A few days before Parla come mangi, we met Gaia Massai to find out more about Gaia’s Plate and Cucinato Italian Culinary Studio
March 5th is approaching and we are all excited for the launch of this new series of events, cohosted by ScuolaScuola, combining Italian language and cuisine! It will also be an occasion to celebrate International Women’s day with Gaia Massai, wine and olive oil producer, partner at Cucinato Italian Culinary Studio and a passionate educator who will talk about her work in an industry historically dominated by men. As to the cooking part, chef Cosimo Ieraci will prepare a typical Tuscan meal with the help of passionate guests.
We have met Gaia Massai to talk about her company, her experience at Cucinato and her Tuscan origins.
Gaia, you are a “Tuscan wine and olive oil producer, lecturer, and event host.” It seems a lot of work for just one person. How did it all begin?
I started my company, Gaia’s Plate, in 2008. The reason is quite simple: when I moved here, it was difficult to find quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil at a reasonable price – so I decided to import my own. Since then the business has evolved, and, through partnerships with local agents, I now sell my family’s wines here in Ontario as well. But Gaia’s Plate is also a platform for pursuing my lifelong passion for Italian cuisine, especially the rural Tuscan food and wine of my roots. From the articles and family recipes I share on my website, to the lectures, workshops and tastings I host at various Toronto venues, I hope to bring the fascinating story of authentic Italian food to my new homeland of Canada.
And what about your adventure with Cucinato?
For a few years, my partners Mark and Massimo and I have been talking about creating a hub for Italian culture and food as we were already hosting events together. One day we found the right spot for us and Cucinato was born!
What kind of audience attends your lectures and workshops?
A wide variety of guests show up at the lectures and workshops: from the sons and daughters of Italian immigrants looking to reconnect with their roots, to people interested in knowing more about Italian food and culture in preparation for a holiday. They all share a love for authentic Italian experiences.
What’s the best part of your job(s)?
Creating a genuine, down-to-earth experience where people can learn more about Italian food, history and culture in a fun environment.
You are a woman and a successful entrepreneur. Do you think that it is still a man’s world or things are changing?
I have seen a big change in the last 15 years: more and more women have become successful in the hospitality business, which was typically man-centered. I love to collaborate and create opportunities for both male and female chefs, sommeliers and artists to collaborate during our events: interesting dynamics, minor teasing and lots of laughs!
What’s your relationship with your Tuscan origins? Did you find it difficult to move to Canada?
I have a deep connection with my home region and try to find every opportunity to bring Tuscany here to Canada. I will probably always be a little homesick but Canada has given me great opportunities and I am lucky to be able to bring my kids to Tuscany every summer.
Would you like to share a family recipe with our readers?
Salvia Fritta is one of the recipes that brings back childhood memories, as I would be sent to collect the biggest leaves from the sage plants while olive oil was already warming up. You only need a handful of ingredients, which means one thing: the quality of the sage and olive oil is of paramount importance!
4 spoons of flour
1 pinch of salt
50 ml of light beer
100 ml of water
30 sage leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the batter by mixing the flour with salt, adding water and beer a little at a time to avoid lumps. Let the batter rest in the fridge for half an hour. Wash the sage leaves and dry them gently, leaving the stem. Heat two fingers of olive oil in a large pan, dip the sage in the batter and hold it by the stem to drain it slightly. When the oil is hot, lay the sage well spaced in the pan and fry it for a very short time on each side until it is crispy and golden. Drain the sage from the oil and season it with a little kosher salt.
To conclude our interview with a toast, what would you pair with this antipasto?
A glass of Chianti
Seats are limited. To book your Italian language and cooking experience email firstname.lastname@example.org