Are you considering organising a private chef dinner in Tuscany? Or is the idea of a private Tuscan cooking class equally appealing? This post gives you a full insight on both, so you can see which is better for you.
Having a private chef dinner in a Tuscan villa, where the regional cuisine is world class, has always been a bit of a dream. So we organised a private Tuscan chef to come to our holiday villa and cook an amazing Tuscan meal, from scratch before our very eyes, served and cleared while we relaxed with the wine from the surrounding vineyards.
On a separate day we also indulged in a private cooking class. A professional Tuscan chef arrived at our villa with grocery bags overflowing with the freshest, tastiest local ingredients Tuscany has to offer. Once we all settled into the kitchen, we were taken step-by-step through the creation of an entire Tuscan menu. We even got to get hands on making ‘pici’ pasta.
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Private Cooking Class
We were staying at the glorious Villa Montepulciano, Tuscany where Maurizio, the villa owner and a sommelier, started by teaching us about the exceptional wines that were to accompany the meal. Maurizio’s vineyards surround the villa, so it felt super appropriate and special.
Meanwhile our private chef arrived with bags and bags of delicious fresh foods from the local area. This menu is a traditional one, but there is flexibility for other menus.
The wine was uncorked. The Vino Nobile de Montepulciano is readily available from the villa (for a charge) and had become a very popular companion come sun-down.
Maurizio, who was fantastic company and a font of local knowledge translated for us, while our charismatic Tuscan chef explained the dishes, gesturing fully with his hands in a very Italian way.
Our Tuscan menu started with three types of crostini dishes. The first is a chicken liver pâté.
Every celebratory meal in Tuscany is opened with chicken liver pâté crostini, know also as crostini neri or black crostini.
We were surprised how little garlic was used…
and how MUCH olive oil!
Chicken livers are cooked with vegetables and enlivened with capers and anchovy paste.
Delicious smells of Tuscan foods were filling the vast kitchen and it was beginning to feel very homely.
The pâté is then spread on slices of crunchy bread, which are soaked in hot broth or even a little cooking water.
We sat down at the long kitchen table and munched away happily. Supping the first of the bottles of wine and enjoying a classic Tuscan starter.
For the next dish, our Chef opened a bottle of his own mushrooms gathered last mushroom season.
This next crostini dish had layers of Tuscan bread, sliced mushrooms and local cheese melted on top.
We got to taste as we went along. The delicious local cheese was offered to us with a drizzle of honey.
It was an earthy dish that went perfectly with the wines. Everything was grown and produced on the sweeping hills just outside the doors of our villa.
Our last crostini dish was the classic tomato one. Made very simply but somehow this one was by far the best version we have ever tasted!
The tomatoes themselves were stunning. But, they were worked with a bit of oil, salt and quite a lot of squeezing before placing on top of garlic rubbed bread.
So, next came the opportunity for us to get our hands dirty and make our own pasta. I loved this challenge so much because we didn’t use a pasta maker, but made ‘pici’ pasta using our hands.
First, the pastry chef arrived and she took us through the steps.
Add 1/2 tsp of salt.
Then a Tbsp of olive oil and a dash of water (tho’ you may need to add more).
Bring all the ingredients together bit by bit, first using a fork, and when the mix becomes a dough your hands.
Don’t use all the flour, you may need much less. Knead the dough for a while until it feel pliable.
My son James and I adore each other, are very protective of each other and yet we love being competitive with each other too!
It was great fun. Mainly I watched what James was doing and tried to keep up.
Once the dough is ready, roll it out on a floured surface and cut it into thin strips.
Each strip then needs to be rolled using both hands into fat spaghetti shapes.
Char’ may have finished last but her ‘pici’ was outstanding!
Our chef went on to cook an incredible Tuscan meat ragù full of meats such as boar, veal, Tuscan sausages, beef mince and heart.
The smells were intense and deeply satisfying.
