It was no mere pizza pie for the very young chefs that gathered at the University of Houston Hilton Hotel to showcase their cooking skills. Think polenta ravioli with braised veal cheeks, smoked saltimbocca with spaetzle and gnocco fritto with prosciutto. And then there was the lavish cannoli dessert.
The Italian Cultural & Community Center hosted the "Tutti ai Fornelli de La Piccola Cucina," a cooking competition comprised for four teams of junior chefs, aged 3 to 13, each paired with an executive chef of Italian heritage. Each team prepared a dinner course for the evening that served as a fundraiser for center programs.
Leading the cooking teams were Maurizio Ferrarese of the Four Seasons Hotel, Alberto Baffoni of Mascalzone, JohnMicheal Lynch of Hotel Granduca's Ristorante Cavour and Fabio Potenzano, a resident of Palermo, Italy, and a member of the Italian National Culinary Team.
It was Potenzano's team that received top honors for their dessert course — cannolo layers with mixed berries, almond cookie with passito sauce and pistachio semifreddo with Modica chocolate sauce.
“It was an evening of education and fun for a great cause,” said Tiziana Triolo, director of programs and marketing for the center. “I’m very proud of my students, not only for their culinary abilities, but especially for their support to the center. When I designed the program, I had only one thing in mind: Teaching Italian language and culture to young generations of all nationalities."
The team of judges, chaired by chef and food expert Renato De Pirro, was as impressive as the young culinary stars. They included the cultural attaché from the Italian Consulate in San Francisco Paola Ebranati, food and wine writer and journalist Mike Ricetti, Dr. Cristiana Rastellini, and Salvatore Albelice, owner of Sunbelt Inc. and Fellini Caffé.
Donning chefs toques for the evening were Pier Francesco Papi, Veronica Pascucci, Giulia Sdringola, Ludovica Duchini, Emilio Fronza, Domenica Sepe, Diego Sarmiento, Antonio Vetrini and Robert Wood, Chiara Cattano, Camilla Manning and Sadie Weller.