Bringing us a Taste of Italy
Loretta Paganini was born in Bologna, Italy November 8, 1954. Bologna is known as "the kitchen of Italy" so Loretta becoming the celebrated chef that she is does not come as a surprise. Add to that a rich family history of cooking, and the result is almost inevitable.Her culinary skills were first honed by watching and helping her mother, a renowned pastry chef, and her two grandmothers. Her mother's Pasticceria (Confectionary Shop) was known miles around for it's fine bakery products. Loretta finds the Culinary Arts to be a tough field for women today but cites her family history as having made it much easier for her. "My mother was such a great role model for me. She could always hold her own among her male peers and earned the respect they gave her." Her mother had her own television cooking show and was the president of the bakers Association. Her mother is now seventy years old and still works, mainly in a consulting capacity. In addition to her mother's professional shop she learned a lot from her grandmother's traditional kitchen. Her father loved to hunt and fish, so now fresh meat, fish and fowl can be added to the already awesome equation that resulted in Loretta's culinary genius.Loretta is the only one of her family in America. Her younger sister is a concert pianist in Italy, but now, she too, has opened a restaurant.
Loretta Paganini at the counter
Loretta met her husband in Italy, while he was in Medical School. He did his internship and residency in New York, which was what prompted her to come to this country in the first place. In 1977 her husband accepted a job at the Cleveland Clinic and Loretta and her daughters moved to Cleveland. The position in Dr. Paganini's field of Nephrology was only to last 2 years. Together they decided that Cleveland was a wonderful place to raise a family and as such, are still here today. Loretta and her husband have three daughters, all very career oriented, but not in her field. Her traditional Sunday dinners usually includes raids on her freezer - something she doesn't mind at all. "All of my daughters are single. I am hoping someday to have lots and lots of grandchildren."Loretta had started out in Italy as an Elementary School Teacher. She had her degree in education to teach grades 1-5, but instead got married and had her daughters. "I was a typical stay at home Mother and I loved it". Her husband was busy with his career and she became very involved with her children. Somehow all of her involvements always came back to food - teacher's luncheons, PTA dinners, bake sales etc. She also loved putting on dinner parties for her husband's colleagues. "I just love to be around people and people are happiest when they are around food. You can't be Italian and not love people!"In 1981 she began teaching classes in Little Italy. She knew very little English - a problem she quickly solved. While her children were young she was deeply involved in Girl Scouts and PTA and always signed on as the teacher's helper. Little by little she started teaching Italian cooking to some of her friends who knew her background and training Loretta has trained at Cordon Bleu in Paris and in various prestigious schools in New York. While at the Cordon Bleu she became much more involved in teaching other culinary students and had the opportunity to assist such famous chefs as Jack Pepin, Paul Prudhomme and Martin Yan.
The priests in the East Side neighborhood Church where all Italian and let her use the kitchens there.
As the classes grew she knew she needed to move and found herself in Chesterland. "There was a need in Cleveland for a Professional School - there weren't any. In 1989 she opened the now world famous Loretta Paganini School of Cooking (LPSC) in Chesterland. In the beginning the school provided an opportunity for hundreds of non-professional students to learn to cook. Her first class graduated in 1991. Two years ago the program had grown so much that she decided to get her government certification from the state of Ohio on her own. Her school is the first accredited proprietary (trade) school in the Culinary Arts in the State of Ohio. Now, in addition to training "recreational" chefs, she can train and educate professionals. The professional arm of her school is ICASI (The International Culinary Arts & Sciences Institute.) The new ICASI division of the school was created in response to the industries great demand for professionally trained chefs. The mission of the program is to educate "passionate individuals in culinary arts and to prepare them to enter the competitive food industry. The school offers four programs, two in culinary and two in pastry." She takes her students to Italy for a week of training. She often takes her "recreational students" on tours of Cleveland and Pittsburgh and also offers them the opportunity to go to Italy and other parts of Europe. The majority of her students are embarking on a second career. Her students range in age from 17 to 75.
Loretta loves to shop and helps her students to become good shoppers. She enjoys trying new things and the vast majority of her purchases are food related - Balsamic Vinegar, oils, and the like. " If my plane ever crashes we could all survive a long time on the food in my suitcase. "Her goal is to keep the business growing and give the opportunity to more and more students to learn this craft she has such a passion for. "When I first came to Cleveland in 1977 it was like night and day compared to New York. I couldn't find any of the ingredients I needed. I used to drive to New York, pack up my car and bring things back." Loretta was determined to change that. She could not believe the vast resources the mid-west held, that were virtually being ignored. "Now it is so different. Cleveland has such wonderful shops and markets to buy high quality produce, meats and essentials like good olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar."Loretta does not necessarily think of herself as a role model although she is looked up to an emulated by men and women alike. "If you say I am a role model, that makes me feel good."
