Castles and Kitchens
C&K was born of a decades-long friendship between the Becker and Arniotes family which started in Conifer’s community theatre and was nurtured in the kitchen with Tom and Fran cooking together for holidays and parties. When Fran and Dean introduced Tom and Joyce to Italy, they added travelling together to the mix. During their 2015 Tuscany vacation, a drive from their Gaiole-in-Chianti farmhouse to Pienza inspired the phrase ‘Castles and Kitchens’.
With two different approaches to food and cooking, Tom and Fran make working in the kitchen together an entertaining and educational experience which people thought was worth watching. In 2016, two pilot episodes for television were followed by the launch of their cooking classes and Live In Italy cooking vacations in Chianti. The talents of spouses and offspring support C&K’s video, social media and marketing, making it a family business with community spirit.
Tom and Francesca welcome their guests to their C&K kitchen as they would friends into their homes., offering a warm, easy-going, fun date night, family gathering, friends’ night out or office party. They have been gratified to be able to support many local non-profits, including the arts, humane society, hospice and land trust, through their cooking classes, Chef’s Bars and donations of food for fundraising events. In 2018, they raised over $5000 for the Mountain Resource Center’s food bank.
Tom hails from the midwest and started working life as a professional musician. Wanting to get off the road after becoming a dad, he started his own business producing Home Shows. After 9/11 put shopping malls on the list of places people should avoid, he turned chef, a graduate of Culinary School of the Rockies, now Escoffier, in Boulder. With his wife and son, he opened his fine dining restaurant Tanglewoods in Evergreen from 2002 - 2009.
His passion is playing with his food, creating interesting new flavor profiles. He loves discovering, tasting and talking about good wines. He is a long time member of Rotary International, is active in the Conifer Area Chamber of Commerce, and still plays music.
"I’m a trained chef. With my midwestern roots, I marry traditional American cuisine with classical French technique. And that helps me create some really fun layers of flavor. It’s a kind of an “out of the box” cooking experience. It’s really fun! I call it playing with my food!
Some flavors and styles naturally go together, but what if I do this or add that, what if I bring in a different element? Will it work and how? And, that’s what I enjoy about my cooking process: it’s creative. And that is just some of what I bring to our classes."
Francesca Vitabile Arniotes
"My family's roots are deep and Italians' passion for food and respect for ingredients, preparation and tradition is part of my DNA.
I was so lucky to grow up with master cooks in the food industry who could turn any car ride into a culinary adventure -- stopping at a roadside stand and ending up in the farmer's kitchen, dining at the Hotel DuPont and ending up in the kitchen with the chef, or seeking out small town supermarkets from Maine to Key West to see what they had and learning from local people what to do with it. No wonder then, that I love the markets and learning from fellow shoppers all over the world. It's wonderful to be able to bring our guests along on C&K's culinary vacations to experience that.
What I bring to our classes is some of the fascinating history and culture around food, why a place's signature dishes came to be, their traditions around meals and how they endure. "
Francesca is a second-generation Italian-American who grew up in the food business and has been cooking since age 11. Schooled in regional Italian cuisines and expanding her studies to world cuisines, principally the cultures surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and also the local pride of place wherever she has travelled, her passion is rustic cuisine: seeking, preserving and celebrating the authentic and traditional “source” recipes.
She loves sharing food history, culture and cooking science. Mother of three talented cooks and bakers, and a retired high school teacher of Theatre and World Languages, she has also been an award-winning stained glass artist, director, actor and co-founder of the StageDoor Theatre in Conifer, Colorado.