Italian cooking school in Tokyo

Claudia Casu Sardinian delicatessen

The project, which – at its first stage – consists in interviewing people who run a Italian cooking school abroad, goes on. After Rosa Mariotti, who stays there in Hawaii kneading and browning on the beach under a thirty-meter palm tree, today I’m chasing another ambassadress of the Italian cooking school abroad: Claudia Casu.

Claudia too is one of those nice persons I have known with social media first and personally next. Also because she lives in Tokyo, Japan. I wish I could say I joined her in the shade of Mount Fuji (which is my long-cherished dream) or at least I met her midway, but, it was she who got nearer, indeed. I met Claudia in Alghero, a few kilometers from Sassari – where I live and she was born – after months of exchanges, recipes and information and I took advantage of this opportunity to interview her while strolling along the promenade on a gorgeous October day.

Claudia has been permanently living in Tokyo since 2009, after fifteen years in Rome, a short period in London and a very quick stop in California in a not really quiet historical moment (it was September 2001). In Tokyo she has worked as an art director and contributed to well-known restaurants and television channels until, thanks to her friends she has made easily over there, she opened a cooking school, whose name is Sardegna Cooking Studio today. A wonderful name which conveys the idea of dynamism and creativity, which are the style this school deserves. Here, sure enough, you can learn a little bit of everything about the Sardinian cuisine in particular and the Italian one in general, but mainly you knead and experiment.

Claudia – perfectly in accordance with her training experience – created different shapes of pasta, which she makes with traditional Sardinian tools, like pastry wheels and brass tweezers. Wonderful handcrafted tools, often customized. Also, her types of pasta are the subjects on very refined kitchen towels printed in blue and white. Her hands produce marvellous shapes, harmonies of full and empty, edible lace.

Scuola di Cucina sarda a Tokyo Claudia Casu - Maria Laura Berlinguer - Stile Italiano - Food - foods - Made in Italy - Fatto in Italia - Consigli e suggerimenti - stile di vita 2

Italian Cooking school abroad

Sardinian Cuisine in Tokyo

I asked Claudia who her students are and, moreover, what they are looking for when they go to her cooking school studio.

Claudia Casu:
My students are really varied, like black cherry ice cream. There are office ladies fond of good food, or Italian cuisine chefs who give themselves some full immersion sessions in my kitchen studio, since they cannot travel regularly to Sardinia. Then, there are housewives keen on fresh pasta and managers who care about eating well and… Italian.

Do you think Italian style is really understood? We know Japanese people (belonging to upper middle class obviously) adore Italy, its fashion and art; most of them learn Italian, others are fond of opera. Do they bear in mind the huge variety of our cuisine? Do they understand the great difference between, say…, Piedmont and Sicily?

Claudia Casu: Fortunately, no doubt I can say that today it’s easier to explain how wide and rich our culture is, thanks to the hard work and diligent effort of those who have introduced our country’s excellence in Japan in the last two decades. In particular, by importing the best wines from all over Italy, we have been able to tell the geographical distribution of our delicacies.

Scuola di Cucina sarda a Tokyo Claudia Casu - Maria Laura Berlinguer - Stile Italiano - Food - foods - Made in Italy - Fatto in Italia - Consigli e suggerimenti - stile di vita 2

And how about Sardinia? For lots of foreigners – even European – it’s difficult to find the island on the map (but I’m afraid the same happens for Iceland or Cyprus…); are Japanese people more informed? Do they consider Sardinia as a possible destination for their journeys? Do they want to know more besides its cuisine?

Claudia Casu: At first, they tend to confuse Sardinia with Sicily, which is more famous worldwide for its archaeological heritage and setting of lots of historical movies. This is why I always carry a map with the exact position of my island and, during my class, I show them the local features of what I present. Among my students there are very many people who have included Sardinia as a destination of high quality wine and food tours, after studying with me.

Do you think the success of your pasta classes – and cooking in general – is given by your technical notions and directions, or rather, by the deep bond you still feel with your homeland which is shown through your hands, your eyes and the care in what you make?

Claudia Casu: Certainly the ancestral, sentimental connection to Sardinia is everlasting for me and shines out in any dish I prepare. Starting from the accuracy I choose semolina with, which is exclusively produced in Sardinia or Italy; only recently have I found out a local producer who supplies an excellent semolina, so that I could experiment some recipes successfully. In wider terms, I absolutely prefer Sardinian products, though.

Scuola di Cucina sarda a Tokyo Claudia Casu - Maria Laura Berlinguer - Stile Italiano - Food - foods - Made in Italy - Fatto in Italia - Consigli e suggerimenti - stile di vita 3

Thanks to your job, you can watch trends from a privileged observatory: do you think Japanese people, who are deeply rooted to their traditions, admire the Italian style? And… as for deep-rooted traditions, do you feel like making a comparison with Sardinian people?

Claudia Casu: I think understanding foreign traditions in Japan goes through various channels, among them advertising, of course. I’ve been dealing with advertising for more than twenty years and, as far as I’ve been able to observe, in Japan, stereotypes are absorbed very easily. Sometimes it’s not simple to explain the real origin of wrong, long rooted habits, like boiled spaghetti with sauce served in the middle, or fried chicken at Christmas, just to make some examples. But, with a little patience and attention, you manage to outline a new, more authentic framework about our traditions. Sardinia and Japan have a great quality in common: assimilating and interpreting all reproducible recipes coming from the sea, until they become authentic and personal. I think this is a unique quality typical of the island areas.

After enjoying the remains of autumn in Alghero, during which she has been interviewed, filmed and shot by various local and international media (I waited quietly till the end to ask my questions…), Claudia stopped over in Rome where she gave a very appreciated lecture on the operating procedure of pasta violata (a typical Sardinian dough that includes semolina and lard) at an Italian cooking school for foreigners. Her energy and creativity are a true driving force which promotes the beautiful side of Italy. You’ll find news and wonderful images both on the Facebook page of Sardegna Cooking Studio, and on her Instagram space.

Cristiana Grassi aka Orata Spensierata

Gallery: Sardinian cooking school in Tokyo, Caludia Casu