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Paola Caballero



Chef at L'arancina


Interview by Lauren Fromin


We caught up with Paola Caballero, an Apicius alumna from Barranquilla, Colombia. She fell in love with some of Italy's most traditional foods while studying in Florence and decided to mix her Colombian heritage into the recipes, creating L'arancina, her take on Sicily's arancino. Paola describes her experience during her studies and how they affected her after graduating in the following interview.


Why did you choose to come to Florence / Apicius?

I’ve always loved Italian food and I wanted to know more about it, so I began looking for cooking schools in Italy. I had two school options, which I both liked, so I began investigating, doing pros and cons and finally I decided for Florence. I was in love with it (Tuscany’s culinary culture) without even being there.


What are you up to now?

I’m in Colombia right now. When I was in Italy, I met a Sicilian family who taught me how to make the traditional arancino, balls of rice that are stu ed and frield. Since that day I thought of bringing the idea to Barranquilla, Colombia, and I began thinking of different fillings. My idea was to respect the original recipe using the Italian ingredients for the rice base and fill them with Colombian ingredients. So that’s what I’m doing for now.


How did you get involved in what you're working on?

The Sicilian family I met got me involved. It was very interesting to learn how to make the arancini from the Italian nonna (grandmother) who know her tricks, etc. I found them delicious, and I immediately thought of mixing both Italian and Columbian ingredients with this Sicilian street food.


Did your time at Apicius help prepare you for your career? How did the coursework prepare you?

It was not only preparing myself “for work” per se but preparing myself in general. The theoretical courses helped me grow in knowledge, and my time in the kitchen made me stronger and gave me courage. Every new menu, every service, etc. made me want to be better each day, and all that time in the kitchen helped develop my abilities and demonstrate what I was able to accomplish.


What course stood out the most for you during your studies at Apicius and why?

Italian Food and Culture because we learned a great amount of details and interesting facts about Italy’s culture and ingredients, as well as the slow food movement. The experiential learning course on the Mediterranean diet was also one of my favorites, every dish was attractive and the final project was amazing to work on.


What is one of your favorite memories in Florence?
The food. Trying new things, local things, visiting the market, the restaurants. I love Firenze.


Do you have any advice for other students studying at Apicius?

Take advantage of the classes and of your time in Florence, ask, be curious, try every new food, and travel because when it’s over you’ll want to rewind and go back to Florence!


Follow L'Arancina on Instagram: @l_arancina




*APICIUS is the Hospitality, Culinary, Baking & Pastry, and Wine & Enology division of Florence University of the Arts




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