Since the past few days, after I made some back to back check-ins at various places in the city, my friends started asking me questions like, “Do you even do any work or just go around visiting places and gorging on delicious food?”. My answer to the question annoyed them to the core, for a part of my job requires me to go around various places in Pune and narrate my experiences. However, The Italian Cookout organised at The Westin’s Italian restaurant Prego was a totally different deal from what I have experienced till date.
I had been to Prego before and knew what to expect. Some delicious, authentic Italian food, posh ambience and wine that plays perfect companion to the food. As I entered, I saw Head Chef Giuseppe Lioce demonstrating everyone how to cook Parmigiana di melanzane or Eggplant parmigiana (baked eggplant layers in tomato sauce, basil and cheese). The highlight, however, was this — after tasting the dish, I was given a cape and a hat and asked to cook.
Before I could even understand what is going on, the Head Chef moved on to the next dish; Panzanella Salad (Tuscan salad with prawns, bread and tomatoes). I saw all the ingredients and the arsenal required for making the dish laid out on the table in front of me, and soon, the knife found its way to my hand. I began cutting the veggies, feeling like a surgeon operating on a patient. It actually was a cook off, quite unlike most similar events where the chef merely demonstrates his talent.
It didn’t take long for me to realise that my mother loves me too much to ever let me enter the kitchen and learn a thing or two about cooking. With some help from my teammates, we soon prepared dish after dish, learning under the tutelage of Chef Lioce. We then moved on to Insalata di gorgonzola e pera (Pear salad with gorgonzola cheese and rocket), Maltagliati Caprese (Maltagliati pasta with buffalo mozzarella cheese), Branzino Livornese (sea-bass fish with tomatoes, olives and capers, served with fried polenta and spinach) and Calzoni di Nutella (Folded pizzas with chocolate Nutella).
The experience at The Hands-on Italian Cookout was enjoyable and pleasant. I actually enjoyed playing a small part in cooking the dishes (which means the minute my mom finds out about this, I will be expected to help out at home as well. Gone are my childhood days!). Despite all the attempts by the Head Chef and the staff present at Prego to help us, we couldn’t really cook the dishes like the pros (well, obvious in my case!). The simple method and presentation really won us over. Although I haven’t conjured any dish in the kitchen like Dr. Jekyll would in a secret lab, the recipes did seem simple enough for experienced cooks to prepare in the kitchen. If you’re a clown of a cook like me, do ensure you try out the recipes under the supervision of an experienced cook. The mixing and cooking is pretty similar to an experience at the chemistry lab, where some mixtures can be dangerous if you get the amounts and method wrong.
The event was organised by GourmetItUp in association with Food Bloggers’ Association of India (FBAI) for prominent food bloggers and media personnel in the city. Deepa Jain, founder of GourmetItUp and Sameer Malkani, founder of FBAI, interacted with us and, Deepa briefed us about the workings of GourmetItUp and its ambition to umbrella some of the best restaurants in Pune.
GourmetItUp provides its members with access to exclusive fine dining experiences at hand-picked restaurants in Pune. They specially curate course meals that are often paired with an alcohol component and have an attractive price point. It was kickstarted as a response to evolving culinary tastes and preferences. Currently, the online gourmet portal has partnered with some of the best restaurants in Pune, Mumbai and Delhi. It has more than 25,000 members that range from connoisseurs to first‐timers, all brought together by the shared desire for good food.
They have already partnered with some of the most popular restaurants in Pune like Olive Bistro, Trois, Malaka Spice, Trikaya and more recently, Habibi. They have also partnered with dining chains like Mainland China and restaurants in five star hotels like Prego at The Westin and Baan Tao at The Hyatt.
About Food Bloggers’ Association of India (FBAI):
Food Bloggers’ Association of India (FBAI) is an online news channel about food, chefs, food events and food bloggers. It is making its presence felt across many online food space portals.
If you wish you get your hands on the recipes, stay tuned! We’ll be sharing recipes on The Punekar in the next few days. Do keep checking in…
Feature Image Credits: Pratibha