Thursday, November 03, 2011

From Plate to Page: Under the Tuscan Sun

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Getting a group of people under one roof for an entire weekend can be a tricky, if not an intricate matter. The dynamics need to be just right; the energy has to flow in all the positive directions and the synergy between the group must be cohesive and interactive. It’s difficult to get all the processes right in one group, usually a good amount of work is involved beforehand to bind each individual into forming a harmonious group. 

Having worked with and in a few team development projects I know how complicated things can get. I guess that is why I am blown away by the fact that our From Plate to Page groups synthesize so well. With the Weimar workshop I thought it was because many of us knew each other through blogs, Twitter and Facebook and our first class of P2P participants would be hard to beat.

Then came Tuscany.

TheGroup_JeanneHD [Photo by Jean Pierre Dagneaux, courtesy Jeanne Horak-Druiff]

For the second time we opened the doors to From Plate to Page, this time under the Tuscan sun in the lush autumnal landscape of Pistoia. As one of the presenters, organizers and hostesses of this food photography and writing workshop, it was important to create an environment that allows for bursts of positive energy, which serves as a foundation for passionate creativity.

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On paper it looks good: 12 participants with 4 instructors over 3 days in 1 villa. Add to that a good handful of exercises, sprinklings of presentations and lots hands-on advice and one has the perfect recipe for a 3 day workshop. In practice it’s not as easy as that. Over the period of 6 months we meticulously organized the program, discussed each aspect of the 3 day course in detail, cajoling sponsors to collaborate with us, planning the perfect meals to include all dietary needs, checking and re-checking that everything was just right.

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All of a sudden I was landing in Florence, an hour late but excited to re-connect with my three colleagues, who over the years have become somewhat of an extension to my own self. It’s a friendship so natural and unpretentious that we automatically pick up where we left from. It felt great to be in this company – live and in person. We shopped for groceries, made the final touches to the schedule and packed goodie bags till late in the night giggling and chattering all the way. Being together felt good.

The4 - JamieS[Photo: Marta Majewska]

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P2PTuscany-2011-500px-0028 MeetaCamera_JeanneHD.640px [Photo Jeanne Horak-Druiff]

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Friday kicked off the workshop at the Il Salicone, with a light lunch, served in a rustic Italian kitchen around tables laid with plastic table coverings, ornamented with bold flowers. It would have been cheesy anywhere else in the world, but here in Italy it felt just right.

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Soon we were well underway into our program. Friday is always a bit of shock treatment for our participants. It sets the scene and the pace for what is to come and I truly think our participants were asking themselves “What have I gotten myself into?”

Writing exercises, camera techniques, lighting, finding your voice, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and once they thought it was over we were dividing them into groups for photography exercises. This brought them together to work as a team, each helping the other. It was incredible to watch how their passion unfolded and they enjoyed each aspect of the day.

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They became a dynamic group and the next day after a writing workshop on the mechanics of writing and a photography and styling session we paired the groups in teams of two for the rest of the weekend and each team got their first assignment.

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Maybe it was the Tuscan warmth, the rustic charm, the bright blue skies and the impressive picture-postcard-perfect landscape or maybe it was the laughter and chatter that reverberated through the stone walls of Il Salicone, maybe it was a little bit of it all, but as the group walked down the gravel path, canopied by chestnut trees still dressed in green, I could not help but feel the synergy between them.

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The short walk to the vineyard was a welcomed break. The Il Salicone winery is a small artisanal family run estate producing Sangiovese blend wines for local purchase. It was the perfect day, the sun radiated its warmth as if it was high summer and not the end of Autumn.

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Lunch was enjoyed outside on the humble grounds of the winery where the meal was set nonchalantly on mismatched plates. Nicoletta, our Italian hostess and owner of Il Salicone, brought out platters of chicken liver crostini, salame, prosciutto, cheese with thick runny acacia honey and baskets of crusty Italian bread.

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Our next course a rustic Ribollita, slowly cooked with day old bread and seasonal vegetables drizzled with a delicate olive oil, together with a variety of frittata is so simple yet simply satisfying. The wine, a Poggioalcanto, offers a full bodied and fruity flavor. Finally, the meal takes a sweet turn with plates of cantucci. Glasses are refilled and the traditional Tuscan almond cookies are dipped into glasses soaking up the fruity wine. Contrasts of flavors explode on the tongue, resonating all that I have experienced in Italy in just one bite.

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Between the food, the talk and the ideas I see the participants making notes, walking the grounds capturing the food and scenery on camera, their dedication is contagious. After a short tour of the winery we head back to the villa. The grounds of Il Salicone become a quiet sanctuary where the pairs retreat to work on their assignment. A bench beneath the trees, a sunny spot on the stairs overlooking the vineyard, a rattan chair on a balcony are all tranquil spots to think, to ponder and to work.

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At the end of the day, all the hard work is rewarded with a divine dinner and plenty of Bisol Prosecco.

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The final day started with a few more exercises and presentations before we set the scene for the assignment for each team. The positive creativity was channeled into great thoughts and ideas and it was incredible watching the teams bring their project to life. Within a matter of 2 days they were able to produce material of such high standard, applying all that was shared and learnt over the period of the workshop. The progress each one made was invigorating. As Sunday evening approached, a slight sadness took over. I stole away from the group for a few minutes to allow myself to review the weekend. Yes, I was exhausted but so satisfied with how the weekend turned out.

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It seems unlikely that a group of strangers can produce so much creative energy, inspiration, laughter and leave filled with new ideas and friendships. But it happens … at From Plate to Page, under the Tuscan sun.

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Thank you to all our wonderful participants who took a chance on us and came from Canada, Malta, California, Norway, Belgium, UK, Venice and Holland to Tuscany to learn the art of writing and photography.

