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Monday, March 28, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun...You're Family

Hi gang,
Thanks for bearing with yesterday! Sunday is over. Woo!

today I saw an advertisement for the Olive Garden that was supposedly showing the training grounds for Olive Garden chefs. That training ground was Tuscany, Italy. Everyone in tall tall tall chef hats, gathered around artisan tables, making faces of concentration as they watched a more Italian-looking (older and tanner) chef cut a chunk of cheese the size of a slice of cake from an even larger hunk of cheese. They looked impressed. They had just learned to cut the cheese. Which most people learn to laugh at in 2nd or 3rd grade. But, don't let me be degrating to cheese cutters.
Uh oh...slid that one in. Had to.

Now sure, the premise of the commerical was in fact that these chefs are going to Italy to learn how to make the Olive Garden's new signature dish. For those of you unfamiliar with Olive Garden's signature dishes, many times they end up being stuffed with stuff on top of a bed of stuff that's got a delicious stuff sauce. Served with salad and breadsticks. (Duh!) I sort of think the appeal of simple Italian cooking probably gets lost after the second round of stuff, but the idea is there are like 40 authentic Italian flavors in one dish.

Like the Olive Garden's new lobsteruccini alfredo with butter parmesan sauce, on top of angel hair with spicy tomato cream sauce. Served with salad and breadsticks duh.

I feel like there is a formula in the Olive Garden test market kitchen that could generate meal ideas through algorithm rather than kitchen innovation.


Someone could build this and make it a facebook quiz "What Olive Garden meal are you?" And a new "seasonal selections" menu insert for the restaurant itself.

Also, I kinda feel like that could even be a part of the final exam that all the Tuscan training chefs have to take to become certified Olive Garden "family" members. That and the game, how far can you stretch a stick of butter?

I guess my question is, who, anywhere on earth, who is over the age of 9, actually believes there is a training center in Italy where Italian chefs, nay, MASTERS of chefery, in the Italian tradition, are teaching America's best...franchise owners? Menu planners? the most careful ways to authentically make Italian dishes. I really have to believe that they just decided enough of their market overlapped with the market for the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun" and picked Tuscany as a fictional location.

Like, the Domino's ad campaign where they're fessing up to sucking? And then showing us what they're doing to try to not suck? Far more believable.

But convincing me there's a plane full of chefs somewhere, all dressed up in their chef whites, boarding Alitalia flight 4382 to Tuscany from Milwaukee, harder. The specialty dish the chefs were learning? They did look delicious. But they were essentially puff pastry shells. Like apple turnovers full of cheese instead of apples. And the best was, they were thrown on top of other stuff. You could eat these traditional delicacies in like, a meat and veggie broth, or like, as a side/topper to the rest of your meal. Not at all like, acknowledged as a deliciously cheesy pastry thing that has no relation to Italian food and more in common with the original pastry baron from the old country, Don Entenmann.

Why can't we just say we all sometimes get hungry when we're leaving the mall?
And we say we'll only have one breadstick, but oops, we need more.
Is breadsticks the first lesson of Tuscany?
How to keep them bottomless?

I suppose I'll never know. Never, that is, until Olive Garden, Lifetime Original Movies, and Diane Lane team up to make the thrilling television romance, "Under the Tuscan Sun II: All for the Gnocchi."

The tagline?
When you're here, you're family, but how far will you go to get there?

with salad and breadsticks.

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