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How travel and culture has influenced my cooking

How travelling and experiencing different cultures has influenced my cooking – Dominique Rizzo’s Interview by A Taste of Harmony

 

You’ve been running food and wine tours since 2012 now, how has travelling and exploring the cuisines of Sicily, Spain, Greece and Norfolk Island and others, influenced your cooking and recipes?  

How travel and culture has influenced my cooking - Ortigia Sicily with Dominique Rizzo

Everyone would have to agree they are inspired, even just a little by the gastronomic delights they experience when travelling. For me it’s the same, I come back from my tours completely energised and even more inspired to cook more, use more fresh seasonal produce, shop at local markets explore new places, and most importantly what I bring back with me from my travels is the emphasis on keeping things simple and to let the star ingredient shine through.

How travel and culture has influenced my cooking - Arncini with Dominique Rizzo

The simplicity of the street food in Sicily, chickpea panelle arancini, Pane con le milza,sfincioni and croquettes, date back thousands of years, with traditions that have been handed down through generations and techniques and customs passed on through the many different cultures that has stepped upon Sicily’s soil. Romans, the Spanish, Swabians, Greeks, Normans, Arabs and so on have all left their mark on the food here. I used to think that my food was sometimes too simple and then whenever I come back from one of my food tours, I am comfortably confident in what I do and the recipes I come up with. I give them my own twist and flavour but fundamentally I always reflect back to the food I ate on my tours, their way of life and the importance of culture, tradition and community and it always grounds me.

How travel and culture has influenced my cooking - Fresh tomatoes and basil with Dominique Rizzo

My cooking has become a melting pot of them all, combining the flavours, ingredients and methods of cookery. In all honesty, I feel that these cuisines are some of the healthiest ways of cooking. Their cuisine styles are simple and I believe it is with the addition of the exotic spices, fresh herbs, fresh and dried fruits and nuts, that simple 3 or 4 ingredient dishes can sing louder with flavour, and have us drooling more than some of the more lavishly garnished, intricate ingredients and long, complicated dishes we find.

How travel and culture has influenced my cooking - Norfolk Island with Dominique Rizzo

More locally, Norfolk Island has been an amazing food experience and left a definite mark, not only on my cooking, but more so on my philosophy for living and importance in strength of community. Norfolk has this amazing, friendly, wonderful sense of freedom. Its waters and air are pristine, it has a very interesting history and unique flora and fauna. Apart from some pre-packaged items and a couple of fresh ingredients, everything is grown, harvested and produced locally. I absolutely love that. Their traditions and history are really embraced with great pride and respect from the locals, their precious island and its unique lifestyle is embraced by everyone. It is an amazing place to visit for either a quiet relaxed getaway enjoying some amazing wine and food experiences or a wild adventure of fishing, sailing, boating, rock climbing, bush walking and attending the many events and festivals which they have on the island.

 

Your tours involve small groups of 14-16 people, have you found through sharing and learning about food together while on tour you also learn a lot about each other?

How travel and culture has influenced my cooking - Sicilian market with Dominique Rizzo

Yes absolutely, it’s part of the main reason I love running my food tours. I have the greatest honour of meeting so many amazing, passionate and interesting people and as much as I have learnt so much about them, the stories of their lives and how they interact with others, their quirks and why they might do the things they do. I have learnt so much about myself, which I have been so grateful for.

I have always believed that sharing a meal, engaging in a cooking lesson together, tasting wine and enjoying conversation, any means of gathering together around food brings out the best and sometimes the worst in people, but usually the best.

The biggest lesson I have learnt in my life that has been reinforced through running my food tours is never judge or make judgment on others as you never know what is really going on for someone behind closed doors. Until you have sat with them, engaged, connected, communicated and listened to their stories, it’s hard to imagine some of the painful events that people have experienced, which in turn has made them who they are.

I really like to just sit back, ask questions and listen to get to know people and what they like, dislike and I really enjoy asking people about their life. I find the more I know about someone, the more I am able to better understand who they are, their culture, beliefs, and in return they can better understand me and I believe this is the basis to peace and harmony between us as humans.