We were making our way through bottles of various years and our group was a jolly one! So, when our own ‘pici’ pasta was served with Chefs ragù sauce, we let out a cheer.
It felt especially relaxed being in our own villa. We didn’t have to get dressed up. It didn’t matter that we were covered in flour. Best of all no one had to be responsible for getting this happy rabble back anywhere.
Finally a sweet dessert wine was poured. It was from Maurizio’s vineyard, but you can only get it direct from him because he doesn’t make enough to sell generally. Let me tell you, it is incredible. If you holiday in Tuscany and rent out The Villa Montepulciano it’s just another perk!
Meanwhile, our pastry chef taught us how to make a traditional Tuscan yeasted lemon cake with raisons. It is soft, light and sweet. A lovely end to a fabulous event.
We sat on our patio basking in the view and sipped our dessert wine slowly.
By the time the pastry chef served the lemon cake up for us, the entire kitchen was spotless.
The event took the entire afternoon and we felt quite tired afterwards. We had been eating and drinking for hours! We all took to the sun beds outside to watch the sun go down and talk about what a great experience we’d shared.
Private Chef Dining
We chose to do a private chef dining in Tuscany because we knew my daughter was going to get engaged to Matthew while we were here. Luckily, she said yes and we all got dressed up in the evening for a relaxed and happy celebratory meal.
Our chefs (an elderly Tuscan couple) turned up with little fuss and happy smiles (the Tuscan way) and began laying the table outside, chopping, frying and slicing.
We opened more bottles of Vino Nobile de Montepulciano sat back and enjoyed this special occasion.
In no time out from the kitchen came this great rosemary bread, something I definitely want to copy at home.
The meal was full of traditional Tuscan dishes again. For us it was exactly what we wanted. The dishes went so well with the Montepulciano wines.
Our start was simple as most Tuscan dishes are, but utterly delicious. The salad had fantastic local cured meat and cheese, salt and olive oil. The quality of everything was so good and that was key.
We were so happy, making lots of ‘toasts’…
and welcoming Matthew into the family.
It’s fair to say were all enjoying it!
Next came this chickpea soup with bread. It was absolutely fantastic. Not something I would have ever picked off a menu but a real surprise. It was packed with flavour.
Isn’t that part of the fun, when you allow dishes to be put in front of you, then they turn out to be a revelation.
Whenever we wanted another bottle of wine we could just reach into the villa’s wine room (yes, there is a room just for the pleasure of wine) and take one.
The next dish was one of my favourites and again, something I would never have chosen. It was like a cheesy lasagne, but made with polenta. I’m on the hunt for a recipe like this one. It was deeply comforting.
We really enjoyed the ease of the evening. Everything was done for us. All we had to do was enjoy a Tuscan culinary journey.
To our surprise another dish came along. We shouldn’t have been surprised!
The Italian potatoes with rosemary has long been a favourite of mine and the seared beef was delicious. A surprise for me tho’ was the green asparagus mousse. I loved it, despite it’s appearance!
The whole meal was a delight. The chefs worked quietly, happily and produced some wonderful home-cooked Tuscan dishes we loved. The kitchen was left spotless.
We were so impressed we clapped and cheered as they left!
Highs and lows of both experiences
- Both experiences meant you had no washing up or tiding to do!
- The private chef dining gave you an opportunity to dress up but still be relaxed in your ‘own’ place. Kicking off your shoes whenever you like, whilst still having a special occasion.
- Choosing the private cooking class meant you don’t have to dress up at all. Casual is better.
- The cooking classes can be tiring, especially as ours was paired with wine. You could avoid the wine of course…
- The cooking class takes the bulk of the day. A high or low depending on your point of view.
- The private chef dining experience is especially good if you have a villa with a view. You’d pay a fortune for a restaurant table with a view after all.
- Participating in the cooking classes can be great fun. For us, making the ‘pici’ pasta was a highlight.
- You get to learn local Tuscan food from scratch from a professional chef – big plus.
- You get to fully relax at the private chef dining experience.
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