The original Montefollonico cooking school since 2000

Specialita della Casa
Miki Turner, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Bill and Patty Sutherland didn’t waste any time when they were seeking women to teach cooking in the hilltop Italian village they now call home. They asked the man who tends their vineyards and olive groves. Bill and Patty Sutherland didn’t waste any time when they were seeking women to teach cooking in the hilltop Italian village they now call home. They asked the man who tends their vineyards and olive groves.

“Angolino is 75 and has never been married,” Bill says. “So, knowing he had eaten at every woman’s home in our area, we asked him who the very best cooks were,” says Bill. “Without hesitating, he pointed to our neighbors’ home. After one meal, we knew he was right.”

The Sutherlands, formerly of Arlington, started out like many other visitors to Italy. It’s not unusual for travelers to return home raving about the country’s wonderful people, its terrific culture, fabulous shopping and to-die-for cuisine. Food like homemade pasta with pomodoro (tomato) sauce, Tuscan bread soup, fresh vegetables, grilled meat and flavorful bread. All these things are what prompted the Sutherlands to pack up their spurs and move to Italy. It wasn’t long before they decided that the delicious recipes they enjoyed at their neighbors’ homes should be shared. Thus the idea for Tuscan Women Cook, a residential cooking school in the village of Montefollonico, an hour south of Florence and two hours north of Rome.

“I first traveled to Italy in 1967 and immediately felt at home,” says Bill. “I’m often asked what it is that I love most about our newly adopted country, and the answer is easy for me—the people. . . . In some previous life, I know I must have been Italian. “The thought of moving from the D/FW area with a population of 4 million to a tiny hilltop village in Tuscany with a population of 700 must sound strange to so many people, but we absolutely love it all. I owned a large real estate company in Texas for over 30 years, but giving up my Armani suits and ties for a pair of jeans was such a simple transition for me. . . . I love the sense of history and tradition here—so many things are done the same way as they were centuries ago. I guess when you perfect things, why change them?”

The couple had been contemplating an eventual move to Italy, but the move came sooner than they had expected when they found their dream home in 1998. “We saw our home early one morning as it was literally sitting in a cloud on top of a hill,” says Patty. “It was a 300-plus-year-old home that needed lots of work. We thought the permanent move would happen down the road in our lives, but one day, we realized the time had come—the kids were all grown and our business in Texas had changed significantly. The time was right, so we made the decision to go for it.”

Shortly after their move last year, the Sutherlands decided they were really enjoying the homemade meals prepared by their neighbors and thought it would be wonderful if tourists traveling through the region could experience the same culinary treats.

Bill had owned a gourmet store in Arlington called The Cook’s Store on Lamar Boulevard and had studied with Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Giuliano Bugialli and other chefs in the United States and Europe. “My passion for cooking prompted me to begin to explore the possibility of setting up cooking classes here. We found most cooking schools in Italy feature well-known chefs and celebrities, while no one really concentrated on the heart and soul of Tuscany—the food from the kitchens of Italian women.”

The classes at Tuscan Women Cook are taught by a mother-and-daughter team—Ada Bernadini and Antonella Bernadini. They use only fresh, farm-raised ingredients.

“We actually feel our school is unique,” says Patty, who once taught design and color theory at Texas Christian University and is quick to add that Bill is the cooking expert. “We find that Tuscany has so much to offer besides food, and we try to combine it all. The cooking school is in the mornings and we spend the afternoons visiting local villages, taking in a little art and architectural history. We also have a tour of a local pecorino cheese factory and have a wine-tasting in the 750-year-old wine cellar of Vittorio Innocenti, the local winemaster of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines.

“The other unique part of our class is the location. It’s held at a lovely ‘agriturismo’—an Italian family-owned bed-and-breakfast. Agriturismo Belagaggio is a working farm. Our guests stay in a 200-year-old building that has just been recently restored.”

Bill says he missed the robust cooking of his adopted country during a recent trip back to the United States.

“We teach the cooking of the country women—not highly complex, but simple and delicious,” says Bill. “We teach recipes and techniques passed down over the generations from mother to daughter. The cooking classes feature local cooking as would be found in homes here—bread and tomato salads, Tuscan beans, minestrone, ribollita and ceci soups, torta della Nonna (Grandmother’s cake), roasted and grilled meats and vegetables, and whatever the seasons hold.”


NEWSLETTERS from Tuscan Women Cook.

Squisito! Tuscan Women Cook Interviews Guests
Carolyn Tonkin and Merle Klebanoff

Tuscan Women Cook Interviews Guests
Karen Noreen and Mel & Suzanne Defrin

Tuscan Women Cook Interviews Guest
Jim Henson

October in Tuscany!
When Beautiful Italian Memories are Made!

Join Us In June!
Zucchini Flowers, Pecorino, and More

Iolanda Marcocci, Our Tuscan Nonna
Watch Iolanda Make Tiramisù

Jane Pauley Visits Tuscan Women Cook
Today Show icon visits Bill and Patty

Bella! Bella! Bellagaggio!
Cooking classes at Agriturismo Bellagaggio

Dania Masotti Tuscany's Shining Star
Meet the chef and co-founder of La Chiusa

Meet the Super Tuscan
Profile of Tuscan winemaker Flavio Andreucci

Our Tuscan Sweetheart Daria Cappelli
Profile of the owner of Osteria La Porta

Under the Tuscan Snow
50 inches of snow in Montefollonico

Residenza d'Epoca La Costa
Visit one of our venues—Hotel La Costa

Tuscan Women Cook We're Moving
More about your stay at La Chiusa

PRESS about Tuscan Women Cook

AARP “Your Life Calling” with Jane Pauley
Shown on NBC Today Show, November 17, 2011

Under the Wooden Spoon of a Tuscan Nonna
Susan Van Allen, The Providence Journal

A Jewel of a Cooking School in Tuscany
Mary Redmayne, Dream of Italy

Stirring the Tuscan Soul
Robin Davis, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

Specialita della Casa
Miki Turner, Fort Worth Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Cooking Abroad
Dale Curry, The Times-Picayune Food Editor

Making the most of second chances
Kathleen Green / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News January 31, 2010

Tuscan Women Cook—Montefollonico, Tuscany
Susan Van Allen, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

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