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New Zealand: partnership brings passion for Italian food to NMIT (Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology)

Italian Gianluigi Zenti has a simple message for food producers in the Nelson region; learn to tell your story.

gianluigi zenti

"We always say it is not enough to exist, you need to communicate that you exist, and find what you stand for and communicate it," Mr Zenti said. "In the end you need to tell the story."

Mr Zenti is an executive director of the Italian food institute Academia Barilla and was in Nelson for last night's official opening of the partnership between Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and the academy.

It is the first time the academy has partnered with a foreign institute to provide Italian cuisine training.

Mr Zenti said the partnership resulted from the persistence of NMIT School of Tourism, Hospitality and Wellbeing head Elizabeth Latham who kept in contact with him after meeting him on his first visit to New Zealand last year.

"She's the most tenacious person I've ever met."

Under the partnership, NMIT chef James Perry, who was recently certified by the academy after attending a course at the Parma-based academy in Italy, will teach second-year professional cookery students the fundamentals of Italian regional gastronomy.

Week-long public courses will be available, which are attracting interest from around the country.

Mr Zenti said an important thing about Italian cuisine was there was not one single cuisine, but it was made up of 20 regions each of which had at least one cuisine.

Each region's food was shaped by its history, landscape and culture.

Southern Italian food had a Miiddle Eastern/African influence while Northern Italian food was influenced by French culture.

Other integral parts were the social aspect of eating together and trademark Italian passion.

"We always say life without passion is useless. Think about living without any passion ... there is no emotion and food is a very big component to the quality of life."

Mr Zenti said he was impressed with Nelson, which he described as the best in New Zealand.

He was impressed with the food made by artisans he had been introduced to in Nelson, and said they had a passion for their products similar to Italian producers but their story was lacking.

"I don't see these producers as being very good at telling us their stories, they just tell us what they do, they don't tell us the story we want to hear."

Mrs Latham said she knew she wanted to work with Mr Zenti when she first heard him speak as he was "espousing values that were very dear to me".

She had always felt that institutes were good at teaching students craft and what was missing was the passion.

"If you are going to be a great chef, you have to be passionate about what's around you and what's accessible to you."

Mrs Latham said she realised that by working with Mr Zenti and the academy NMIT would be able to inject the missing element – the passion – into the courses.

Food and culture were amazingly linked in Italy and because New Zealand had not developed its own food culture enough yet it needed rich, potent examples to help it.

Mr Zenti said New Zealand and Nelson should also be looking at developing its regional and national food identity, a challenge Mrs Latham and Mr Perry said they were keen to pick up on.

"The goal is in five years to develop a regional food culture for New Zealand," Mrs Latham said.

Source: www.stuff.co.nz

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