HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


The truth behind Olive Garden's "Tuscan" Cooking School

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Here's another truth behind olive garden's 'tuscan' cooking school. There are a ton of studies that show changing the context of an identical food item has dramatic effects on people's perception of it's value and worth. For example, if you plate a brownie on a nice plate with a doily, people will say it's better, and would gladly pay more, than the identical brownie handed out on a paper towel.

    well, it turns out that adding words like "tuscan" to menu descriptions has the same effect. People will pay more for, and rate higher, "tuscan bean soup" than an identical tasting "bean soup" for example. I could dig up the studies and exact numbers later but i'm eating and nursing a cold, so i'm gonna be lazy and not dig through my library right now.

    But, another truth behind Olive Garden's Tuscan Cooking School is that it's clearly and cynically based on research around effects of labeling on perceptions of the taste and value of crappy food. It's like someone took the study on the effect of labeling on food, and decided to make a shitty restaurant and boatload of money off of it.

    1. Haha, great read. Thanks.

      1. I wondered about that 'school'.

        1. sounds about like how i pictured it?

          it does sound like they learn a few things about italian cooking, and they are immersed in the culture. but everyone knows if you are really wanting to learn about true italian cooking the best way to do it isnt at a weeks worth of a tuscan school. its with years and years of living with a tuscan grandmother!

          besides, if you really thought they learned about italian cooking there, you havent eaten at the resto in a long time

          1. Even if this was the greatest cooking school in history, as soon as the students get back to the US, the bean counters tell them, "Forget everything you learned in cooking school..."

            1. This doesn't surprise me at all. If you just look at what they serve at OG you would know that. Did anyone ever really believe the hype?

              1. But, but, but, then, how do they produce such wonderful Italian food???

                1 Reply
                1. re: chowser

                  but but but they send hundreds over to Italy every year - don't they say that on the commercial??

                2. Real or not, the idea that a chain would send anybody to a culinary institute is ludicrous. As if they had the freedom to improvise at the various outlets. It's like McDonald's sending employees to learn about grilling technique. It's a nice perq, but nobody believes they'd come back and have even an iota of influence over the food offerings.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ferret

                    It's true. Other than a small handful of corporate chefs I can't see why there would be any need to send staff over that must work from recipe standardized sheets.