When I first came to Florence, I remember scouring the internet for blogs and recipes in my new haphazard kitchen. Pinterest was my queen. No longer could I get my usual array of foods in Los Angeles, and with no microwave even, I actually had to learn how to cook. Thanks to blogs like Jul’s Kitchen, I was less intimidated to step out of my culinary cooking zone while also learning a bit more Italian, as her blog is a dual-language read.
Giulia is a 34 year old food writer and photographer, she also teaches Tuscan cooking classes in the countryside in between Siena and Florence and is currently writing her fifth cookbook. She’s been blogging and cooking for seven years now, and this in a country where not many people at that age have been doing well anything for the past seven years, makes her a trailblazing badass.
Now that we are actual friends and thankfully no longer just digital acquaintances, I marvel at her beautiful personality and generosity towards others. There aren’t the many people in this world who are as kind and perseverant as Giulia is, and this absolutely (my opinion) contributes to her success along with her awesome talent in the kitchen. Plus our dogs kind of love each other.
Ps * Her cooking class is every bit of amazing as I knew it would be.
name: Giulia Scarpaleggia
profession: food writer and cooking class instructor
favorite drink: a cold Chinotto
Where in Tuscany are you living and where are you from originally. Tell us about your family
I live in the countryside near Colle Val d’Elsa, one hour from Florence and just half an hour from Siena. My family has always lived in the same house where I am living now since it was built in 1926 by my grandma’s grandfather. My grandmother firmly believes to be Etruscan, as she has deep roots in our Tuscan region. My grandfather, though, was from Basilicata, a region in the South of Italy. I feel this Southern influence in my cooking, too.
I really need to meet your grandmother one of these days, I’d love to hear about those Etruscan roots. What are you up to in Tuscany? Work, daily life, passions?
I am a food writer, photographer and I teach Tuscan cooking classes, so my daily life revolves completely around food. If I am not cooking in my new studio or teaching a cooking class there, you can find me perusing a local food market, writing a recipe with a cup of tea on my side, photographing a recipe or reading about food. You can follow my daily routine on Instagram where I love to share my walks, my discoveries and, of course, everything I cook during cooking classes or for Tommaso and I.
How has continuing to live in Tuscany influenced how you see food, and who are your inspirations?
I must confess that at a certain point, before leaving my daily job and turning my passion into a profession, I thought to move abroad, probably to England. Then I decided to stay. Gosh, I am so happy I did it. I owe so much to Tuscany. When I started looking at my region, at my homeland, from a different perspective I realized how many possibilities it was giving to me. Now my aim is to promote my region, its quality producers, food traditions and unknown spots through my blog and through my cooking classes and edible experiences.
I love that about you, Tuscany should appreciate all that you do to promote it. Tell us about your blog, when did you start and how do you manage to keep it up along with cooking classes and writing your fifth cookbook?
I started my blog, Juls’ Kitchen on a cold winter night of seven years ago. I wanted to have something mine, something I could commit to. I’ve always loved food – eating and cooking it – and sharing it has been my favourite way to tell someone I love you or I care for you. After seven years my blog is still my favourite corner in the world, a place where I feel at home, where I share my recipes, discoveries and life moments with people that are now friends.
Today was fry-day at the cooking class. After a market visit we began with fried zucchini flowers followed by fried sardines, salted cod and baby squids. We had gnocchi with fresh peas as a main course and we closed the meal on a sweet note with acacia flower fritters. Now bring me a coffee, please! #cookingclass
Sometimes it’s hard to keep the pace, especially during high season, when I have many classes in a row, but it’s so rewarding that I am constantly trying to save some time do dedicate to my blog, just for the pleasure of writing and sharing.
Working on my fifth book is something demanding as well, but it’s my favourite activity, as I manage to put together all my passions: cooking, photographing and writing. It should be published in 2017 and I am already counting down the days.
I’m so excited for you! You are such an inspiration for us bloggers too. Have there been any challenges working for yourself and starting your own business or brand?
My biggest challenge is to find a balance with my work and private life. Since Tommaso and I both work from home, we often work without breaks from morning to evening, as we love what we do, too. But this can be unnerving after a few months, so our current goal is to schedule more dinners out, walks, or even just some relax time reading a book or sitting on a chair outside looking at the sunset over the hills.
I can absolutely relate Giulia, private ‘non laptop’ time is really needed when you’re a freelancer working from home. Can you share some of your favorite cookbooks/bloggers/favorite chefs with us?
I have my list of cookbooks that I usually suggest to Italian food lovers which include Ada Boni, Pellegrino Artusi, Elizabeth David and Marcella Hazan.
Two of my best friends also just published two cookbooks which I highly recommend: Emiko and her Florentine and Regula and her Pride and Pudding. They also have amazingly interesting and well-written blogs.
The truly special thing is just how supportive you guys are, that says a lot about you all. Do you have a favorite Tuscan dish? And what do you think people should try for the first time coming to Florence?
I adore pappa al pomodoro, my favourite comfort food. It is velvety and soothing, a quintessence of Tuscan love for stale bread doused in extra virgin olive oil. If you visit Florence for the fist time, though, I’d say lampredotto, the most famous Florentine street food, which testifies Florence’s love for offal, quinto quarto.
It is so typical of Florence that I tried it for the first time a few years ago, as it’s extremely difficult to find it outside the city walls.
Describe a typical day in ‘Juls’ Kitchen’
I wake up always too late for my daily schedule and the first thing I do is to open the bathroom window, as it faces the most amazing view. I am never tired of this view, as it changes constantly according to season and weather. Then I have breakfast and soon after I start talking / thinking / writing / photographing food until dinner time, with no exceptions. All this food includes also a lot of washing up, though!
Three foodie places everyone should know about in Florence?
- Caffè Giacosa to have breakfast like a local
- Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio to shop like a local
- Il Magazzino in Piazza della Passera to eat like a local.
Fab tips as always! What are your thoughts on the current food scene in Italy?
Food has been at the centre of everyone’s attention in the last years. Now more than ever we pay attention to where food comes from, if it is local and sustainable. This new need found place in restaurants and markets all over Italy. Luckily, as I also crave for foreign food, now it’s possible to find something different from the usual good old and honest local food, yet there is still a lot to do!
What are other places in Italy/Europe where you love to go when you need a break?
That’s an easy answer: London.
Nothing could be further from my daily life, and yet here I feel at home. I try to visit London quite often, yet not as much as I would like. In London I realized that the dream of turning my blog into my daily work was more feasible than I thought. Here I’ve found valuable friends, the thrill of independence and exploration, the freedom to decide my destiny.
In London I overcome my shyness.
If the Tuscan countryside is my daily inspiration, London is a breath of fresh air, the sparkle that triggers new ideas, turns on projects and makes me more motivated.
What can you do here and nowhere else?
La scarpetta. You can mop up the sauce left in your plate and they would even pass you some more bread to do it!
I LOVE doing ‘la scarpetta’ it almost feels naughty. If you had to make up a tagline for Tuscany according to Giulia, what would it be?
Tuscany is a generous region, especially when it comes to pouring olive oil onto your food!