Eataly’s Scuola grande was the venue of the awards breakfast ceremony on June 18 for the Food in Focus contest, an initiative launched by IACE and Eataly. The winners were recognized for their mouthwatering images and warmly congratulated by Consul General Francesco Genuardi, IACE President Berardo Paradiso, and star food photographer Francesco Tonelli.
First place went to Samantha Pugliese of Manhasset High School, and second place and third places to Hennisses Vera and Gilian Marino, both of LaGuardia Arts High School. Their winning images together with honorable mentions are featured here.
Food Speaks Italian
“We have the recipe for what we are striving for here in NY,” affirmed Consul General Genuardi, “the promotion of not just Italian culture but Italian language. It is of utmost importance in the world today to promote as much as possible the study of Italian. With Italian, one can enjoy works of art and Made in Italy all the more, as well as have more doors open to career opportunities, because there are many Italian companies in the U.S. that do business in food, fashion, design and technology.”
Through the Food in Focus contest, students embraced their passion for Italian culture and language. During a visit to Eataly, students take a tour of the marketplace and participate in cooking demonstrations of traditional dishes with a practical view of incorporating healthy food into their lifestyle, all this while simultaneously learning the language of food in Italian.
“For me, participating was a wonderful journey to find what best described Italy through my favorite thing–food–in the form of one shot, one moment. The photography contest was a great opportunity to explore the Italianness of my city,” explained second place winner Hennessis Vera, “and the gelato was shot while celebrating my friend who placed in an Italian poetry contest. It was just too perfect of an opportunity to miss once I saw the way they prepared their gelato.”
Parameters of the project were established and photography techniques were taught by mentor and judge Francesco Tonelli: “Focus on the excellence of Italian foods, in even their most simple form, and photograph it in such a way that the appetite appeal is immediate.”
And the rules were simple: Use a smartphone; take photos of Italian food only; photos must have appetite appeal; share on social media using the hashtag #foodinfocusIACE. Submissions were well over a hundred over the course of six months. The decisions were not easy, and Tonelli could tell that each student devoted a great deal of time and energy into the photos. To narrow down the finalists, he recruited his children to determine which photos looked good enough to eat.
The importance of Italian in the food sector goes without saying and Tonelli knows this well: his previous career was as a chef in Italy, France, Switzerland, and Canada. Subsequently, he became a professor at The Culinary Institute of America, and now he photographs food for prominent restaurants, famous chefs, importante American food magazines, and large corporate clients. “Italian has lent credibility to my profession and I have gained the trust of my clients,” acknowledges Tonelli, “I am able to communicate clearly my knowledge of food products and execute recipes with ease, and I create an appeal to the palate by capturing the fragrance of food.” Tonelli’s collaboration in this contest was an opportunity for him to return to the classroom, working with students and guiding them, to highlight the importance of Italian as a communication tool in this industry.
The collaboration with this professional photographer, IACE and Eataly is only one of the numerous incentives in the promotion of the study of Italian in the U.S. “Italian is doing very well in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut,” confirmed IACE President Berardo Paradiso, “with approximately 100,000 students studying Italian from elementary schools to post-secondary institutions.” Consequently, the Advanced Placement exam has exceeded the College Board’s goal of 2500 students, the threshold number to sustain the exam.
Paradiso affirmed that “IACE has many things cooking” as this collaboration with Eataly, now in its fourth year, will continue to produce many innovative programs, the goal of which is to encourage American students to better themselves by studying Italian to become citizens of the world.
Without a doubt, creating synergies by engaging different areas of specialization that complement one another, exemplified by this contest of Italian food and photography, can provide newer models for the study of Italian.
This contest of food and photography with the collaboration of one of the most in-demand photographers in the U.S., wove together the use of the Italian language and vocabulary of the sector (food, design, photography, etc.), with exciting results. These initiatives do in fact allow students to be exposed to new learning opportunities, which in turn can potentially to be translated to career opportunities as well. Studying Italian should be dynamic, adaptive, and keep pace with a global economy.
Future collaborations are also anticipated at the new Eataly megastore, scheduled to open in August at the World Trade Center, and there will also be other “surprises” as alluded to by consulate general Genuardi, to promote the week of Italian language in the world in October.