Taste Education: The University of Gastronomic Sciences
If you want to change the way in which people think about food and how it is produced, you need to educate a new generation of gastronomes (people who are food experts in every sense 0f the word). This was Carlo Petrini's line of thinking when he founded the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UniSG) in Italy. Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, had the vision to create a training and research centre that would cultivate the central tenants of Slow Food: good, clean, fair food for all. UniSG is a private international university recognized by the Italian government. It offers three degrees: a three-year undergraduate laurea in Scienze Gastronomiche, a one-year Master in Food Culture & Communication and Master in Italian Gastronomy & Tourism. The undergraduate program is taught in both English and Italian. After three years most students are relatively bilingual. The two Masters programs are taught in English and some Italian language courses are part of the curriculum. Courses range from biochemistry and sensory analysis to culinary history and the anthropology of food. The university has two campuses that are located in Northern Italy--one in Pollenzo not far from Turin and another in Colorno about twenty minutes from Parma. Students from Kenya to the United States attend both programs and the atmosphere is extremely international. Classes are held in stunning historic buildings that make coming to school each morning seem like a dream. That said, this is no vacation; a deep interest in food is the driving force that brings students from diverse backgrounds together to try to shape a new vision of world food production. This last year I had the opportunity to work at UniSG as a post-doctoral fellow, where I was able to experience first-hand this Slow Food model of education. As a researcher at this food-centered university, I had the opportunity to work with visiting scholars from all over the world. It was also wonderful to collaborate closely with the folks at Slow Food in order to give new direction, ideas and support to this international food movement. What is truly unique about this post-secondary experience is the emphasis placed on food production and hands-on experience. Students head out on a number 'stages', which are field trips designed to put them in touch with farmers, artisans and food distributors. This 'fieldwork' is what sets the University of Gastronomic Sciences apart from any other university in the world. I can tell you that the smell of a pig farms is as memorable to me as is the taste of some of the finest Barolo wine (in different ways, of course). The UniSG experience evokes all of the senses and makes you think of food in ways that you had never imagined before. If you want an unforgettable, life-altering educational experience focused on food, you may want to look into programs at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. I am convinced that UniSG graduates will be the leaders of a new food revolution in the not-so-distant future.