Yes, skeptics, Olive Garden does have a Tuscan culinary institute

A ubiquitous Olive Garden TV commercial shows a picturesque cooking school in Italy as a voice croons words like “artisanal” and “fonduta” and smiling chefs in starched whites coats taste tomato sauce straight from a simmering pot and kiss their fingertips with glee.

TV-watching skeptics turned to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to question the popular Italian chain’s claim of “culinary inspiration” from Tuscany.

Is this Culinary Institute of Tuscany, a bona fide bastion of learning? Or is it just an advertising fib?

Yes, Virginia, there is an Olive Garden Culinary Institute of Tuscany — though the ownership is somewhat shared.

The Institute opens its doors to approximately 100 of the best-performing chefs and managers of U.S. Olive Garden Restaurants each winter for 11 weeks. It began these authentic Italian cooking lessons in 1999.

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