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Chef holds popular event at Jacaranda Restaurant

By Staff | Feb 6, 2016

Chef Loretta Paganini provides a great deal lot entertaining cooking and traveling stories while teaching, which brings laughter to the attendees. CAROL ORR HARTMAN

Seasonal resident Loretta Paganini is also a nationally recognized chef and owner of a prestigious cooking school.

At an early age, Paganini was immersed in cooking, as her mother was a renowned chef in Bologna, Italy and owner of a family pasticceria, so she naturally picked up her mother’s passion. She went on to study culinary arts in Bologna and at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. In 1989, the United States was fortunate when Paganini moved to Ohio and obtained further certification from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and published her first cookbook in 1999.

Her classes at the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking bring recreational culinary education to thousands of students who love food and cooking and want to perfect their personal skills. Due to the demand of increased interest in more advanced vocational training, Paganini founded the International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute and it is registered with the State of Ohio Board of Career Colleges and School.

Once a year, at the end of January, she brings her knowledge and expertise to loyal followers on Sanibel at the Jacaranda Restaurant for a lively week of classes. The seats fill up quickly with an equal mix of attendees who elect to take classes the entire week, or choose a day that appeals to them. Many of the attendees have come for many years. This year’s week was Chef Paganini’s 19th year of these classes and next year, the 20th year, will be her last year.

The week is full of education and the tasting of incredible food. Wednesday was “Enchanted Entertaining,” where tips on entertaining, how to prepare each dish being eaten, copies of all the recipes were enjoyed while being served the items taught. On the menu were brie, peach chutney, and walnut triangles, where Paganini did a substitution of mango showing how to use local ingredients that are so easily available. Tomato basil bruschetta with balsamic glaze shared hints on how to choose real balsamic vinegar. Also on the menu were chilled avocado soup shots with corn fritters; cucumber cups with ahi tuna and shaved scallions; gazpacho salad martini; sesame chicken in endive spears; shrimp waldorf bites, and key lime raspberry tartlets.

Paganini makes the dishes very easy to prepare with a wide variety of flavors and finishing touches that make it look like it could be in a magazine and is achievable by all attendees. It is easy to see in these classes that Paganini is not only a wonderful chef, but she is passionate about sharing that education with others. Her vibrant personality and entertaining stories of her childhood, or experiences in her cooking school bring a lot of laughs to those lucky enough to be able to attend one, or all of her classes.

Sanibel residents, Sherry Gentry and friend Diane Zimmer have made a tradition of taking the week long class together each year.

“I’ve learned so much with the chef tips, knowledge and entertainment, it makes cooking fun,” Gentry said.

The Fuhrs live on Fort Myers Beach and attended the week long classes for the first time.

“My wife and I love to cook and are cooking buddies,” Achim Fuhr said. “We love the chef tidbits and she makes it easy and entertaining. We will definitely come back next year.”

Visitors from North Carolina, John Paat and Ann Reed were visiting Reed’s mother, a Sanibel resident, from North Carolina. Reed said her mother encouraged them to come for the day and they had a great time.

Paganini, when asked why she loves doing this so much, shared that she loves living on Sanibel on the water.

“I came originally when I was asked to do cooking classes and once I crossed the bridge, I knew it was different from what I thought Florida was,” she said. “The residents have been so welcoming and friendly that I feel I have been adopted here and have such a kinship with my new ‘family’ on Sanibel.”