Training and creativity in Alma, Gualtiero Marchesi’s cooking school

It is the true flag bearer of the Italian lifestyle, based on beauty and goodness, which, thanks to the strength of authenticity and respect for tradition, increasingly expresses its key role. We are talking about hospitality, a sector in which our country has the undisputed leadership of the world. A result of the synergy between the territory – understood not only as a landscape but also as terroir for raw materials of unique quality – and the manufacturing vocation that combines culture and know-how.

But creativity is not enough: Behind the many Italian stories of entrepreneurs, companies, artisans and territories, there are also a lot of victims and a lot of studies. How can these two factors be combined? Andrea Sinigaglia, general manager of Alma (the International School of Italian Cuisine) is an Italian expertise that, through its history, can tell an interesting point of view.

Tell me the story of Alma. When was it born? What is its mission?

Alma is the International School of Italian Cuisine founded in 2004. Today it has reached almost 20 years of activity in the field of high gastronomic training. Every year, more than 1000 people from all over the world are trained in cooking, pastry, dining room service, sommellerie, bakery and restaurant management. Alma is based in the magnificent Reggia di Colorno, 15 minutes from Parma in a very important place for Italy, an area called the “Italian Food Valley”. The small country that hosts us is a dimensional example of the territorial grain size that is Italy.

Our first and only principal was Gualtiero Marchesi. Simultaneously with the expansion of our school’s skills, we then decided to set up a scientific committee composed of very important names that could pave the way and define Alma’s teaching. The mission is to make the great Italian agri-food heritage known to the world through excellent training. In addition to teaching, there are other projects related to sustainability, the improvement of Italian masters of arts and crafts and the many facets of our country’s gastronomic culture.

I’ve heard of the Mam Award. What is it about? Who were the main characters in the 2022 edition?

Mam is the abbreviation for Master of Art and Craft and is today the highest recognition in Italy, reserved for craftsmen who with their know-how every day create products of great Italian excellence. All areas are rewarded: from leather goods to woodworking, from paperwork to crystal and ceramics. Of course, there are also Mams in the world of food and wine and hospitality. The Cologni Foundation in Milan and Alma have been promoting this important award in the wake of famous international examples for 10 years now. We are thinking of Mofs (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France), or the recognition of the living treasures of Japan.

We believe that there is a real need for a more important and greater recognition of these masters of arts and crafts, authentic ambassadors for the great tradition of the Italian Renaissance and true protagonists in the territories that we must never forget, is the continuous source of Italianness. With this award, the Battle of Alma also extends to a greater recognition of the educational courses at these arts and crafts schools, of which Alma itself is a part. The 2022 edition will take place in October, and on the Alma website it is now possible to download all information about the winners from previous years and on the next edition.

What would you recommend to the young Italian talents who would like to pursue a career in the hospitality sector?

My answer is certainly biased, but I believe that today we can not ignore training and scholastic education to enter our world. The skills required today are many. And they are both specialization and vision, unlike what could have happened years ago. The greatness of an educational institution is also to organize a thought. If you have a talent and want to enter the world of hospitality, the greatness of a school also lies in its connections to practice and with the community you enter.

For that reason, it is also important to include that part of the practice in the trail. Because this will always be a job that you learn from the masters, you learn by seeing it done. It’s not just a series of actions, but it’s a spirit, a way of touching matter, a way of treating people, a way of imagining this great element of man, which is the hospitality of weaving relationships.

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