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The Cagli Media Project
Institute for Education
in International Media
Andrew Ciofalo, Director

By Rebecca Albert

At the edge of the tiny town of Piobbico, Italy, surrounded by beautiful mountains and colorful countryside, sits a modern school building. At first glance, this school looks much like any other. However, here 14-year-old children aspire to be chefs, hotel receptionists, and bartenders, and their gifts are uncovered as they are guided through a five-year program.

Walk into the Istituto Professionale di Stato per i Servizi in Alberghieri e della Ristorazione di Piobbico, and the first thing you’ll see is a reception desk. But this isn’t the school’s front desk, it’s where the students practice their faxing, phone, and computer skills in preparation for work as a hotel receptionist.

To the right are three industrial kitchens with shiny metal tables, huge refrigerators, and islands with hanging utensils that replicate the standard restaurant kitchen. One is solely used for pastry-making; the others for general cooking.

To the left of the reception desk are two bars, fully stocked with wine and spirits including an elaborate espresso machine. Behind the bar are dozens of plaques, trophies, and prizes the school has won in competitions.

“We train the students to be successful chefs, bartenders, and receptionists,” says Francesco Licata, an assistant teacher who has worked at the school for six years. “The success of the school is due to the synergy -- the young teachers, the will to be here, and the high standards we set for the students.”

The specialized high school has 150 students, 20 teachers, and five professionals who come to the school to talk about the tourism industry to the fourth and fifth year students. With small class sizes of 25 kids or fewer, the students feel that they receive enough close attention and guidance to prepare them to work as soon as they graduate.

Some students, like Maria Giovanna, enter hoping to become a chef and leave with other dreams. Flashing a big white smile with a small pink diamond in her front tooth, she explains how she learned she had “a gift for dealing with clients” that she never knew about.

In their fourth year at the school, the students go on a three-week internship at a five-star establishment in their specialty, be it cooking, hotel reception, or bartending. The school pays for their transportation, their housing, and their meals while they attend, and will continue to do so if students prolong their work experience.

Many of the students enjoy their internships so much that they extend their work over the summer. One 17-year-old student is working in Sardinia this summer at a five-star restaurant that the school introduced him to.

The students learn much more than just their specialty, though. In addition to classes in their desired area, the students take all the usual high school courses, including English, French, and Italian. The students attend school Monday through Friday from 8:25 a.m. to 1:55 p.m.

After the students graduate, they enter the chaotic world of the hospitality industry and often open their own businesses. Two of the culinary graduate students have opened a hip bar across the street from the school where the students go regularly, whether for lunch or an after school snack or drink. On the last day of school this year, the students and some of their professors celebrated their graduation with a beer at the bar.

La Gioconda

Though the program is highly regarded, tuition is modest. For the first three years, students pay 100 euro per year, and only 70 euro per year for the next two years.

Each year IPSSAR competes with other culinary schools in the area. The school has won a total of 26 awards, including the Francoli Cup in 2005, which is the most sought-after award. The award is for maintaining an exceptional connection between a professional workplace and a prestigious school. In addition to a sculpture with a yellow ball connected by a long, thick, metal spring to a blue ball to represent the connection, the school was awarded 10,000 euro.

Over the past six years, IPSSAR has doubled in both staff and students, but the students still feel as though they get enough personal attention in the classroom to succeed in the business world of their specialty. The school continues to shape the skills of high school students, sculpting the future chefs, bartenders and hotel receptionists of Italy.

Video by Michael Paine
Photography by Chanel Grundy
Web Design by Sarah Sullivan