Salad Classes at La Cucina in Marylebone

Giancarlo and katie Caldesi (Copywright: La Cucina)

Giancarlo and katie Caldesi (Copywright: La Cucina) - Credit: Archant

Salad may not always be associated with cooking lessons but MArylebone’s La Cucina turns Italian cuisine on its head

If you’re asked to think about Italian cooking, there are a few places your mind will go. You may think of crisp pizza, served straight out of the oven laden with stringy molten mozzarella, or perhaps you think of spaghetti smothered in pesto.

It is unlikely that the first thing that springs to mind is salad.

Yet for Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi, salad plays an increasingly pivotal role at La Cucina, their Italian cookery school in Marylebone which, in recent years, has started to offer an increased number of salad-based lessons.

“There’s actually a lot you can do with salads, but the British attitude tends to be that a salad is a cold, wet, limp dish that isn’t very appetising,” says Katie Caldesi.

“Yet salads can be warm or cold, they can contain a lot of different, exciting ingredients and textures, so it doesn’t just need to be lettuce and tomatoes thrown in a bowl.”

The Caldesis have been providing cooking lessons in London for almost two decades and, alongside their London School, also run a school in Tuscany which was the focus of a BBC2 documentary in 2006.

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“We started teaching cookery classes by accident.

“One of our restaurant customers asked if he could come back when the restaurant was closed and learn how to make pasta.

“Once we all sat down to eat what had been made, we realised how fun it had been and that it was something we could do more regularly.”

Almost 20 years later, both the Tuscany and London schools have gone from strength to strength.

While Katie is a prominent food-writer, Giancarlo is a regular guest on some of the UK’s top cooking shows such as BBC2’s Saturday Kitchen.

The sudden inclusion of salad-focused lessons came following the news received three years ago that Giancarlo was not only wheat-intolerant, but also diabetic, something that Katie jokes “is the worst possible news for an Italian man, particularly a chef, to hear”.

“As a family we really had to overhaul how we ate, not just the gluten – but to eat more healthily,” she says.

“We had a look at more plant-based foods and found there was a lot you can do with salad.

“At roughly the same time we were also offered the chance to work on a salad cookbook, so we just turned something bad into something good.”

The resulting book, Around the World in Salads, has sold well and is being reprinted, although Katie admits “it is more popular with women, which is a shame”.

“Most men look at salad and wonder where their meat is. What we’re trying to say is that you can still have meat, but that the salad on the side can be equally as exciting.”

La Cucina’s Sensational Salads…Love your Leaves course takes place in Bray, Berkshire on September 9 or at London Marylebone on September 16.

For more information on how to attend courses visit