Name: Arianna Garella
Program/year: Triennale 2011 - 2014
Current occupation: Culinary instructor
- Why did you want to attend UNISG?
I had always loved food, but felt concerned that attending culinary school would set me up for a career track that I would find unsustainable. In the midst of pursuing a history degree, I took a leave of absence to visit family in Piedmont. On that trip my grandfather took me to visit UNISG, and I fell in love. UNISG presented a holistic approach to food education, and it was exactly what I wanted and never knew existed.
- What was your most rewarding experience here at UNISG?
It's hard to look back and select just one experience - but certainly one of the most impactful was a study trip to Southern India. That trip challenged me in a number of ways, but perhaps most significantly it opened my eyes to a different side of history. Learning about the green revolution from the agricultural communities that were directly impacted by it was an incredibly valuable reminder that there are many, many different ways history can be told, seen, and perceived.
- What was your biggest challenge at UNISG?
I think there are a lot of challenges that can surface when one chooses to move across the world. For me, I found transitioning to UNISG from my previous university quite challenging. At the time I was there, the university was quite young and you could still feel the occasional growing pains.
- How did UNISG help get you where you are today?
UNISG set me up with a holistic appreciation and understanding of food. I now work at a lovely little community kitchen and cooking school in Seattle, and I apply a lot of what I learned during my time at UNISG to my classes. It's hard to know whether I would be where I am today without having attended UNISG, but I'm certainly a better educator because of it.
- If you had one piece of advice for current students, what would it be?
My mother once told me that the most important part of attending university isn't learning the class material, but learning how to learn. UNISG is experiential education at its best; go make friends, host dinners, try out your business ideas - you will never find yourself surrounded by the same wealth of creative, diverse, engaged, food loving humans - make the best of it! Good grades may be rewarding, but so is getting out of your comfort zone.
- What was your favorite meal at the Academic Table?
If I recall, my second year at UNISG was the first year the Academic Table got up and running. I'll be honest and say I don't remember the exact meals that were served, but my favorite part of the experience was watching big-name chefs, like Ferran Adrià, Massimo Bottura, and Alex Atala creating meals within the constraints of the space. Cooking outside of your kitchen is always a challenge, and watching such celebrated chefs try and work in a different environment and outside of their comfort zones - with mixed success, I'll add - was eye opening and often entertaining.
- What was your thesis topic and what was your greatest take away from it?
I wrote my thesis on food and culture in the United States prison system. I've always been fascinated by establishments that make food for large numbers of people without considering the tastes of those eating it; places like school cafeteria's, prisons, and hospitals. Prisons in particular are designed to strip individuality away and I wanted to see if a food culture could exist in such an environment. What I found is that, within the walls of a prison, food becomes an especially important form of expression. Give ten inmates the exact same 2 pieces of bread, slice of deli meat, cheese, and lettuce and each will make a lunch that appeals to them; some will make sandwiches, others will tear the lettuce into small pieces and the bread into breadcrumbs to make a salad, others will smash the bread flat and fill them like tacos. These might seems like minor adjustments, but when personal expression is limited in every way, these minor adjustments are what come to represent their individuality. Food culture isn't the same in the prison system as it is outside, but it is strong, tangible, and valuable. My thesis research served as a great reminder that food carries a value and power that extends beyond its nutritional value. It's an expression of culture and self.