Food Stories.

Hopefully you had a chance to read our welcome piece. If so, you read about the inspiration and mission for The Chef & The Dish.

Now I’d like to tell you what to expect with The Chef & The Dish Food Stories.

Last night couldn’t have been more timely… I went to dinner at one of Toronto’s favourite restaurants and ordered Amatriciana Bucatini. Amatriciana is a classic Roman sauce made with tomato and guanciale (cured pork cheek). It’s salty, creamy, tomatoey and can be specially requested in the Roman Classics cooking class with Chef Daniela. When I received my order, it was anything but Amatriciana Bucatini. The restaurant thought it was - but anyone who’s had the real thing would know the difference. Now, don’t get me wrong, my meal was good - but it wasn’t close to the Amatriciana that people flock to Rome to eat.

When you think about it - every dish has it’s origin. It was made in some village years ago, and if the dish was good enough, it got passed to families and made its way through generations. And that’s pretty cool - but what’s really cool is when that dish is so good it becomes established as part of the identity of a city or country.

Were the Romans the first to put pasta and cheese together? Probably not. But they nailed it with Cacio e Pepe. Cacio e pepe is another Roman dish made of cheese and pepper. It’s included in the Roman Classics class held by Chef Daniela and I promise one of the most delicious pasta dishes you’ll taste.

Cacio e pepe has ancient origins. Romans have been making this dish for thousands of years - at family dinners, events, and at restaurants throughout the city. The dish is deeply engrained in the Roman culture, and because of that, the Romans are masters of the dish. But what’s interesting, while the dish is super simple, it’s actually quite difficult to nail the technique to achieve the correct creaminess. It takes mentoring and trial to get it right. Because of this, Chef Daniela and I even had conversation on whether we should include it in the Roman Classics class. The goal of our classes is to ensure you succeed in making an authentic dish just like you’ve hopped a plane for the day. But don’t worry, Chef Daniela is a true expert - and during our test class, it turned out incredible.

The point being…

I’ve had Cacio e pepe in a restaurant outside Rome once, and it didn’t compare.

As the world becomes smaller and people move from their villages, these recipes get muddled and it becomes more difficult to find authentic dishes as they were intended to taste.

This brings me back to my Amatriciana Bucatini. What I had for dinner was a version that’s been North Americanized. A great example is spaghetti and meatballs. I love a good spaghetti and meatballs as much as the next - but this dish is not Italian. You won’t find it in any Italian restaurants, and Italians denounce the dish as their own. Spaghetti and meatballs is believed to be introduced by Italian immigrants in NYC and in Italy.

And that brings me to what you’ll read here at The Chef & The Dish Food Stories. Our editorial will tell the stories of authentic dishes and their origins, chefs that have lived their lives in these wonderful places, artisan food producers protecting food culture from around the world, and finally passionate home-cooks with amazing recipes that should be preserved and passed down for generations.

Do you have a family recipe or an interesting tradition? We’d love to hear from you and tell the world your story. You can always reach me at

(Check us out on Instagram for our feature on excellent examples of Amatriciana and Cacio e pepe from Rome).

For the love of Pasta and Cheese,

Jenn Nicken


#inspiration #welcome #loveoffood #biz #italy #cacioepepe

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