Viktorija Todorovska

 

Where is Viktorija now?

OLIVIA COOKING

Cooking Instruction, Menu Consultation, Recipe Writing

www.olivacooking.com

 

 

When I speak in public—and these days I do it a lot—whether it is a book presentation, a wine tasting or professional wine education, someone will ask me how I got where I am. My audience can see my passion and working in food and wine seems like a dream. So, how did I get here?

 

The answer is complicated and yet simple. It all started at Apicius in Florence in 2006. For years I worked in the corporate world and dreamt about professional cooking, watched cooking shows and cooked for my friends every chance I got. In the summer of 2006, I was finally in a professional culinary school: burners on full blast, sharp knives finely chopping onions under the watchful eyes of the Chef, the mad adrenaline rush of trying to finish three dishes in two hours before the tasting and critique. Every day that summer, I couldn’t wait to get to class, my brain buzzing with the new information, my arms barely recovered from wielding heavy pans the previous day and yet ready to do it again. And every day, a new world slowly revealed itself, making me realize how much I still had to learn.

 

I returned to Apicius the following summer to take more advanced classes. I was a veteran now, I knew where things were kept, I knew the procedures. And there was still so much to learn. The summer before, I had studied professional cooking techniques, regional Italian cuisine and Italian pastry. Now I was delving deeper into the history of Italian cuisine, discovering the secrets of some of my favorite dishes, learning how to modernize others that have existed since the 12th century.

 

My first summer at Apicius, the instructor for Regional Cuisine boldly announced that Puglia (a region in Southern Italy, the heel of the boot) has the best food. The instructor is Tuscan, a population supremely proud of their own cooking, so this was a shocking statement. I was intrigued. I had traveled to Central and Northern Italy many times, but now the South took residence in my imagination. The next year, under a blazing Southern sun, I confirmed what she had said: Puglia has the most wonderful food. It was love at first sight. I sought out Puglian grandmothers, pestering them with endless questions about the dishes they had been making since they were kids. They wondered why an American would be so interested in their food. They knew their dishes were good (great really), but they kept saying, “It’s simple.” And this is exactly what I was fascinated with: simple, yet delicious food, full of flavor and also good for the body.

 

Two years later, I had a cookbook on Puglia, to this day one of my favorite places to visit. Every time I talk about Puglia or meet someone who has my cookbook, I am amazed at the difference good food makes in people’s lives. It nourishes us, but it also helps us connect to family and friends, share experiences, create memories.

 

My passion for lesser known regions of Italy took me to Sardinia next. As I explored the sandy beaches and impassable mountains of this magical island, I learned about its people and history. Sardinian food was born out of history: whether it’s pane carasau, the famous bread of the shepherds, or panadas, every dish tells a story that goes back centuries. And I relished sharing these stories with my readers.

 

Of course, Italian food is inseparable from wine, a drink steeped in history, that continues to capture the modern drinker. Nothing gives me more pleasure than the look on my audience’s faces when they taste orecchiette with broccoli next to a Salice Salentino and discover the perfect marriage of flavor and texture. The spark in their eyes tells me I have started a passion they will pursue for a long time.

 

As I continue to explore the foods and wines of the Mediterranean, writing about Provence, Nice, and even my native Macedonia, I carry many great memories of those summers in Florence, when my dream became my lifelong passion.

 

 

Viktorija Todorovska

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