If you had to pick one experience from your tours that has been a highlight for you so far, what would it be?

How travel and culture has influenced my cooking - Dinner Sicily with Dominique Rizzo

That’s a very difficult question!

It wasn’t necessarily an experience, more like a moment where we were all in the most beautiful moment of laughter, joy and sharing a stunning dinner on the Island of Salina. It was a series of little events, positive outcomes for some of my clients and some wonderful transformations they had simply by being able to just sit back, relax and be guided around on my tour. I design and host my tours because I know what it’s like to organise travel either before you go or while you are on the go and quite frankly it can be exhausting.

Sometimes you come back not rested or relaxed but slightly stressed and underwhelmed at all the places you missed seeing, the restaurants you didn’t get to, the distance you didn’t travel and sights you didn’t see because you were travelling on your own or organising it yourself. It’s a big job. I saw my clients faces lighten up, their smiles grow more frequent, they were glowing, their personalities opened up and on that occasion, we just laughed and laughed.

For me it was one of the most special times I have had on tour.

Why do you think it’s important to celebrate cultural diversity in our workplaces, kitchens and in general?

I personally, am becoming so despondent at the way we as humans are treating each other. It’s frightening and really sad to see and hear the way some people talk to each other, tease, taunt, troll and hurt others. People don’t listen, they refuse to open up and understand. If everyone could just stop and listen, and accept that everyone is different, that we all have different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, understandings, ways we do things and ways we think., then I believe we would have way less hate and way more harmony.

I really feel that it is beyond important, almost a necessity to celebrate cultural diversity, not only celebrate but we need to be constantly educated and reminded of its importance. Without celebrating cultural diversity, we wouldn’t have half the interesting aspects of our country that now exist. We would not be open to new ideas and ways of doing things.

The more we can celebrate and be open to cultural diversity, the more we will have stronger communities looking out for each other and not just it being mine, yours and theirs. I sincerely hope that in my lifetime we will be celebrating not just one day through A Taste of Harmony and bringing this awareness to cultural diversity on this day, but that it will just be the norm. Acceptance, understanding and freedom for everyone to live their lives embracing their tradition, culture and to embrace everybody else’s’ with the same respect would be my greatest joy.How travel and culture has influenced my cooking - Pasta making class in Ragusa Siciy Dominique Rizzo

Why should workplaces get involved in A Taste of Harmony? 

 

To get involved with Taste of Harmony is to say to your employees, we embrace and accept everyone equally. We see the importance of cultural differences as a benefit to our business and we support and respect it. We welcome different, we welcome diverse and we are open and willing to engage in bridging the gaps and to open the lines of communication. It can only be a good positive outcome for businesses to engage everyone together on an even platform – strength in numbers.

 

Dominique Rizzo is one of Queensland’s leading chefs, author and owner of Putia Pure Food Kitchen. Learn more about Dominique’s Food, Wine & Culture Tours to destinations such as Sicily, Greece, Spain and Norfolk Island here.

 

Impossible Conversations – Dominique Rizzo in conversation with Saint Agatha

DOMINIQUE RIZZO IN CONVERSATION WITH SAINT AGATHA (courtesy of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre)

St Agatha

231-251AD
Saint Agatha

Saint Agatha is said to have been martyred in 251AD in Catania in Sicily at the age of fifteen. Her torture is recorded in detail in the earliest martyrology.

She would ask Dominique Rizzo what made her sad.

Dominique Rizzo

Dominique Rizzo has worked as a chef and restaurateur, at Mondo Organics in West End and now in her own Putia Pure Food Kitchen in Banyo on Brisbane’s northside. Born in 1972, Dominique travelled to Italy with her father Vincenzo who was born in Sicily where St Agatha is patron saint.

Dominique would ask Saint Agatha how she endured.

DR: Dear Saint Agatha.

