By Agnes Chung
Puglia chefs, Turturo Salvatore and Chiara Mangini share with Vancouver Community College (VCC) students, the art of transforming humble ingredients to splendid dishes
Puglia chefs were in Vancouver this week to showcase their regional culinary. They hosted the Apulian Cooking Days luncheon at JJ’s Restaurant on Thursday. Their visit was part of the Italian Cuisine Week program that runs from November 21 to 27.
From fava bean, chicory and mushroom tart to octopus with potatoes, and sweet Altamura bread tart with cream, the dishes served were a feast to the eyes and palate.
Soul Food to Haute Cuisine
Apulian cuisine has its humble roots in cucina povera (means poor kitchen in Italian). Apulia is the latin name for Puglia. The once peasant cuisine is now taking centre stage – drawing celebrity chefs, restaurateurs and food lovers – keen to turn legumes and wild greens to surprisingly tasty dishes.
The region’s gastronomy consists mainly of greens, seafood with some meats. Meats are mostly lamb and goat, sometimes horsemeat.
Puglia sits on the southern tip of Italy surrounded by the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Fresh seafood is abundant year round.
Olive oil is Puglia’s most renowned product. The lineage of olive trees in Puglia stretches back centuries, even millennia. Puglia accounts for nearly half of the national production of olive oil. But yield has dropped by 65 per cent this year, according to Olive Oil Times.
It’s very important to use extra virgin oil the correct way, said Salvatore. Cooking with olive oil in low temperature is the best way to retain the nutritional properties, he added.
Delicious and Inspiring Experience
“Puglia chefs have been working with our students for the last couple of days. Everybody is very impressed,” said Dennis Innes, VCC dean of hospitality, food studies and applied business. “It is important for us and a really great learning experience for our students as well.”
“This is an incredible event,” said Michael Cuccione, president of the Italian Cultural Centre. “Especially collaborating with the students and VCC, that’s the future…, and have our chefs coming here from Italy, it’s incredible.” Cuccione thanked the Italian Consulate in Vancouver for sponsoring the Primitivo red wine from Puglia.
Language Not a Barrier to Success
Chef Jamie Tracey, VCC culinary arts instructor concurred with Innes. “It’s been an amazing experience” for his students and him too. “The last couple of days have been amazing working with Chefs Salvatore and Chiara…just seeing the ingredients that they have used to create such beautiful meals…”
He added that both chefs were very good teachers. Despite language challenges, Tracey thought the Puglia chefs and the VCC team “did very well”.
Vito Bruno, the event organiser and president of the Pugliese Cultural Society thanked sponsors and supporters including Joe Grosso, president of Grosso Group Management for helping secure event sponsors.
Grosso commended the chefs and VCC culinary students for their great work and applauded them for graduating from a great institution.