4 Annadale Street
Annandale, NSW 2038
There are many adjectives one might use to describe a chef. Most of them involve coupling them with expletives and result in painting the picture of a passionate but cocky, rude and often tyranic ruler over gas flames and cowering minions in a kitchen near you.
Not so when it comes to Armando Percuoco, owner and head chef of Darlinghurst's Buon Ricordo. At least, not when he's conducting amateurs at the winter season of CIRA (Council of Italian Restaurants in Australia) cooking school.
This particular Saturday morning, the notoriously charming Mr Percuoco walked our motley crew of hens weekenders, Masterchef wannabes and chef whores through a 'cucina povera' or peasant food-themed look at Italian food and how to master it at home. Held in Annandale's Casa Barilla, the set up is geared towards being able to see, hear, smell and taste everything demonstrated before replicating it yourself under the gentle guidance of a master.
A combination of passionate ramblings, a few pointed lessions in pronounciation ("It is pronounced 'broo-sket-ta'!") and invaluable kitchen and life tips, Armando demonstrates a starter, entree and main designed for busy professionals and Italianofiles alike.
The aforementioned bruschetta was easy enough, though the carciofi stufate - braised artichokes with bacon illicited a few confused looks as each table was presented with a bouquet of the shiny green, purple-tinged members of the thistle family.
Thankfully Armando's laid back approach to home cooking put most at ease. So to, I suspect did the glass of vino that accompanied our victory over the first part of the class.
Several more anecdotes, glasses of wine, flourishes and cooing of "Bella, you married?" and we've succeeded in producing pagello con fiori - goldband snapper fillets with zucchini flowers, complete with crisp golden skin with mint-infused floral accent.
The results were simple and pleasing - and most of all tasty, leaving everyone with a greater sense of confidence, fanned by Armando's compliments and reassurance. This being my first proper cooking class since home economics at high school, I don't think I did too badly!
Thanks to CIRA for sending me along - their winter cooking school continues into August, so there's pleny of time to check the likes of Danny Russo from The Beresford, Lucio Galetto from Lucio's and more in action.