Olive Garden's "Culinary Institute" in Tuscany: What the Hell is Happening Over There?

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Poor Olive Garden. First the Italian food chain got tagged for accidentally serving a child sangria ("Mom, dis Kool-Aid makes my sgetti bwurry!"), now it's the target of recent internet buzz with tales of what really goes on at its infamous Tuscan cooking school.

You can almost hear the collective sigh from Taco Bell.

Called the Culinary Institute of Tuscany, Olive Garden's cooking school is located in Riserva di Fizzano, a sweet-ass spread in foodie-focused Chianti, Tuscany. According to an anonymous poster on Reddit who claims she's been a manager at the Italian restaurant chain, this "cooking school," where chefs and managers go to, "learn authentic cooking secrets from head chefs and top culinary instructors" is, well, not so much.

According to the Reddit poster, Olive Garden does not own the school and when she went there in 2007, they simply booked the entire hotel for restaurant management and chefs. The visitors "could use the restaurant (closed to the public due to it being off season) as a classroom for maybe an hour here or there and talk about spices or fresh produce for a minute before going sightseeing all day." She added that the only time she saw the"'chef" was when she made a bolognese sauce and had to take pictures of it for a local newspaper.

TIME (wait, TIME cares about this?) fact-checked the claims and verified there is a rustic farmhouse and a restaurant, but no school per se. A spokesperson for the hotel confirmed an agreement does exist between them and Olive Garden and that about a dozen people each week visit in the off-season between November and March. The chef spends some time with them, but there is no school. The house and kitchen belong to a local wine label.

Stupid internet. Stop freaking out already. So Olive Garden's "Culinary Institure" isn't some cutting-edge culinary academy, did anyone believe it was anyway? IT'S OLIVE GARDEN -- home of unlimited soup, salad, breadsticks, and suburbanites -- hardly authentic Italian cuisine. Plus, as a manager or chef of a corporately-run restaurant where the bullshit has to be as bottomless as the breadsticks, a free trip to Italy sounds like a nice incentive to stick around for a while.

What do you think Olive Garden grub-lubbers? Should the restaurant's "Culinary Institute" be exposed for what it truly is or should we all just go back to watching this on the world wide interweb?


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13 comments
Phil7468
Phil7468

Ha ha...stealing stories from Reddit? Sad. Perhaps this whole "journalism" thing isn't for you.

Dream
Dream

You know, I was just asking my husband if he really thought that there was an Olive Garden Cooking School in Tuscany! His comment was that if it really did exist, there couldn't be any Italians that would admit to teaching/working at it.

Gwynne
Gwynne

They can write it off, their employees learn something and get to blow off some steam. Sounds good to me. Where do I sign up anyways? haha

Whocares
Whocares

who really cares ? Are you serious an this is not news .

Andy
Andy

Since they are touting the "Institute" so heavily in their marketing, I would expose them!

Laura Hahnefeld
Laura Hahnefeld

Thank you, Alexander -- and the link is much-appreciated as well (LOVE Jonathan Gold!)

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