Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves: whether they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the cradle of the Renaissancee for the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking to follow their hearts.
Grace Joh never would have imagined that taking an Italian cinema class would lead her to live in Florence. Because she wanted to understand the Italian movie C’eravamo tanto amati without the subtitles, she decided to enroll in an Italian class while studying at UC Berkeley. She ended up enjoying Italian so much that she decided to minor in it, graduating in 2005 with a major in journalism.
While studying in Berkeley, she had been exposed to many different ethnic cuisines, which in turn piqued her interest in baking and making pastries. She wanted to experience living abroad for a year before beginning her career because she felt it could be beneficial for her as a journalist. She chose to attend the yearlong baking and pastry program at Apicius International School of Hospitality (www.apicius.it) in Florence.
Grace chose Apicius mainly because it was in Italy. She had visited Florence once while touring Europe, but didn’t know anything about the city or even if she’d enjoy living here. Like many people, she associated Italy with good food, a healthy lifestyle and fashion. She had no expectations about what life would be like in Florence and was surprised when she realized how at home she felt here. At first, she lived with other foreign students and then later shared an apartment with a few Italians who exposed her to a multifaceted view of Italy and Florence.
After she completed the program, Apicius asked Grace to stay on and work for the school. She started out in the Communication department and, after two years, has been promoted to the position of instructor and publications coordinator. She now teaches classes in food communication and journalism, and she coordinates the operations of Apicius’ Ingorda di Florence Campus Editore. With another colleague, she oversees the publication, PR, marketing and sales of cooking-related books. Some of the latest titles that she has worked on are The Four Seasons of the Tuscan Table, Innovations: New Appetites in the Tuscan Kitchen and Aper-tivi…amo.
As if a full-time job wasn’t enough for Grace, she is also working on a master’s degree in institutional publicity, multimedia communication and event-planning through the Department of Letters at the Università degli Studi di Firenze. She is writing her thesis about Apicius’ annual dinner at the James Beard Foundation, which presents the flavors of Florence, both contemporary and traditional, to New York City.
Although Grace never planned to live in Florence, this native Californian now considers it her second home, a place where life has presented her with a unique opportunity that has taken her down an exciting new path.