PHOTOGRAPHY IZABEL & HANS FONK | TEXT RAPHAËLLE DE STANISLAS

Tuscania, a small town just north of the Italian city of Rome, still bears all the marks of its illustrious past. Once it was home to the Etruscans, but the historical evidence that predominates is that of the Middle Ages, in the ancient walls and churches. Here, in the former Franciscan monastery – Convento di San Francesco – built at the end of the 13th century, Rossano Boscolo has established his Bosoclo Étoile Academy – a culinary training paradise geared primarily to professional chefs. Rossano belongs to a famous family of hoteliers, and Tuscania is where he recently chose to set up the academy. OBJEKT©International travelled there, at the instigation of the kitchen specialists, Arclinea. This company, with its Design Cooking School, is an active participant in Boscolo’s project. Cooking in ultramodern kitchens among mid-15th century frescoes!

The small town of Tuscania, just north of Italy’s capital, Rome, lies in the province of Viterbo. It has a long history: the first evidence of human presence there dates as far back as 700 BCE. Later, the Etruscans, for whom the place was of strategic importance, lived in Tuscania. During Greek rule the town flourished and it is said that with Via Clodia, built in the 3rd century BCE under the Romans, the town’s economic situation was boosted further. Later it was to be absorbed into the Roman Empire and in the 5th century AD it became one of the first bishopric seats in Italy. The many old churches and monasteries still recall the days of the Papal states, the foremost building from that time being the Chiesa di San Pietro (Church of Saint Peter) built in Lombard-Romanesque style. Building was started in the 8th century and renovations were carried out in the 11th-12th centuries. The complex where Rossano Boscolo has housed his Boscolo Étoile Academy is from a later date. It is the former Convento di San Francesco, a monastery with an old church, the roof of which collapsed during the severe earthquake of 1971. Fifteenth-century frescoes in recesses of this church are, together with the side walls, the only evidence of the former glory. After the French invasion in 1798 the monks departed and the building went on to have a variety of uses, including that of abattoir. In more recent times it reverted to serving as a monastery until Rossano Boscolo decided to establish his Boscolo Étoile Academy there.

Having worked for many years as a food and beverages manager in the family’s hotel empire, in the 1980s he decided it was high time to found a cookery school – doing so in one of the Boscolo hotels near Venice. When he moved to Tuscania in 2010, the concept of a cookery school in a hotel was reversed – today it is a large culinary academy with hotel rooms.

The Italian kitchen specialists, Arclinea, are active partners in the Rossano Boscolo operation: “As a person who has been working in the professional sector for a very long time, I chose Arclinea because it is the kitchen I would like to have in my own home. For the quality of the finish, for the content and for the applied technology ratio. I enjoy cooking on an Arclinea kitchen: even as a professional.”

The Arclinea Design Cooking School occupies a large hall in which eight Arclinea kitchens, with specially-designed extractor hoods, have been grouped. At Rossano’s request the units were given marble work surfaces. They have Scholtes induction cook tops. Lorenza Dalla Pozza is Arclinea’s marketing coordinator. She tells in prosaic terms about the cookery school to which she regularly accompanies important guests.

“When you arrive, it all becomes clear. Something takes you there; it is no accident. Perhaps it is something you were seeking, or still are, and you know you will find the answer there. You can smell the scent of the lavender bushes and the shrubs in bloom along the road as it rises and falls on the way to Tuscania. Broad horizons and vertical rock faces of tuff, glimpses of the ruins of ancient civilizations, narrow cobblestoned streets flanked by old walls and the signs left on this land by its deep religious culture, accompany as you go. On your left one minute, on your right the next. Now that we have arrived, we understand. The plan is revealed to us in all of its grandeur.

With one handshake, the alliance is forged between Arclinea and the Boscolo Etoile Academy, the historical and prestigious Italian cooking school for professional Chefs, which moved to Tuscania in September and opened its doors to amateur cookery courses. It is more than a business and marketing relationship: it is about shared opinions, purposes and projects, symbiosis, synergy. From Tuscania to the whole world”.

The set-up of the cookery school for chefs is highly professional and addresses all the disciplines relating to the culinary arts: from actual cooking to decorating tables and kitchen management. Alongside Rossano, master chef Giuseppe Falanga is responsible for coordinating all the activities for which culinary specialists are flown in from all over the world.

The complex housing the academy is U-shaped and comprises several storeys, with the former church on one side. The various cookery stations are accommodated on the ground floor and in the basement, while the upper floors are used as a hotel. In 2011 the ground floor of one side of the U-shaped building was transformed into a second Arclinea Design Cooking School, in partnership with Miele. It is a cookery theatre in a large vaulted hall which has been thoroughly revamped and equipped for cookery activities. Incidentally, the make-over of the entire complex is a ‘work in progress’. A design has been drawn up for the church, whose walls are all that now remain standing and whose frescoes have suffered the adverse effects of the weather. The plans entail an undulating glass roof extending almost as far as the herb garden situated at a lower level. Some 400 varieties of herbs are grown in the garden for use in the cookery sessions. In addition, the complex houses a library of ancient cookery books, all of which are in digital format and can be consulted on monitors. One of the recesses in the former church has a glass front and today hosts wine-tastings.