Loretta thinks of herself as a chef, not a businesswoman, but she is highly acclaimed as both and has received many awards and commendations. In 2000 the National Association of Women Business Owners honored her as one of the top ten Women Business Owners of Northeast Ohio. She has a message to women in business. She notes that some women feel they must give up their family or minimize family time in order to become a successful businesswoman. Instead she says, " Family should always come first. They are your support system. Do not think of family as a negative, they offer support, strength and comfort. Don't underestimate the value of that."So how does she feel about the trend of food shows and "foodies"? As a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) she remembers when the food network first came out. "So many members where concerned, shocked even scared!" But not her. She saw it as a further educational tool -something that could enhance their profession and bring attention to it, rather than harm it.
Chef Loretta Paganini at the November 2007
Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland
She feels two very important results have been obtained by the trend. The first is an awareness of fresh food, people are not buying prepackaged prepared foods. Instead they are buying fresh foods and making recipes themselves. The second is that it has created an interest in cooking among children. Very young people are paying attention to ingredients and trying things on their own. "This is a very positive result of the Food Network and various cooking shows."She also notes that the Food Network came out just about the same time as budget cuts were eliminating Home Economics classes. A whole generation was missing the opportunity to learn about nutrition and proper diet. "Frozen fast food was becoming a way of life. No wonder we have a problem with obesity in children. But thanks to the TV shows parents and children alike are learning some important things about what they eat."She remembers Julia Child putting out a plea "Our mission is to teach our children that they cannot learn at home". Loretta felt the mission was important and put together classes for children. In the beginning her students couldn't identify a tomato, but now they can tell which is a Roma and which is a Salad Tomato. "I am passionate - but then I am Italian. They are the same thing."
Loretta Paganini with her book Bologna Mia
Loretta is also an author. Her first cookbook "Bologna Mia" was published in August of 2000 to well-deserved high acclaims. Her second book on Balsamic Vinegar is being finalized now. Bologna Mia was dedicated to the kitchen of her mother and two grandmothers. She wrote the book with the help of her daughter, Stephanie. It not only includes recipes but stories from her life, using the recipes as they applied to events and occasions. Her mother, who does not speak English, saw the book in Italy and cried. "It was a chance to give her a little something of what she gave me."
Loretta Paganini's first book - Bologna Mia.
(click on the cover for more information
or to buy it from Amazon.Com)
Her mother was a very classical chef - there was only one way to do things. Loretta is a much more adventurous cook. She loves to see the evolution of a recipe. "It is imperative," she says, "to have a good classic base, but the window dressing has to change. If I still cooked like my mother all of my recipes would have pounds and pounds of butter."Her father was a passionate gardener. He came last summer and planted a beautiful garden for her at the school. Loretta, however, is a practical gardener, filling her garden with fig trees, blueberries, raspberries, herbs and such. She loves to get up early in the morning and see "what goodies we have."
An edible flower from Loretta Paganini's garden
Even her beautiful roses are edible and make a lovely and fragrant addition to a salad. Her garden is now dedicated to her father, who passed away recently.
Loretta Paganini's Elio Galantini Garden
In addition to her Chesterland School, Loretta has "set up shop" in a number of other places. One such place is Mon Ami, a winery and restaurant in Port Clinton Ohio. Loretta applies her skills there, not only providing the restaurant with incredible food, but by teaching a number of courses on cooking and meal preparation.
Inside Loretta Paganini's shop
She also has a partnership with Lakeland Community College. Her classes provide credits in Adult Education at Ursuline College's accelerated program.
Loretta Paganini's outdoor smoker
She is also affiliated with the Heinens Stores and Fishers in North Canton. All have schools within them. And on top of everything else, Loretta founded the Tri-State Association of Cooking Schools. She has also appeared on television on "The Morning Exchange". She was a co-producer of the WVIZ special presentation "P is for Pasta" and of course, she appeared on the show as well. You can also catch Loretta on WKYC Channel 3's "Tips from the Kitchen"Loretta is a member of the American Institute of Wine and Food and the American Culinary Federation. She is certified by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Loretta enjoys spending time with her family whenever possible. Two of her children are in the area, one is in Baltimore. "But it's a short plane trip to Baltimore" says the avid pilot. Loretta and her husband Emil are both pilots and they love to go flying on the weekends. She believes that this is a good time to be a woman in the Culinary Arts because there are so many prospects as more and more fields open up. In addition to being a restaurant chef there are also opportunities as a caterer, a personal chef, a product developer, a writer, a critic, a television personality or as she says "Anything you want to be."She is lucky that she has never needed much sleep because her lifestyle takes up many hours of the day and night. She enjoys what she does and is quick to admit that she is too stubborn to take no for an answer. "If you believe it - you should do it."
Loretta Paganini in her garden
Most of her dreams for the future are related to the food industry. (Except of course for the one about being a grandmother)"The first fifty years of my life have been very exciting. I can't wait to see what happens next."Profiled by Debbie Hanson
Loretta Paganini's first book - Bologna Mia.
Click on the cover for more information or to buy it from Amazon.Com
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