I have never been so anxious! While the majority of my time in Parma at the Academia Barilla was fascinating and every hour was packed with private lessons with chefs, Italian cuisine historians and trips out to meet with prosciutto, balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano producers, the final day of the practical and written exam had me sweating and fretting like never before!! I was on the phone to Patrick and my mother at 2am saying “This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on. I don’t know whether I can cook up to their standards! These guys are serious about protecting the authenticity of Italian dishes so I have to cook something that doesn’t break a single rule!” There are so many poor imitations of Italian dishes and this cooking school for both professional chefs and amateur cooks with a passion for Italian food is focused on teaching people how to cook REAL ITALIAN. You really develop an appreciation for the Italian palate. Do you know exactly how the cuisine differs in every one of Italy’s 20 regions? And what about the way to tell if your aceto balsamico has been aged 12 years or only two? Fortunately, with all the filming and articles I’ve written, I’ve eaten and cooked in just about every region in Italy so I just had to try to remember every meal I’ve ever tasted here and every piece of cooking advice I’ve received from farmers, housewives, shepherds, grocers, ex-boyfriends, chefs and chatty people on trains.

I cannot tell you how excited I was when the President of the Academia said, “Kylie, now it is official! We all knew you had this great passion (out of courtesy he didn’t define it as MANIACAL OBSESSION!!) for our country’s cuisine but now you have proved you have also the expertise in the kitchen to be a culinary ambassador for Italy.” Why do I get so emotional when Italians accept me as one of the famiglia? They were probably shaking their heads at such a sentimental straniera but I left the Barilla family of chefs and culinary experts with tears in my eyes. After working so closely with everyone day after day you really end up feeling like you’re a part of a family. I’d be rolling out pasta dough or jointing a rabbit and chatting away with them not only about Italian cuisine but also philosophy, love, politics, their childhood – somehow Italians can find a segue from food into all of these subjects.

The night before the exam I befriended this dear lady who owned the quaint little hotel I was staying in (Hotel Button), begging her for the use of her kitchen so I could test different desserts for the next day. One minute we were shaking hands formally and I was promising I would only be in her cucina for a maximum 45 minutes, eight hours later she was kissing my cheeks telling me I was now her adopted ‘figlia‘ (daughter). As I rolled out short crust pastry testing a crostata di limone she sat at her sewing machine smoking like a chimney with classic Italian power ballads blaring from her television recounting the recipes she would make here in Parma during the war when she was a teenager. I think people see my shows like When in Rome or When Patrick Met Kylie and assume that all these scenes with locals are set up and highly choreographed, but encounters like this literally  happen to me every single day in Italy.

You can see this wonderful signora and some of the other friends I made in Parma in the photos below. Check out my previous post on this experience for more photos, my video of olive oil tasting and stay tuned for my upcoming video of my whole adventure in Parma, the culinary heart of Italy.

9 Comments

  1. Congratulations! Love reading your posts and watching your shows. Your passion and excitement emanates from the page/tv and is infectious!!

    • Kylie Flavell

      Thanks so much!!! I’m a bit over the top when I talk about food or Italy but I’m glad to hear some people like it! 🙂

  2. Joanne Martin

    Greetings again from Canada,

    Congratulations on your Barilla experience. You held your own with world class Chefs and Instructors due to your passion for Italy and its cuisine. I couldn’t be prouder of you.

    Joanne

  3. Ciao!
    Just discovered yours and Patricks programme on Norwegian telly. You might be over the top sometimes….but I’m sure I would have been just like you if I got to travel all over Italy and learn how to cook and bake the real italian way!!! 🙂
    I love Italy, the food, the language, the scenery…… and I’m currently trying to learn italian. And of course cook in between, so your recipes will be tried out.:-D

    Ciao!

    • Kylie Flavell

      Hi Vibeke! So glad you like the show and that you forgive my ‘enthusiasm’ for all things Italian. If you’re just starting to learn the language you might be interested in this post I’ve written on how to compliment in Italian http://www.romeing.it/how-to-flirt-and-compliment-in-italian/

      Kylie

      • Ah, grazie 🙂 Also hopefully we’ll get to see more of your programs on TV here, apart from those 4 episodes I got to see… 😀

        And what is there to forgive?? Italy makes us that way 😀

        Ciao!

  4. Hi Kylie, I enjoy your show here in Canada, I watch it faithfully every week, I love the connection you and Patrick have with the locals, you have both become an inspiration, in fact I recently got my son and daughter hooked on watching your show. Best wishes to you and Patrick and please continue to filming new episodes.

    • Kylie Flavell

      Oh wow! Thanks so much, Angela. It always makes me happy when I know that families can watch one of my shows together. I come from a very close, very greedy family. 🙂 I spend so much time cooking and eating with my parents and we love watching food television together. Hope you enjoy my new shows that will air on TLN this year. Canadians seem to be the loveliest of all our viewers around the world.

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