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Southern Italy is coming to campus in the latest Chef’s Table

Delaney Murray
October 16, 2018

As cold weather comes to campus, take some time to warm up with an evening of hearty Southern Italian cuisine. On Nov. 2, Culinary Services invites students, faculty and community members to take part in a Chef’s Table dining experience with Ohio University Chef Chito Trinidad, as he prepares Italian dishes with a twist. The event will take place at 6 p.m. in the Jefferson Marketplace Culinary Studio. Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased here.

Ahead of the event, Chef Chito sat down to talk about his training in Italy, his favorite cooking techniques and the best parts about working with students.

Why did you pick Italian as the theme for our next Chef’s Table?

I’m not Italian, but I did spend about two months in Southern Italy during my externship for culinary school about 12 years ago. I signed up to train at an Italian bed and breakfast, where I learned how to make traditional Neapolitan cuisine. I fell in love with Southern Italian cuisine, and so I have a passion for it. I got to work hands-on with Italian chefs, and I learned how to make more rustic dishes―things you look at and might not think they taste good, but when you actually eat them they’re amazing.

How did your experiences in Southern Italy enhance your training?

I’m from Chicago and went to the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, which was through Le Cordon Bleu so it was classic French training. One thing I’ve learned is that Italians were really the ones that were the cooks. The history behind that is that the French were the ones that put things in writing and put down the recipes. Italy has much deeper roots in cooking than many people know, and a lot of the things you see with French cooking have roots in Italy.

What is your favorite dish to cook?

I don’t know if I have a favorite dish, because for me it’s more of a process. I like to cook things that take hours and hours to make. The dish I made back in April was beef short ribs. It can take three or four hours. Things that braise, things that simmer for a long time―you can taste that in a dish, how much work someone took to make something. The other day, I made some tamales, and those take about four hours to make. It’s a grueling process. But to me the best part is just getting to eat something that takes time and patience.

What are some of the dishes you’ll be preparing for Chef’s Table?

One of my favorite dishes is slow-cooked lamb gnocchi with a Bolognese sauce that’s a lot beefier. I chose it because it’s going to be November, and hopefully we’ll get some cooler weather. We’re doing a lot more comfort food. I know Italian is typically a little heavier but I’m trying to mix it up. We have an arugula salad that’s really simple and has some parmesan and a vinaigrette. So I’m trying to cover Southern Italian cuisine in one night, but that’s impossible to do. I’m trying to do the biggest hits.

Why come to a Chef’s Table event?

For me it’s about offering people something they can’t get in Athens. We have a pretty good, diverse set of restaurants but I want to open it up to the community and offer them new techniques they’ve never seen before. We have a camera and try to capture each step, and each participant gets a booklet where they can take notes. Sometimes, we do have people come up and help with things. For the most part, though, it’s more of a demo.

How did you end up at OHIO?

After cooking school, I worked in the field for a couple years as a line cook. I decided I needed more education, so I went to school to become a dietitian. I wanted to be more well rounded and know how to make food but also know the effects of what food could do. After school, I moved to Athens to help start Brookfield Church. I had to change my career again because to be a dietitian, you have to do a dietetic internship, which the University didn’t offer at the time. So I decided to get back into the cooking world and got into more of the managerial side of cooking. I ran the Pita Pit for about three and a half years. After that, there was an opportunity to work at OHIO.

I was introduced to working at the retail stores and the markets. I worked on developing menus like Smooth Moves at Boyd. The last project I worked on was developing the Hungry Cat Food Truck and making sure we were serving the students what they wanted. It took a couple semesters, but I feel like the food truck is really where it needs to be in terms of the menu and the service. I had a little more freedom to develop that menu and make sure we can give the students the best foods they can have.

What is your favorite part about working at OHIO?

It’s about the students. I love getting to be at one of the most critical parts of an adult’s life and helping them to transition. When they’re working at Jefferson or the food truck, we’re helping them to develop and teaching them how to be a reliable person, to have good integrity and work ethic. Anytime I get to be part of a person’s education and development, I’m all in.