Italian Culinary Arts Program - H411
After deciding to pursue a long-term interest in the restaurant industry, Sonya Franceschini was quickly drawn to the Italian Culinary Arts Program at GBC, the only one of its kind in Canada.
The reputation of the George Brown Chef School appealed to her, as did the four-month externship in Italy that comprises the second half of the program.
From the outset, Sonya knew she wanted to be specifically involved with Italian cuisine.
"My background is Italian; I was raised around the culture and food, and have travelled extensively through Italy, so it was always my main interest," she explains.
After being accepted into the program and starting school, Sonya was struck by how small and well organized the classes were.
"It was a highly professional atmosphere" she says. "And because it's a postgraduate program, everyone was really enthusiastic to be there."
She credits the comprehensive range of courses at George Brown for teaching her the cooking styles of the various regions of Italy, and for giving her a greater understanding of how food fits into the Italian culture, and strengthens bonds within the family and community.
During her externship in Italy, Sonya worked for a family who owned an oceanfront restaurant on the Island of Elba, in Tuscany.
"It was a family-run restaurant just a few metres from the beach; they owned an outdoor disco and a portion of the beach as well," she explains. "I learned a lot... I worked six days a week for about 12 hours a day, and had a lot of fun outside work as well - they treated me just like a daughter."
Part of the ICAP program involves guest chefs from around the city sharing their knowledge and experiences with the students. After such a presentation by celebrated local chef Massimo Capra, Sonya decided to pursue a job at his famed restaurant Mistura upon her return to Toronto.
She is currently working there as an entrée métier, where her job is to prepare entrées with the sous-chef.
"Working at Mistura with Massimo is really satisfying," says Sonya. "It's not only because he has such a high level of skill, but I also like how involved he is with the community through charity work. "
Although she wants to return to Tuscany someday, for now Sonya plans to keep working in Toronto, home of the second largest Italian population outside of Italy.
"I'm fortunate to have been able to travel so much at a young age," she says. "But now I want to focus on working in the industry here; this city has such an exciting culinary culture, and I want to be a part of it."