Meet Giulia Scarpaleggia, also known as Juls’ Kitchen. A victim of the economic crisis, or a person who is taking advantage of it to pursue her dreams? She writes “From January 1, 2012, in fact, I am no longer an employee with a relatively safe job, my contract expired, and recklessly believing in my dreams, I decided to take a sabbatical year and devote myself to my passion and a personal project: Juls’ Kitchen.” The story of a food blogger turned businesswoman, the ending of which is yet to be written… but I think it’s going to be a positive one. I asked her some questions about her new project.
AT) Your blog is not only beautiful but provides delicious recipes. How long have you been writing it, and what factors inspire you to write (ie. how do you come up with the recipe or post ideas?)
GS) I started my blog on the 1st day of February 2009, so it’s almost three years now. I started a blog, after mo
re than one year of passionate foodblog reading, because I wanted something to call mine, a place to post recipes, photos and my thoughts about daily life.
At the beginning I was into foreign and ethnic food, so I was inspired by this desire to experiment whatever was far from my daily culinary world.
Then I started to feel the urge to explore the world that everyone – especially those abroad – loves, and where I had the good fate to live: Tuscany. So back to home cooking and family recipes, to discover my roots and my smell and taste memories.
Now my focus is the ingredient. I look for fresh, seasonal, preferably local produce. I’m not a fanatic or a control freak, but my aim is to use the best products of the season, and from there to develop a recipe.
Usually each recipe is related to a story, and the story is inspired by my life, my dreams or my memories of the childhood. I’m quite a romantic person!
2) Tell us about the services you are now offering in person, beyond the blog.
My first cooking class for foreigners dates back to 2006, and it was a way to spend a different evening with an American friend. I realized there was something special in cooking together with people belonging to different food cultures because it gave us the chance to understand us better, and I managed to show to the fullest what my region was through ingredients and cooking rituals. This is the main reason I enjoy teaching cooking classes.
Now my basic offer is a three hour hands-on cooking class during which we have the chance to create a complete menu, from appetizer to dessert, using only the freshest seasonal ingredients. Every dish is usually introduced by a family story or a local tradition, because this is how I learned to cook, listening to my grandma’s or mum’s stories in the kitchen and watching their movements among pots and pans. The class can be held in my family kitchen, located in a traditional country house in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, between Siena and Florence or, by request, in a rented villa or apartment.
Along with cooking classes there is also the option to take tours to a local cheese farm, a beautiful and rustic organic podere, and a farming estate producing Chianti Classico wine, Extravirgin Olive Oil, and raising the rare Cinta Senese pigs.
I’m also organizing two week long tours with the Art centre Verrocchio in Casole d’Elsa (Siena), with three hands-on cooking classes, daily trips to markets and local farms, to have a firsthand experience of our production: wine, extra virgin olive oil, goat cheese and pecorino cheese, Chianina, Cinta senese and seasonal vegetables.
The last idea I had was inspired by my friends’ requests: a custom cooking class. Juls’ Kitchen on Demand was the solution: you choose the theme of the class, you call me and I arrive directly at your doorstep with my car loaded with pots, pans and supplies. I just need a kitchen that may contain from 5 up to 10 people and some basic equipment, the rest is up to me!
3) You’ve taken a big risk during a moment of crises. What makes you think that this business will work?
My dreams, my hopes and a sturdy faith in fairytales!
This is how I face my life, if I have a dream I do all that I can to realize it, and my dream is to have an independent job related to food: cooking food, teaching how to cook food, writing about food and taking pictures of food.
In this serious moment the old style secure jobs are even more impossible to obtain, I think the solution is to invest time, strength and sleepless hours to discover and pursue your passion, because it’s the only richness that doesn’t lose value!
Besides this, you need planning: I’ve been blogging for three years now and teaching cooking classes for more than one year as a second job. So, when my primary job ended I was not left alone in the dark, I had already contacts, skills and ideas for the future, now I have also the time to turn them into reality.
Last but not least, I live in Tuscany and I love Tuscany. Isn’t it one of the best places in the world to deal with food?
4) Big dreams or plans for the future?
My aim is to become a food writer along with a cooking class teacher, because I re-discovered after so many years how I love to write, I’m actually in love with words, and I feel a powerful energy when I tap on my keyboard, telling stories, recipes and episodes related to food. Maybe I am just a wordy person, but, seriously, I feel the urge to write!
Next to my literary ambitions, have I ever told you I love England? Yep, I love England, London, English humour, the English people and even the English rain, oh, and Jamie Oliver as well! So one of my big plans is to teach a few Tuscan cooking classes in England, once in a while, but I’m still working on this project!
5) As you know, I recently failed at making gnocchi. When I sign up for a gnocchi making lesson with you, what vegetarian menu would you propose to go around them?
It will depend on the season, because I strictly use seasonal produce, but there could be a soup – ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, acquacotta, panzanella -, a raw salad with nuts and honey, some roasted vegetables or a vegetable flan (I love spinach flan!), and obviously a dessert, from tiramisu to tiny rice cakes, my favourite as a child.
Catch up with Giulia at her blog Juls’ Kitchen or book a lesson by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. I wish her all the best and look forward to our vegetarian cooking lesson!