Renowned chefs highlight of Italian Foodways Worldwide Conference at York University

Renowned Italian/Canadian chefs guided a culinary journey of Italy during a three-day conference, “Italian Foodways Worldwide: A Conference on the Dispersal of Italian Cuisine(s),” at York University and Centennial College.

York University’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics and the Mariano A. Elia Chair in Italian-Canadian Studies presented the event Oct. 19 to 22.

Chef Roberto Fracchioni making gnocchi

The conference opened with a keynote address by Professor Donna Gabaccia (University of Toronto) on “Italian Foodways in a Mobile World” and followed with a reception at The Underground at York University.

More than 40 delegates from different parts of the world participated in formal academic sessions on Friday and Saturday at York University. On Sunday, there was a session with cooking demonstrations by five renowned Italian/Canadian chefs – Chef Massimo Bruno, Chef Gianni Ceschia, Chef Roberto Fracchioni, Chef Christian Pritchard and Chef Luciano Schipano – who, through their regional dishes, took delegates on a “flavourful” journey of Italy.

“The important observation that ‘we are what we eat’ has profound implications for cultural identity, not only for countries of immigration, where diverse foodways come into contact, but also for those from where the exported foodways originate,” said York Professor Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano.

“We are extremely proud and excited to have had a great slate of international and national scholars join us, along with some of the very best chefs in the GTA, for four days of knowledge sharing and great Italian food,” said Iannacito-Provenzano.

Conference presentations focused on: Italian foodways in the Second World War; menus and feasts from the Fascist period; Italian cookbooks around the world; the Catelli pasta company; menus from Italian restaurants in Tokyo; the Italian-sounding phenomenon and branding in North America; the Mediterranean diet; food and film; food, immigration and ethnic identity; the first Italian restaurant in Calgary; and, of course, pizza and the famous Vesuvio restaurant in Toronto.

Chef Gianni Ceschia and Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano
Gabriele Scardellato and Gabriella Colussi Arthur

“In their global dispersal, both before and after unification, Italians may have carried with them only a memory of a cuisine but, wherever they settled, enclaves or Little Italies were established and efforts to recreate the memory began. That re-creation, however, always happened in the presence of other cultures and other foodstuffs. At the same time, the culture(s) of origin were far from static with regard to so-called ‘traditional’ cuisine(s),” stated York University Professor Gabriele Scardellato.

The event was supported by the Elia Chair, Founders College, Office of the Dean – Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, the Office of the VP Research and Innovation at York University, DLLL and Italian Studies.

About Italian Foodways Worldwide
Italian Foodways Worldwide is organized by Professor Roberta Iannacito-Provenzano, chair, Department of Languages Literatures & Linguistics, and Professor Gabriele Scardellato, chairholder, Mariano A. Elia Chair in Italian-Canadian Studies. Both units are housed in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies at York University.