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Thursday, August 11, 2005 

Americans Teaching Italian Cooking...in Tuscany

Americans have cornered Tuscan teaching market

FLORENCE, Italy -- When tourists think of cooking classes in Tuscany, they likely imagine hovering over a chopping board or ancient stove with a pleasantly plump older signora, one who'll divulge generations of culinary secrets in gently accented English over a steaming bowl of rigatoni or zuppa di fagioli. But the reality might be much different.

It might sound like heresy, but native Italians don't have the market cornered on teaching traditional Tuscan cooking. These days, some of the best hail from places like California, New York -- and even Wyoming. These pros prove that Italian chefs can be made, rather than merely born.

Explains cookbook author and instructor Faith Willinger, who put down roots in Italy more than 30 years ago and since then has created a cooking class program at the popular Tenuta di Capezzana wine estate and headed culinary programs at the famed Cipriani Hotel in Venice: "This is all stuff I had to learn. It's not that I grew up with it; it's not natural to me. If you have to learn it, you're in a better position to instruct people on it."