Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Day in the Life

What's it like to be an intern at the American Academy in Rome's Sustainable Food Project?  Like any job, it is hard work, but everyone here loves what they do, they love each other, and they love this place.  Some have said it's like living a dream, but this dream comes early every morning.
6 days a week one of the interns is in the kitchen rolling out dough for the cornetti, those awesome croissants they sell in coffee shops

This is Clementine, who I caught rolling out the dough early one morning

cornetti dough

 Whoever does the cornetti, also bakes the muffins, scones and biscotti that are served in the bar area. 

The next intern to come in around 7:30 a.m. will make the pannini that are sold in the bar area to anyone who decides not to have lunch in the dining room. 
Each day there is a delivery from the Roscioli bakery

Here McLane makes the pannini for the day

Pizza bianca is split horizontally, then spread with delicious fillings 
Between 7:30 a.m and 8 a.m. the chef for the day arrives, and at 8:30 there is a "huddle" for the team to know what will be for the two lunches that are served, a worker's lunch at 12:15 and the fellows and residents lunch at 1 p.m. 
Of course there is the requisite caffe and a bit of a snack-McLane, Clementine and Chef Domenico go over the menu items.   
Once the menu is decided, then it's everyone to stations to get to work.  In between the prep there are deliveries from the farms that supply the Academy, as well as trips to the garden for herbs, and perhaps the vegetable that will be featured that week.  Once a week there is a featured vegetable from the garden, and the salad is most often red and green oak leaf lettuce from the garden.

 All of these gorgeous vegetables are washed at least 3 times and then used that day or the next.  Nothing sits in the fridge for more than 36 hours, and every part of the vegetable that can be used is used. 

This is a tilt skillet, and it is awesome, it is where large batches of sauteed greens can be made in minutes, rather than using 5 to 6 skillets taking up valuable space on the stove top.

Plating the pasta before service
Timing is everything and the kitchen is a place where the timing is so specific, it is amazing.  Each pasta dish will cook differently, and the time to "drop the pasta" is so specific, since it will go to the table still cooking a bit.  I'm in awe, and the interns have learned the different timing for the different shapes. 
Knife skills are important, here you can see the basis for the soffrito for a beef braise that is being made for a lunch

Tom on the left is going to brown the meat, then add the soffrito

Caspar our chef today adds the wine to the braise

Simmering to concentrate the flavor

Beautifully done!
Leah is prepping oranges for an arugula, beet, orange salad for lunch

Assembling the salad

A few toasted walnuts top it off---bella insalata  
This is a fava bean, spring pea sauce with spring onions for the pasta

Jeremy is rocking the pasta today; a shaped pasta to catch the little bits of sauce

Clementine helps prepare the plates

A sprinkle of cheese, and away we go
Once the lunch service at 1 p.m. is finished, the dining room is cleaned, and the staff eats lunch around 2:30 p.m. The staff includes our amazing dishwashers, kitchen manager, and sometimes the bar staff. 

After that the early shift preps vegetables for the next day, takes the compost up the hill, and helps with whatever needs to be done for the dinner service.  The early shift ends around 5 p.m.
The second shift begins at 12:30--those on the second shift include interns, and the head chef for that day. They help make sure the plates of food on the buffet luncheon table are kept filled.
Today the second shift was Clementine and McLane, guided by 'Capo' Domenico.  He is an exceptionally gifted chef, and teacher---a rare combination.  We went out to the back yard of the Academy and sat in some shade as he went over the menu.  Wednesdays are generally vegetarian menu nights, so some of the vegetable prep had already been done.  Dinner is at 8 p.m. except on Friday when it's 7 p.m. and there is no dinner served on Saturday and no service on Sunday.  Dinner service is generally over and the staff eats around 10 p.m. It's a long day. Each intern works 5 days a week;  the 5 interns that are here now share an apartment at the Academy, and they are one big happy family. 
Interns get room,board, and a small stipend.  They all have told me how much they enjoy their jobs, and they take pride in everything they do.  They have a real sense of how special it is to be here and being able to work with the head chefs that teach them.  When I've spoken with each one of them, they each have said they don't want this time here to end, even though at the end of their 4 months, they will be ready to move on to any culinary job.  I have so enjoyed being in the kitchen with them, they've tolerated my "mommy-ness"  (although I'm old enough to be their grandmother) and I love seeing what they are capable of doing only 2 months into the program.  June will come too soon for them, I fear, but I know they are prepared to move on into something where they can use all they have learned in this extraordinary kitchen.  Ciao for now!
If you are interested in supporting the RSFP you can donate here

1 comment:

  1. Diane, sounds like quite an experience. Can't wait to hear all about it!