Italian cuisine and culture come to Vancouver Community College's downtown campus

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      Our town has been blessed by Italy before. Chefs such as Tuscany-born Umberto Menghi and Calabria-born Pino Posteraro have set the bar high for Italian cuisine in Vancouver.

      But early in the new year, local residents will have a chance to learn from Italian masters in the kitchens at Vancouver Community College’s downtown campus.

      That’s because VCC will accept another batch of students for Cucina Italiana—Italian Master Class Series, which is offered through VCC continuing studies.

      The dean, Gordon McIvor, told the Straight by phone that students are not only going to learn new culinary skills, they’ll also get the full-meal deal when it comes to Italian culture, courtesy of charismatic head chef Giovanni Trigona.

      “These courses are really designed more for the entertainment value as opposed to training people to become chefs,” McIvor acknowledged.

      VCC has partnered with the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada West to offer five three-hour evening classes over a five-week period. They focus on the culture of Italian cuisine from a specific region.

      Each evening is devoted to a region’s pasta, pizza, breads, pastries, the pairings of Italian wine and food, and even gourmet gelato. There’s a 20-percent discount for those who enroll in all five courses, though they can also be taken individually.

      “Giovanni has a lot of energy,” McIvor said. “You’re really getting a very authentic experience.”

      VCC’s senior program coordinator of continuing studies, Claire Sauvé, told the Straight by phone that what sets the Italian Master Class Series apart is how it weaves together traditions, customs, regional history, and Italian food.

      “There are certain classifications of ingredients from Italy, depending on their regional authenticity,” Sauvé explained. “An even higher measure of authenticity is if the ingredients come from a particular region and have been 100-percent prepared in that region. So they are really focused on regional delicacies."

      McIvor attended a session this fall in which the chef insisted that dough be left to sit out for 18 hours before students could start kneading it. McIvor also recalled how it felt having flour poured over his hand and hearing the chef talk about its consistency.

      He was delighted by how much joy there was in the room during the class, which he described as "highly interactive".

      “It’s almost like a party,” he recalled. “If people are looking for an active evening, I think it’s something they would enjoy.”

      This video shows how the Rick Hansen Foundation is helping make buildings more accessible.

      Accessibility assessors will be trained at VCC

      The Italian Master Class Series reflects how staff in the VCC continuing studies can seek partnerships before embarking on new programs.

      “It’s not just about us creating a course from scratch,” McIvor said. “It’s really about engaging with people who have the subject-matter expertise and the curriculum and us delivering it and making it accessible to people from where we sit.”

      Along the same lines, VCC continuing studies will offer an accessibility-assessor-certification course in the spring in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation.

      “The training is to become an accessibility assessor—to go into buildings and assess how accessible the buildings are,” Sauvé said.

      This can involve measuring the width of stairways or doorways and making recommendations to engineers about any retrofitting that needs to be done. But it also incorporates accessibility for people who are hearing or visually impaired, those who have companion dogs, and even people with strollers.

      “It’s a holistic view of accessibility,” Sauvé noted.

      McIvor noted that the assessing-accessibility course will take place in a large room at the Broadway campus.

      Obstacles will be created there and students will rely on wheelchairs to navigate around them and around the campus. They’ll also find their way while blindfolded and walking with a cane.

      “A lot of buildings in Vancouver and all across Canada are required to be retrofitted,” McIvor said. “The Rick Hansen Foundation is trailblazing this. We’re going to be the ‘train the trainer’ spot for Canada, and the goal in the long term is we roll this out across Canada and people come here for training.”