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Greg Jung—Culinary Creations & Entertainment INC

By Jasmine Song

 

Checking the biscotti with Sandra
Rosy Litti, owner of Tuscany's 
Toscana Saporita.

From elementary school teacher to food and wine connoisseur, former MNEA President Greg Jung has channeled his talents as an educator into a fast-growing culinary business.

“I learned to love food at a young age,” says Jung, vice president of Culinary Creations & Entertainment INC. “I was always at the stove or table trying to help stir the pot, crack the eggs, or whatever else I could persuade my mother or grandmothers to allow me to do.”

After retirement from a 34-year teaching career and two terms as an MNEA officer, Jung traveled to Cape Cod where he met current business partner and chef, Christopher Covelli while dining at Covelli’s restaurant L’Uva—the term meaning grapes in Italian.

“To make a long story short we were married about a year later,” says Jung, adding that the couple had decided “early on” to start a culinary company.

“My love of good food and wines grew over the years,” says Jung. “But after I met Chris they blossomed. He taught me complex flavors and how to pair the perfect wine for each meal.”

Culinary Creations & Entertainment INC operates solely on the road, and works with brand names like KitchenAid and DeLonghi doing corporate events, charities, and conventions. The company also teaches at the Toscana Saporita cooking school in Tuscany, and participates in local and national TV food programs.

“Working at Toscana Saporita in Tuscany is always the most memorable,” says Jung. “We both love cooking, so it was natural that we do this kind of culinary work.”

Covelli, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, has done stage work with chefs in the U.S., Europe, and Northern Africa and run other companies. He has taught at Toscana Saporita for 15 years.

“The work we do in the culinary arts depends on education both directly and indirectly,” says Jung. “We tie in just the right amount of theory with hands-on instruction and generous amounts of humor.”

With five languages under his belt—English, Spanish, Italian, French, and Catalan—Covelli is equipped to help adult learners from around the world understand the concepts taught even though they may not be taught in their first language.

“We provide background and theory that all tie into the actual hands-on learning that the students do throughout the week,” says Jung. “Since it’s a cooking school, they also get to taste the fruits of their labor.”

Each week-long class also includes a day-long tour set aside for a truffle hunt with a specially trained dog and truffle hunter. As the week progresses the students build strong friendships with the staff. Then the process starts all over again, introducing Tuscan cuisine to a new group of students.

Jung works behind the scenes, taking control of the company’s scheduling, travel arrangements and back-up work. But, it’s not uncommon for the upcoming entrepreneur to wear a chef’s coat and help prep the food for Covelli or other guest chefs.

Jung, who also works as the U.S. agent for Tuscany and More INC., markets their products, handles all orders and payments, and follows up to make sure customers receive their merchandise.

With a schedule that changes from year to year, Jung and Covelli’s work includes a variety of multi-course wine dinners, a number of which host donations to charities.
Covelli happened to be teaching at Toscana Saporita several years ago when KitchenAid sponsored a few “Cook for the Cure” events. These events raised money to cure breast cancer when people purchased KitchenAid products. Breast cancer survivors were then selected to attend the cooking school in Italy.

According to Covelli, these were some of the most fun and moving weeks he had ever experienced at the school.
Covelli has been the guest chef of the KitchenAid sponsored Senior PGA event for the last three years, working with other well-known chefs such as The Neelys, Cat Cora, and Gail Simmons.

“I do the prep for all of the chefs,” says Jung. “This was a learning curve, because you have to do three preparations for every dish they demonstrate—one is all the ingredients, the second is the recipe part way through the recipe, and the third is the “beauty”, the finished product that they can pull out to show the final result.”

Jung’s favorite main dish? Barolo-braised short ribs with a porcini demi glacé, asparagus tips, and morel mushrooms served with an Amarone wine. His favorite desert? Peach upside down cake with curry gelato.

“The key is choosing a wine that compliments the food and vice versa,” says Jung. “Milder flavors need milder wines like pinot noir or a crisp white wine. Stronger flavors can handle full bodied wines like Chianti or chardonnay.”

Culinary Creations donates to various charities. But there are two to which they offer the most fundraising dinners. Florida Winefest & Auction has provided over 8 million dollars to various children’s charities in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Florida Winefest raises this money through food and wine related events throughout the year and virtually all money raised goes directly to the needs of the children.
“Our dinners usually go from a few thousand dollars up to the high, so far, of $14,000,” says Jung. “We are very pleased that we can help these worthy causes meet their fundraising goals by giving of our time and effort.”

The other charity is Equality Florida. This civil rights organization works to educate the public about and advocates for protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

“Our marriage is finally recognized in Florida, but there are many rights that are still withheld from LGBT individuals including employment and housing protections,” says Jung.

In the hope of continuing to grow their business, Jung and Covelli have considered replicating the cooking school model in Spain, expanding their product line, making them available via e-commerce, and possibly opening a seasonal brick and mortar restaurant which would allow them to continue to do the variety of culinary events they enjoy today.

“In many ways moving from a teaching career of 34 years to being an entrepreneur has been a very steep learning curve,” says Jung. “The two of us enjoy the idea of building on our dream to expand our culinary business in new directions.”
For more information about Toscana Saporita visit toscanasaporita.com or email Greg Jung.

 

 

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Published In

31-Aug-15

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