My wife’s and my dear friend Giuliano Bugialli died yesterday. He was a wonderful person.
I first met Giuliano in Florence in July 1975. It was during the third year of his cooking classes, “Cooking in Florence”, and I took a one week course. What a revelation.
At that time there were only two courses given in Italy for mainly English speakers. Marcella Hazan was still in Bologna and there was no one else in sight. Wonderful hands on instruction, at that time in a refectory in a convent on the west side of Florence. We would watch Giuliano demonstrate certain things and then for the next several hours we’d cook, guided by his exacting instructions. Then lunch. For several years after cooking in the refectory, the classes were held in his wonderful apartment near the Galleria dell Academia. Then, in the absolutely spectacular farmhouse that he and Henry Weinberg, his life partner, had renovated in the Tuscan countryside near Siena.
The restaurants that we went to in Florence were great. None of the restaurants he took us to had ever seen a group of (mainly) Americans who were this interested in food. It was all new to them. When we went to the countryside, it was the same thing. He got us into places that were special. Eating with Piero Antinori at one of his properties, with a meal cooked by his staff, is only one example of many. Restaurants in the Tuscan countryside that no American had ever been to was the norm. He later expanded his horizon to the rest of Italy. I think fondly about our trip to Sardinia, and our “meet-ups” in the ER and Piemonte countrysides.
Giuliano was not a chef; he was not a cook. He was an incredible cooking teacher as well as a wonderful cookbook writer. With Henry, beginning with “The Fine Art of Italian Cooking”, he wrote a number of books that are simply among the very best in English. Bugialli On Pasta; Foods of Sicily and Sardinia; Foods of Tuscany; The Best of Bugialli. These, and many others, are classics. The books weren’t only “just written.” The amount of research that Giuliano and Henry did was simply astounding. As far as a cooking teacher, even now, looking at his cooking lessons that are on the internet, you can see what a fabulous teacher he was. He didn’t teach only in Italy. For a long time he gave courses throughout the U.S. and thousands of his students can attest to his brilliant teaching.
Giuliano was a perfectionist. And sometimes, he could be a bit exacting. But he was the “real deal.” He didn’t make things up in order to be popular; he didn’t invent new “Italian dishes” as so many did. He didn’t stray from what he knew was the core of Italian regional cooking. As I said, he was the real deal. After observing Giuliano teach a class In Florence, even Hazan’s editor, the late great Judith Jones, said to me, soto voce, that he had it all over Marcella. High praise indeed.
He was extraordinarily knowledgeable. His palate was second to none. He had impeccable taste, not only with regard to food and wine, but with "all things design" as well. He was kind and considerate with his students and with people in general. He couldn’t do enough to help you. He was one of a kind.
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