Marta | Kate | Valentina | Lynn | Alexandra | Elizabeth | Hayley |
Olivia | Heidi | Robin | Denise | Judith

You rocked!        P2PTuscany-2011-500px-0287
Of course a huge amount of gratitude goes out to each and every one of our fabulous sponsors. Each one helped make From Plate to Page such a success not to mention making those goodie bags bulge and creating memorable meals! Thank you for the trust you put in the four of us.

ZWILLING J.A. HENCKELS | Sunchowder’s Emporia | Taste of Home | Gourmelli | Smaromi | Peppadew International | Bisol Prosecco | Riso Gallo | Nielsen-Massey |
TABASCO® | Matcha Factory 

While we have wrapped up our second workshop in Tuscany, behind the scenes we are busily working on our next From Plate to Page. A location has been booked, a date has been set and soon we will be revealing more. Keep an eye out on our website as we will be opening registrations to From Plate to Page UK shortly. Maybe we’ll see you there! 

 


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2011 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

32 comments :

  1. A FANTASTIC post Meeta, I love it (apart from where I appear in photo), you caught the spirit in both workds and pictures!

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  2. This looks incredible - your pictures are beautiful... is there another course in the pipeline and how can I sign up?! :)

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  3. WAW, you were in Toscany. I live relativly close to it and I wish I would know that earlier and maybe I could come to. I was there in September: http://www.culinaryjourneybyme.com/2011/09/pod-toskanskim-soncem-in-la-cucina.html

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  4. Well done guys! Looks like so much fun was had :-) Beautiful photos!

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  6. Go Tuscany! What a fabulous post Meeta! Stunning pictures! You've captured the whole weekend so well and left me inspired! I hope to make it for the next one!


    Cheers!
    A

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  7. Thank you so much for posting all these photos. Such great memories. Huge love x

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  8. Oh Meeta, it's lovely! I'm sitting at my desk at work and quite tearful. Full of emotions and the most wonderful memories of a fabulous event. This was without a shadow of a doubt the best thing I did in 2011. hundred warm hugs.xx

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  9. Such a Fantastic Post Meeta.. I was waiting for it, from the day you came back :-)
    I wish I can participate atleast in the next workshop.
    Beautiful Pictures...!!

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  10. what lovely images ! looks like you'll had a great time...

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  11. Oh wow - I know I was there, but looking at the pictures now I can't believe how out and out GLAMOROUS it all looked! A wonderful impression of the weekend in words and pictures - love you, Borgsister!

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  12. Glorious food !! what an ode to Tuscany ! The cake stand is lovely, do you know who makes it ?
    thank you for this post !

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  13. Great food, company and place! It must have been a fun weeklend. Thanks for sharing your pictures and impressions with us.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  14. Meeta, it looks like a fantastic event -- great energy in your photos, and even the weather was perfect. Congrats to all four of you!

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  15. Fantastic post Meeta, I so wish I could have joined you, but I will be in the future, that is for sure :) Amazing photos as always!

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  16. Wonderful Meeta!!! you caught perfectly the warmth of those three special days!!!

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  17. The pictures are so gorgeous, it looks almost unreal. But I know it wasn't. It was a very special weekend indeed... It was more than a pleasure to meet you and learn a lot from you:) Would love to see you soon again!

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  18. What a riot. You gals seemed to have a lot of fun, while busily absorbing what's necessary for the perfect shots. If there ever was one.
    Nice read, Meeta.

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  19. A fabulous post...all the pictures are stunning. I honestly wish i could have been there... :)

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  20. Gorgeous photos, company and food! Such lovely setting. Tuscany is on my list of places to travel. Soon I hope :)

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  21. What a culmination to all the planning, organizing and work to get this together. What a lovely place and time., I am honestly sick with jealousy ;) but in a good way.

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  22. Breath taking...I'm so happy that I found this fabulous blog...Love it Meeta..keep going amazing woman.

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  23. Meeta, I love love love the photos and you capture in both words and images the beauty, wonder and yes, synergy of the weekend. Amazing... and we did indeed have a group of fabulous, talented, wonderful participants! I have no words to describe how your post has made me feel. Perfect...just perfect! xoxo

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  24. What a nice post and it looks like you had an incredibly successful event. I A beautiful setting, dedicated and talented people...that's a great start! I hope I can make it to one of these some day.

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  25. Congrats Meeta on a successful workshop, I can only imagine how information rich participants would have been. Next workshop in SF may be ?

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  26. What a great photo recap Meeta! It so looks like you guys had yet again a fabulous workshop. I love seeing all the write ups and all the endless photos.. Bring me more!

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  27. Such a wonderful, thoughtful post. I would expect no less from our intripid mentor and P2PTuscany organizer. Your grace and organization are inspirational. Your kindness and caring touches the heart.

    Just beautiful.

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  28. Meeta! Loved reading about the Tuscany Plate to Page! It sounds absolutely fantastic!! How I wold love to join of of these days...maybe in the future :) Bravo to all of you and more success to come!!!

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  29. I just love what you 4 are doing, an intensive workshop like your is the best way to really dive in and learn. And of course it doesn't hurt that it was in a beautiful location too! lol

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  30. Wow, what an amazing selection of pictures! Sounds like you've got a winning formula to get just the right number of people passionate about one thing altogether in same place for the right length of time. The villa looks gorgeous!

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  31. What an amazing time this must have been! Such a beautiful post and just so gorgeous, thank you!

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  32. Thank you all so much for all your feedback and comments. P2P Tuscany was an event to remember. The landscape, the food, the weather and the energy of each and every participant was simply incredible. So glad that the workshops are becoming something that people really appreciate.

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta