SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — The average eater may be excused for not recognizing polpettine, a traditional Italian meat dish. But for students at the Culinary Underground in Southborough, such recipes are all part of the training.
"They're like meatball and meatloaf," said Lauren Kushner, a student from Southborough, as she stirred ingredients on the stove top.
"When they're making it," remarked Chef Lori Leinbach, who founded the school, "they're more inclined to eat it."
For almost eight years, the Culinary Underground has offered classes to everyone from kitchen klutzes to competent cooks who wish to sharpen their skills. Though Leinbach—a former teacher and personal chef—originally founded the school in the kitchen of her berm house in Southborough, the Culinary Underground now makes its home on 21 Turnpike Rd.
Last Thursday, a group of teenagers from all over Central Massachusetts wrapped up their four day overview of Italian cooking with a little healthy competition: working in teams, the students faced off to see who could create the best dishes, using either new recipes or modified versions of ones they had learned in class.
"It's interesting," Leinbach said. "These kids watch a lot of the Food Network. They have a really interesting knowledge about cooking, but they've never really put their hands on it."
"Until you put your hands on it," she added, "you're not really doing anything."
While the Culinary Underground offers classes to all ages, Leinbach said that it was always interesting to teach younger students.
"They're beginners," Leinbach said. "They don't have a lot of bad habits that I have to break."
In fact, often times it can be easier to teach a teenager than an adult. Adults, Leinbach said, get used to the idea that they cannot cook and allow it to define them, while most youths are not yet at that point.
"The food they usually make looks better than what some of the adults do. They have no fear. The adults we get in the beginner's class, they've had failures."
But a quick glance around this kitchen revealed only a room full of students who were eager to put their skills to the test—and to learn more.
"I think it's fun!" said Alysha McGovern, a first-time student from Marlborough, as she stirred her risotto.