Location: Cafe Fiore, 21550 Oxnard St, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Chef: Saverio Posarelli
Knowing how to cook a decent meal is one of most practical skill to have. Since I had never been a good cook by any stretch of the imagination, I was thrilled when I was invited as a guest to the cooking class at Café Fiore, hosted by Chef Saverio Posarelli. The class normally costs around $75 per person, and this gives you front row seat to observe the chef as he demonstrates all the steps and techniques necessary for preparing different dishes. You also get to indulge on glasses of wine and cocktail while learning. At the end of the class, you get to take home a notebook that includes all the recipes for you to try at home.
During my visit, Chef Posarelli taught us how to prepare a four-course meal consisting of the following dishes:
- Zuppa Di Ceci with Grilled Calamari, Shrimp & Lentils
- Gnocchi Di Patate with Sausage Ragu & Vino Rosso
- Roasted Pork Loin with Figs, Plums in Honey Port Glaze
- Biscotti & Vin Santo
My biggest take away from the night was learning how to cook the pasta sauce – Sausage Ragu. It was beyond delicious. Chef Posarelli also gave tips on where to find the best ingredients.
After the class, I had a chance to hold an e-mail Q&A with the Chef:
1. Could you tell us a little about your background?
I was born and raised in Florence, Italy and went to Restaurant and Hotel management school there. I did several internships in hotels and restaurants in Germany, Italy, France and Japan before coming to the U.S. I worked with the acclaimed Florentine chef Fabio Picchi at Il Cibreo in Florence and then moved to Tokyo to open up its sister restaurant. After Japan, I came to the U.S. and had a stint at a small trattoria in Pacific Heights called Il Gallo. Longing to be closer to my girlfriend and now wife, I then moved to Los Angeles. I began working for Bob Morris of Gladstone's fame. He served as a mentor to me and taught me much about the American aspects of the restaurant business, numbers and operations. From there I connected with the revolutionary Italian restaurateurs who owned Locanda Veneta, L.A.'s first authentic Italian trattoria. I continued my work as a chef with several of their Italian off shoots throughout Los Angeles up to the point of opening my own restaurant in Agoura Hills in 1997 in Agoura Hills called Padri restaurant and Martini Bar. We transformed a small house into a cozy Tuscan farmhouse eatery. From there I ventured north and opened up Cafe Fiore in Ventura, Cafe Fiore in Woodland Hills and just a year ago my first Mexican restaurant called Plata Taqueria & Cantina in Agoura Hills.
2. Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you started cooking?
In a child's dreams, there are many things that swirl around and I was no different. I can say, I never really thought I would become a chef and own restaurants, but I can say that it has truly brought joy to my life by feeding, celebrating and satisfying so many people in such a simple way- good food.
3. Who is the target audience for your class?
I think the class is mostly for people who love food and eating, sharing others’ company, a glass of good wine and entertaining at home. They can easily recreate what they've learned in class for friends and family. The typical class can range from young couples, professionals, foodies and loyal restaurant customers. I love that the class has a wide variety and that I can cater to them creating a fun and unusual night filled with stories of my childhood and homeland. It's simple too, I like the focus to be around eating something delicious, drinking some good wine, and leaving with some inspiration to recreate the dishes at home.
4. Describe the class - how long is the class, what can people gain from this class, and how often do you hold this class?
The class consists of an introduction where I introduce myself and the students are given their recipe books and pencils to take notes. Then, I usually do four courses, which can vary from appetizers, salads, fresh pastas, risottos, fish, meat or dessert. The class lasts two hours and all courses are tasted by the students. They can do some handsome work and are also given alternatives for variations on sauces or pairing items differently. The class is offered typically four to five times a year.
5. How would you describe your style of cooking?
I like to believe that my style of cooking is simple, flavored and not too difficult or pretentious to create. I always look to use genuine, natural and seasonal ingredients- that is a must!
6. Who has inspired you to cook?
When I was young, my inspiration came from all of the fantastic women that surrounded my home, my mother and Nonna, much like most of the Italian homes of my generation. Working with Fabio Picchi at Il Cibreo, who is known as being difficult, but always thrived by creating simple food with local ingredients as opposed to anything pushed or contrived allowed this philosophy to resonate with me and my beliefs in the kitchen.
7. What's the hardest thing you've had to do in your career?
There is nothing hard in your career if you enjoy what you do, however, I have faced challenges and mostly they have been about balance. I work hard to be involved with all of the restaurants, raising three sons, being in a strong marriage and holding on to my core values.
8. What spring ingredients are you most excited to work with this year?
My spring favorites are: English peas, fava beans, watercress, Vidalia onions and baby leeks. I like getting many of my vegetables and herbs from a local husband/wife owned farm in Tarzana called Country fresh herbs who also frequents all of the local farmers market as well.
I would like to thank Chef Posarelli and Cafe Fiore for hosting such an amazing event and for taking the time to answer my questions.