Chris Marchino may work at one of the top Italian kitchens in the country, but until recently Cafe Spiaggia's executive sous chef had never been to Italy. That all changed when he took a weeklong culinary tour of Tuscany with Jens Bauerle and Gourmet Destinations. Since returning, Marchino is hard at work creating new Tuscan-inspired dishes for Cafe Spiaggia's menu. This was the first time Bauerle took a professional chef along with his tour, but it's definitely something he'd do again.
"Chris's presence was a huge asset," Bauerle said. "I was having anxiety dreams before we left! I thought nothing would be good enough for him. But we share the same values...to discover the simplicity of food and life."
Bauerle started Gourmet Destinations as a part-time job, since he has extensive experience in Italy and was always giving friends recommendations. Two years ago, he incorporated the company and is running five Tuscany tours this year, along with his first Piedmont tour in September.
"Our customers may have been to Italy before," Bauerle said. "But they want a different experience." With Gourmet Destinations, Bauerle offers guests a gastronomic tour of specialty cuisine with artisans and food experts that are not normally available to tourists.
It's not just the food in Italy that makes it special though. Marchino picked up on the attitude of the Italian people as well. "No matter how stressful the situation, you have the feeling that everything will be okay." He's tried to bring that philosophy back with him to the kitchen at Cafe Spiaggia. "If people get worked up the product suffers," he said. I guess that means no Hell's Kitchen antics from Chris and Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg -- who you might remember from Season 9 of Top Chef.
Want to taste all the dishes? You'll just have to dine at Cafe Spiaggia all six weeks. I'll be back each week to give you the scoop on what's coming up next. Dining weekly at Cafe Spiaggia...now that's something I could get used to.