Knives sharpened, kitchen scales calibrated, pots and pans at the ready, ingredients all laid out, hotplate burners on standby, let the show cooking begin.

It sounds like the preparations for an eagerly anticipated film but in actual fact this was the scene of the excitement experienced by 15 youngsters from the Cooperativa Sociale In-Presa headquartered in the town of Carate Brianza, who were invited to sample the culinary world of Costa Cruises. The cruise line – represented for the occasion by Corporate Chef Stefano Fontanesi – involved these young people in a creative learning experience featuring the preparation of various Creole specialties.

In-Presa was set up in 1994 by Emilia Vergani, a social worker whose aim was to provide practical training and facilitate the school-to-work transition for disadvantaged youth.

Il mestiere di essere uomini is the name of one of the many training paths aimed at high school dropouts, providing them with professional skills and “accompanying” them as they settle into employment. As Career Path Coordinator Chiara Frigeni explains: “We work with youths who come from a background of academic failure; our job is to help them get their lives back on track and find regular employment. Having Costa Cruises here has enabled us to give them the chance to learn new skills and more importantly to realize that self-confidence is vital if you want to grow and develop your creativity.”

This was the thinking behind the collaboration with Costa Cruises which, as part of Costa’s employee volunteering program, led less than a year ago to the organization of a day in the galley for these trainees, giving them the opportunity to hone their skills and find out “what it’s like” to be a cook or a chef on “a floating town”.

Not long afterwards it was the turn of Costa to pay a visit to In-Presa and on this occasion Fontanesi explained the theory and practice – including a number of special tips – behind several typical Creole recipes, i.e. the cuisine of Mauritius. Costa’s Corporate Chef stressed the importance of work placements and the vital role of hands-on experience for trainees in general and would-be chefs in particular and noted that the latter also require an additional ingredient: “A couple of hundred kg of books. This is something you must always have to hand, not because you can’t remember the recipes, techniques or methods of preparation, but because they’re a source of inspiration. The history of a particular dish, its geographical origin, the biography of the chef who invented it – all this constitutes our cultural heritage and it’s knowledge you need to treasure and to put to good use as part of your own experience.”

The workshop ended with lunch served and explained by the trainees to the various project partners attending the occasion.
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