QMU's new gastronomy course to teach students in rural Italy

It is a foodie's dream that will allow prospective future champions of Scottish food and drink to learn in one of the world's culinary hotspots.
The gastronomy course combines Scottish and global cuisine. Picture: TSPLThe gastronomy course combines Scottish and global cuisine. Picture: TSPL
The gastronomy course combines Scottish and global cuisine. Picture: TSPL

Queen Margaret University has unveiled a unique partnership that will see masters students swap lecture halls in Edinburgh for the vineyards and olive groves of rural Italy.

The unique tie up between the capital institution, the University of Cassino and the l’Ciacca Foundation is targeted at those with restaurant experience and members of the Italian diaspora.

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Those who enrol for the masters degree in gastronomy will study the environment of food, sustainability, production, nutrition, anthropology and culture, drawing on the expertise of farmers and producers.

With the course due to begin in September 2018, work is under way to renovate farm buildings in Picinisco, a town in Italy’s Frosinone province. The changes will create classrooms, student accommodation and what has been billed as a “MasterChef-style kitchen”.

Given that Queen Margaret University grew out of the Edinburgh School of Cookery, an enterprise designed to improve the diets of a ­poverty-struck working class, those behind the new partnership believe it is a natural fit.

The university’s deputy principal, Dr Richard Butt, said: “This course builds on our university’s rich history of food, which dates back to 1875 when we were set up to help improve the diets of the urban poor. We were the first to offer a masters in gastronomy in Scotland, and our new gastronomy course, delivered with the University of Cassino, is being adapted to the Italian landscape. It aims to be an excellent fit for both Italian and international students.”

The masters course is being developed by the l’Ciacca Foundation, founded by the Di Ciacca family, which is based in Scotland but who have ancestral roots in Italy.

Teaching will be in English, with experts from both universities, while graduates of the programme will gain a joint award from both universities.

Giovanni Betta, rector of the University of Cassino, said: “The collaboration with Queen Margaret University will add to our university’s programme of internationalisation. It is an important agreement which will enhance the profile of gastronomy in our region, thereby contributing positively to the area’s economic regeneration.”

Carlo Perrotta, the consul general of Italy, said the agreement was “testament to the strong bonds that have been forged between the Italian and Scottish communities.”

He added: “It is an initiative that will benefit both communities as well as encourage the regeneration of an area where many Italian Scots have their roots.”