Finding a deeper appreciation for Italian cuisine

DOWNEY - Patty Maneerod, a culinary manager at the Downey Olive Garden, has always been happy to go the extra mile to provide her guests with a genuine Italian dining experience.Recently, she was willing to go the extra 4,000 miles and participate in company-sponsored training in Italy, where she and 13 fellow managers spent a week learning about Italian culture and cuisine and enhancing their culinary skills at Olive Garden's Culinary Institute of Tuscany. Each year, Olive Garden selects approximately 100 managers to travel to Italy as part of the restaurant's ongoing culinary training program. The experience is designed to bring the genuine Italian dining experience alive for managers and, upon their return, to their restaurant and guests. At the Culinary Institute of Tuscany, Maneerod worked under the direction of Olive Garden executive chefs to learn time-honored traditions of Italian cooking by refining ingredient selection skills, learning the secret to layering sauces and perfecting al dente pasta to create the most flavorful meals. "Having the opportunity to train in Italy was an amazing experience that has deepened my love for Italian cuisine," Maneerod said. "Starting with the freshest ingredients is the key to creating the most flavorful dishes." While in Italy, the group also visited Olive Garden's Riserva di Fizzano restaurant and the Rocca delle Macie winery, Olive Garden's partner and one of Italy's leading producers of Tuscan wines. There, in the scenic rolling hills of Castellina in Chainti, Italy, the class learned about the history and tradition of Italian winemaking, and gained first-hand knowledge of the important role wine plays in the Italian meal. In addition to the time managers spent training in the kitchen and touring the wineries, the group went sightseeing throughout Rome, Florence and Tuscany, experiencing the rich history of Italy and the hospitality of its people. "The passion that Italians have for food, wine and the entire dining experience defines how they live life…with enthusiasm and generosity," Maneerod said. "I always felt at home and I'm excited to bring that spirit, warmth and passion back to our guests." Managers are selected to train in Tuscany by their director of operations and senior vice president based on their restaurant leadership and passion for the genuine Italian dining experience. Over the course of almost a decade, Olive Garden has sent more than 900 managers and employees to Italy as part of its immersion program designed to inspire, motivate and educate employees. "Our goal is for each manager to return with a deeper understanding of the Italian dining experience and the relationship that exists between food, wine and service," said Valerie Insignares, executive vice president of operations for Olive Garden. "As a manager, they have a tremendous opportunity to invigorate our restaurant teams who can then share our passion and connection to Italy with every guest."

********** Published: May 15, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 4