SA: I am. Lord Jesus Christ, you created me, you watched over me from infancy, kept my body from defilement, preserved me from love of the world.

DR: I can’t imagine the courage it took, and the strength of your faith. When my father first took us back to Sicily, I saw how the community honours the saints. I try to picture myself in your shoes. I couldn’t do what you did.

SA: I’m not sure I understood, Dominique. Jesus Christ, Lord of all things, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am – you alone. I am your sheep. Make me worthy to overcome the Devil.

DR: Quintianus arrested you because you wouldn’t renounce your promise to God and consent to sin with him. St Agatha, you were a child.

SA: We are all children, Dominique. He arrested me for my faith in Jesus Christ. He arrested me because I would not renounce my vow. They used tongs and then knives. If you threaten me with wild beasts, know that at the Name of Christ they grow tame; if you use fire, from heaven angels will drop healing dew on me.

St Agatha

DR: *sobs* They cut off your breasts.

SA: Just as wheat cannot arrive at the granary before it is cleansed from the chaff, so my soul cannot enter into Paradise if my body, beforehand, is not humbled by tortures. Yes, they did. Also fire and shards.

DR: To me, you are the essence of a young woman of strength believing in yourself and God.

SA: *smiles, beatific* Saint Peter came to my cell and healed me. I am the patron saint of bell-founding.

DR: But also of women who have breast cancer and of rape and violence against women. Given what’s going on in our world today… When I go into churches, I cry, Saint Agatha.

SA: I said to my torturer, on the last day, your words be but wind, your promises be but rain, and your menaces be as rivers that pass.

St Agatha

DR: I was in Sicily for your feast day, and the bakers made minni di virgini in your honour, little rounded cakes filled with ricotta, coated with marzipan, a cherry on top.

SA: Cakes! I love cakes. I’m the patron saint of bakers too, Dominique, and you aspire to pure food so we’re sisters as well as children of God. And also earthquakes and volcanoes because the Lord unleashed them to punish my tormentors who will burn and suffer in Hell for all eternity. All eternity. *smiles, beatific*

DR: You are a martyr.
SA: I am a girl who died at fifteen.

DR: Exactly. I am in awe of you, Saint Agatha.
SA: Blessings, sister.

St Agatha
Dominique has been travelling to and from Sicily since she was a little girl and now she shares her intimate knowledge of Sicilian food and culture with you on her food, wine and cooking tours.  She has Sicilian blood and is passionate about all things Sicilian.  For the chance to experience Sicily through Dominique’s eyes, go to Pure Food Cooking Tours – Latest Tours.

Discover the South Pacific

Departing 13 December 2013 – Brisbane to New Zealand

Sailing from Brisbane, Orion will cruise some of the most beautiful seascapes in the world. On this itinerary, we’ll not only sample the sights of the South Pacific but the tastes as well with a sensational onboard program of fine food and wine created by our guest chef, wine and cheese makers. As we cruise to the colonial attractions of Norfolk Island and on through New Zealand’s magnificent Bay of Islands Orion’s guests will enjoy stunning signature dishes featuring the best South Pacific produce. Tasman Discoverer is a delight for those who enjoy fine food and wine as well as photographers and walkers all sharing a sense of adventure. I will be a Guest Lecturer along side Cheese Makers – Markus & Sara Bucher, Maleny Cheese; Wine Maker – Tony Bish, Sacred Hill Wines.

The Tour includes

  • 7 night cruise aboard “Orion” in selected accommodation
  • Including all meals, wine package, wine and food workshops with tastings and demonstrations – departing Brisbane – 13th December 2013
  • 1 night accommodation in Auckland with breakfast
  • Lunch and tastings at Artisan Wines, Auckland, vineyard and food market
  • Coach transfers in Auckland – ship, hotel, vineyard, airport
  • Economy flight from Auckland to Brisbane with Emirates on 21 Dec13
  • Port charges, air taxes
  • Terms & conditions apply

To join me or to find out more on this 7 day Cruise or to find out more visit The Cruise Centre or email The Cruise Centre click here.