By Jane Hunt
Follow your nose from Bologna’s bustling shopping street, the long and full-of-temptation Via dell’Indipendenza, and head into the quarter housing the world’s oldest university, and luck may lead you to CIBO (The Culinary Institute of Bologna), the home of Bologna’s most dedicated foodie, The Boho Chef, Stefano Corvucci.
This passionate food-lover, who qualified as a lawyer, but gave up a legal career to follow a love of food instilled in him by his father, established CIBO having run one of Bologna’s highest-end restaurants. Despite huge success as a restaurateur, Stefano longed to have an interaction with the foodie that was not possible given all the demands on his time as a restaurant owner. He stripped everything back, analysed how he could work face-to-face with fellow foodies and recognised that the establishment of CIBO was the answer.
Now, those seeking the perfect Bolognese sauce – or ragù, as they prefer to say in these parts – arrive at this foodie haven, knowing this inspirational Italian cookery school will not only teach them how to cook the perfect ‘bolognaise’, but also provide the pleasure of devouring it for lunch.
At the same time, they can opt to have a hands-on pasta making session – creating Bologna’s famed tortelloni or tagliatelle from scratch – and can learn a huge number of techniques that most cookery courses simply will not teach. The reason for this is that teaching recipes is not CIBO’s way. Instead, food lovers of all abilities learn to cook what is in front of them on the day, improvising and adapting to ensure that whether they have to fillet a fish, de-bone a chicken, pipe ricotta cheese into a courgette flower before rolling it in breadcrumbs and baking it, or blend strawberries ready for use with a pannacotta for dessert, they can manage to complete their task for the good of their fellow course attendees, who will later eat their wares. That way, they leave with true and lifelong skills and are not one-trick ponies only able to recreate one dish for which everything is measured out and all steps specified, leaving nothing to the judgement or improvisation of the cook.
After visiting the lively and colourful Bologna food market - Mercato di Mezzo - to buy what is in-season at that hour and on that day, whilst gaining sense of place in the heart of ‘La Grassa’ – the nickname (translating as ‘fat’) of a city that created ragù, tagliatelle and tortelloni and is known for being Italy’s culinary nirvana - you’ll undoubtedly remark upon the lack of tomatoes that have been purchased for your Bolognaise sauce. The reason is simple. Such a tomato-laden concoction simply does not exist in Bologna and is an affront to local sensitivities. This may, at first, be a hard pill for Brits to swallow, but overcoming this hurdle will open your taste buds to the best Bolognaise you’ve ever tasted. Knowing you’ve cooked it yourself is truly rewarding.
Stefano Corvucci, who has cooked at historic castles, homes of the super-rich, and leading foodie events in both the UK and USA, stays steadfastly true to authentic Italian cookery, whilst delivering a lively narrative in the kitchen, just like his culinary hero, Artusi – a 19th century, pioneering ‘foodie traveller’. Artusi’s vibrant and comical descriptions of food experiences in various Italian cities and towns, were relayed with gusto by Stefano’s father during his many hours of cooking in the family home, leaving Stefano with the same desire to bring food and cookery to life through lively interpretation and narration.
Whilst you are cooking a first-class ragù, just like ‘nonna’s’, you can listen to his tales and titbits picked up from the many chefs who descend on CIBO from locations around the world, immerse yourself in Italian culture in a city that is relatively unspoilt by tourism, particularly that emanating from the UK, and enjoy CIBO’s own-label wine, which will be liberally poured as, at CIBO, a meal without wine is breakfast. Whether you dive into this foodie epicentre, in the foodie capital of Italy, for a half, full-day, or longer, your journey in tracking down the perfect ragù will be one like no other and you will emerge with friends with similar passions and interests from countries across the globe.
CIBO is cosmopolitan, compelling and culinary heaven. If you wish to experience it, head to www.cookingclassesinbologna.com and choose your preferred course.