red shallot), and sago gula melaka (tapioca pearls in coconut cream and palm sugar).

Chef Ricky Hung, Senior Instructor of Western Food Preparation at the Hospitality Industry Training and Development Centre (a Member of VTC Group) in Hongkong, China prepared minced beef soup, braised pork ribs with vinegar, stuffed eggplants, and fried rice.

Chef Nusrath Ulla of Acharya Institute of Management and Sciences in Bangalore, India prepared kosanibari salad, chicken kebab with mint, max veg curry, peas pulao, dal tadkewali, and shahi tukda.

As the night came to an end, I had the chance to speak with Chefs Ricky and Mario about their plans when they go back to their respective countries. Both are keen in teaching future chefs specializing in Italian cuisine, which is what brought them to ALMA, the conclusion of their intensive course. 

The genuine understanding of the cuisine should be done in the country where the cuisine originated from. That's what ALMA is all about to its Italian cooking courses for the foreign chefs. After a chef chooses to specialize in Italian cuisine, the initial course is done in his home country then it is concluded in ALMA for the remaining months of the course.

I had a glimpse of how a culinary school works that night, seeing the classrooms, understanding how intensive their classes are, meeting the people who train them, seeing chefs wearing their chefs whites and toques, speaking with the chefs themselves, and lastly, tasting what these talented people created in their realms. Chefs are always working behind closed doors and to stay behind those doors gave me quite an unforgettable experience and this is what I would like to share with you. 

Being there is as enjoyable as sharing the details and photos with you. I hope you enjoyed reading this. Have a good week!