Culinary trip exceeds expectations

Students learn Italian cuisine in authentic setting


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Culinary arts major Robin Jassa (middle right), Kassane Clay (left), Brandon Williams (middle left) and Elizabeth Razo, celebrate Jassa as he wins a scholarship for a trip to Italy at the Food and Wine event on Sunday.

By Fatima Carrasco, Advocate Staff

After a year of fierce competition and vigorous fundraising 10 culinary arts students fulfilled their goal of learning the finer points of cooking from authentic Italian chefs.

These students were all able to “get certified” and “learn from other cultures,” Culinary Arts Department Chairperson Nader Sharkes said.

Still excited about Italy and with a spark of joy in her eyes Maggie Alinsod will never forget the things she learned in Italy.

“We went on field trips and learned different methods of cooking and how things were done. We found out there were no processed foods in Italy because everything is made from scratch. Whatever it is you need you have to make it, want tomato sauce, you make it.”

Nader said the process was like any earned-scholarship to study abroad.

The students had to apply, get interviewed and then the Chefs would select the students they believed had earned it.

“I’ve been here for 14 years. We’ve been sending 10 students per year for the past 12 years,” Nader said.

The chef said he began sending students to study abroad when he worked at Diablo Valley College.

There he would also host a “Food and Wine Event” and fundraise money to send a collection of students to study in other places like France and China.

Students like Erika Marks, who serves on the department’s student advisory board, earned the opportunity to study abroad in the past and remembers the trip as a life changing experience.

“My lifestyle changed, the way I eat and the way I look at things. Over there (Italy) everything is so peaceful. During lunch time everything shuts down. It is the most important time of the day and after a few hours everything opens back up. They are enjoying life there,” she said.

At Contra Costa College, this life changing experience begins an entire year in advance.

Eligible students who apply for this scholarship to Italy were required to participate in the Food and Wine Event, search for sponsors and show consistent growth in order to get chosen for the learning experience.

While overseas, students lived in cabins at the Alimini Smile Village Club located on the Salento Adriatic coast of Otranto, Italy. Here they were to study and learn about, pizza and leavening, preserved foods, wine, pasta and other traditional Italian dishes like “Primi Piatti.”

“It was amazing, it was a dream — I don’t know how to explain it. It was so beautiful and everything was so much better out there. Flavors and everything.” third semester culinary arts student Elvia Lozoya said.

The group of travelers from CCC were all amazed by the Italians way of life.

From the very moment they woke up to going to the kitchen and learning to make new dishes in new ways, to visiting Italy’s cities rich in history full of monuments and statues.

“You would wake up every morning and everything was different. You would see people so happy. Everything is so natural. It was amazing,” Alinsod said.

She also said, “Their soil is different, red volcanic soil, maybe that’s why their food tastes different — better. It was like a laboratory.”

“Now I understand why I’m doing things the way I’m doing them. There are things I would