The First Time We Met Chef Claudio
Chef Claudio, of our best-selling cooking vacation in Tuscany, is one of everyone’s favorite people and chefs. You’ll see why in today’s blog, in which the staff of The International Kitchen recalls the first time they met Chef Claudio!
Karen Herbst, founder and president
The first time I met Claudio was in 1994. We were introduced by a young tour operator in Florence (who is now our partner for many years.) He told me that Claudio was a great chef, had never been outside of his small home town of Figline Valdarno, but was eager to do cooking classes. I went to meet him and was immediately charmed by his welcoming personal warmth, and that wonderful smile of his. At this time, in addition to never having strayed from his town, he also did not speak a word of English. And my Italian was very limited. Nonetheless, we were able to communicate and I knew this was a person with whom I wanted to work. Twenty years later, Claudio has traveled the world competing (and winning) chef competitions, his English is quite good, and he is still the charming, assuming, wonderful person. Claudio has never let his success change his goals, attitude or demeanor. He is truly a gifted chef and teacher and one of the nicest, caring and earnest people I have ever known. I feel very lucky to count him as a friend as well as a collaborator.
Richard Davis, group and incentive travel specialist
The first time I met Claudio I was immediately taken with his ready smile and amazing patience. His cooking lesson was of course informative but more importantly, I think, it was the most fun I can remember having in a long time. Dish after dish was taught with much laughter and camaraderie with my “class mates”. From gnocchi to tiramisu the mysteries of Italian recipes disappeared amid smiles, joking and perhaps some delicious Tuscan wine. I was equally impressed during the market visit in Figline Valdarno with Chef Claudio where he seemed to know each and every vendor.
Liz Hall, Web and Travel Coordinator
After a whirlwind week at an Italian tradeshow and visiting some of our partners in Tuscany, our Florence office took me out to Chef Claudio’s property for my final dinner before returning back to the States. I’d been warned about Claudio… that he was incredibly generous and that we’d be fed course after course of delicious Tuscan dishes until we literally could not eat anymore. The warning was spot on. The dishes were incredible from that first piece of bread to the fresh pasta, to the three (yes, 3!) plates of dessert. But what I wasn’t prepared for was just how kind Claudio was. He had long ago met everyone else at the table, except me, but I never felt like I was the new person. He welcomed me, thanked me coming, and asked how I was enjoying Tuscany. And I swear, a smile never left his face, whether he was serving us his dishes, or out greeting the other guests in his lovely restaurant!
Peg Kern, Tour Coordinator
The first time I met Chef Claudio I was with Leonardo, the head of our Florence office. I had been warned by him (and by Karen), how much and how good the food was going to be. I was not disappointed! I still remember Chef Claudio’s ribollita, a classic Tuscan dish that I’ve never particularly liked, but that in Chef Claudio’s hands took on a whole new depth of flavors. The first cold day of winter each year I dream about going back to enjoy some more, along with Chef Claudio’s smile. Some chefs are temperamental, pompous, short-tempered with their staff… Chef Claudio is the exact opposite of all those things. What sets him apart is he is indelibly kind, a generous, enthusiastic teacher (you really can do it! Chef Claudio will make you believe you can, and then you will do it!). Food — Tuscan food in particular — is his life, and he simply loves sharing that with everyone.
By Peg KernBy Peg Kern