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Petty controversy: Olive Garden's 'outrageous' cooking school sham

An anonymous whistleblower says Olive Garden's supposed "Culinary Institute" in Tuscany is a total fraud. Is anyone really surprised?

The controversy: Olive Garden often brags about its world-renowned "Culinary Institute of Tuscany" in the 11th-century Italian village Riserva di Fizzano. (See video below.) But according to an anonymous former Olive Garden manager, there is no school — just a vacation spot for company managers and cooks at a rented off-season hotel. The closest it comes to a "culinary institute" is a conversation or two about herbs, and a photo-op with an Italian chef. People are taking the anonymous whistleblower a bit more seriously now that TIME has verified the story. Have we all been had?
The reaction: What an "outrageous" sham, says Seth Abramovitch at Gawker. And "this public shaming couldn't come at a worse moment for the bottomless-pasta-bowl emporium," following so quickly on its serving sippy-cup sangria to a baby. Please, "stop freaking out already," says Laura Hahnefeld in the Phoenix New Times. Nobody expects authentic Italian food from Olive Garden, so let the poor employees enjoy their "free trip to Italy." What's really "shocking" is that anyone ever believed Olive Garden wanted to teach its chefs to cook, says Colleen Gartner at Daily Toreador. Just like Red Lobster and Chili's, Olive Garden's "food comes packaged beforehand." And "really, what’s the big surprise?" Watch Olive Garden's "Culinary Institute" promo:

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