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Arts council offering a taste of Italy
Cooking classes start Jan. 19
cooking classes - Italy
Chef Biagio Longo, right, and his daughter prepare a meal in Sorrento, Italy. - photo by Photo provided.

Since not everyone gets an opportunity to tour Italy and sample authentic Italian cuisine, the Hinesville Area Arts Council is bringing a taste of sunny Italy to Coastal Georgia.
The HAAC will hold Italian cooking classes from Jan. 19-23 at several locations in the county. The instructor is Italian chef Biagio Longo from Sorrento, Italy.
“This is something new for us and something we have talked about doing for several years,” HAAC member Leah Poole said. “Lisa Braun was kind enough to help us out with this as she has previously hosted chef Biago (Longo) in her home and wanted to expand this time to include more of the community. We plan in future years to offer some type of culinary adventure at least once per year. The enthusiasm for this series has really been phenomenal, with 52 slots taken already.”
“There are still (class) slots available,” said HAAC member Christi Wheeler. “The Sunday lunch class will be for children. All the other classes will be for adults.”
“The class location will vary by day,” Poole said. “Wednesday and Thursday are at the Braun home in Midway while Friday, Saturday dinner and Sunday are all at Dorchester Quail Preserve thanks to the generosity of Chuck Gaskin. Saturday lunch is going to be hosted at Yellow Bluff.”
The cost per adult per class is $100 and $50 for the children’s class, according to the HAAC website. Interested individuals can pay online or bring payments to the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce office. The lunch class begins at 10 a.m. and the dinner classes begin at 4 p.m.
Poole said she wasn’t sure who really came up with the idea of the cooking classes, but credits Braun for making the necessary arrangements with an experienced chef.
“Lisa hosted Biagio (Longo) before, two years ago in her home, and when she talked about doing it this year we thought that it might be nice to expand the offering to the community as a whole so the concept was born,” Poole said. “Without Lisa this could not happen. She communicates with Biagio, she lets him stay in her home and acts as his chauffer, she does all of the shopping and she acts as his sous chef while he is here.”
“The first time I met him was about seven years ago,” Braun recalled. “The trip was a gift from my husband to go to Sorrento and take classes at the Mami Camilla cooking school run by Biagio’s family. It was outstanding and really fun.”
She laughed and said Longo even succeeded in having her husband, a non-cook, participate.
“He thought he was going to sit back and drink wine,” Braun said. “Biago had him rolling pasta.”
Braun said cooking is “a passion” and she loves to prepare and eat Italian food. She formed a relationship via e-mail with Longo and his family over the past several years. Braun returned to the cooking school with friends on a following trip and took about a week’s worth of classes. Later, the chef’s family informed her Longo planned to visit a number of his former students in the U.S. and offer classes stateside.
Braun hosted Longo for the first time in 2008, and a second time in 2009.
“He goes to other states, he goes to Atlanta,” Braun said. “You might say Biagio does a little cooking tour. He’ll stay with me when he does the cooking school (in Liberty County). He will have an assistant with him this year.”
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