Time Out Rio de Janeiro

Home-run classes in Italian style

Tired of the grind, one Italian with a passion for her country's cuisine began offering cookery classes from her kitchen at home and never looked back.

Many a person with a passion for cooking has entertained the idea of pursuing it for a living, only for the reality of the pressure pot of a commercial kitchen to put them off even before the first hurdle. For Italian food-loving mum-of-two Alessandra Sposetti, 43, the idea of opening a restaurant never really appealed – she had worked in the cut-throat fashion industry in Milan for several years and moved to Rio with a young family – so she sought an alternative creative outlet, beginning Italian cookery classes from her home kitchen in Leblon. “I wasn’t enjoying my job when a friend suggested I started culinary classes. I wanted to love my work, and I didn’t need to earn lots of money, so I gave it a try.”

Her first class gathered in May 2010, a mixture of Brazilians and foreign friends-of-friends, and Alessandra admits she was shy to begin with, but soon settled into the role of teacher.
“There was no example to follow so I invented my own way of working, and it made me feel incredibly free – its liberating not to be stressed out by work,” she says from the table of her beautifully modern, open plan kitchen.

Teaching up to six people how to cook complex dishes in your own home clearly presents its own challenges, financially and practically, never mind having total strangers coming and going. “Classes start at 8pm so my husband looks after the kids and then comes through when they are asleep to help wash up. Luckily everyone has been cool, though once a guy came to the door just holding an umbrella and at first glance I thought it was a pistol and panicked!”

Being Italian, the classes invariably turn into a social event, and whilst the couple tries to have the place empty by midnight, it isn’t always so easy to get rid of everybody, an inherent problem in working from home. Plus it won’t make your fortune;

“I don’t make a lot of money but the timing is great for me and when the kids get older I can cook all day, but of course it isn’t all easy. I have to research the recipes, do the whole PR bit and be a mum. At one stage I was running three classes a week but it wasn’t sustainable.”

Tools such as Facebook have clearly helped ad-hoc companies spread their influence and gain customer momentum, prompting a wave of entrepreneurial spirit that burns strongly in Alessandra. “Facebook has been a big help and I don’t need a site or even a blog – I upload the photos of my food and people are immediately interested!”

The classes were adapted for her sweet-toothed Brazilian clientele to include desserts, but there is a truly international feel with Australians, Brazilians, English and Dutch gathering around the pots and pans. Courses last one month and are either basic level or specialised, the latter incorporating anything from regional specialities to risottos and of course, seasonal menus.

“The organic fairs are a source of great ingredients, but sometimes the imported stuff in supermarkets is just necessary too. The point of the course is that everything is possible to recreate at home, everything can be bought easily by the students.”

With further ideas up her sleeve including ‘surprise’ menus and a course at the Atelier das Idéias in Humaitá, Alessandra’s work-from-home-ethos looks set to grow in line with her passion for the food she makes.

Words by Doug Gray

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