Do you use the new year as an opportunity to set goals for yourself? I do, although I tend to shy away from saying that I’ve made “resolutions”. I prefer to use January as a time to review the goals I had made and achieved in the previous year and then set new goals for the new year.
One of my personal goals for 2012 is to do more cooking classes. I want to learn skills and tips from trained professional chefs, as well as increasing my cooking confidence by getting out of my comfort zone. I had a great experience with the “Serious Foodie” cooking class from the Northwest Culinary Academy last year but this year I want to try different cuisines and see what other skills I can acquire.
My friends, Rose & Rommy, and my sister were thoughtful enough to buy me a gift voucher from The Dirty Apron cooking school for my birthday and I wasted no time in booking myself into the “Ooh La La 2” cooking class. Trying to decide on what class to do was quite difficult as they offer a lot of appealing classes, ranging from French to Italian to West Coast cuisines, as well as specialty classes that focus on Julia Child’s dishes or comfort food (among others).
The hands-on classes are about 4 hours long and in most classes you will cook a 3 course meal. The class follows the format of the chef demonstrating how to cook the dish and then the students return to their stations to re-create it. Once you’ve completed your dish, everyone eats together at a long table with a glass of wine (included in the cost). You then follow the same format for the next two dishes.
Our chef, Dave, teaching us the way of the kitchen.
The class was very professional and explanations and safety information were given along the way. All students are given printed copies of the recipes, as well as a loaner apron and name badge. Classes are kept quite small with a maximum of 22 students at a time. The night I went there was only about 13 of us, which kept it even more intimate. I found our chef, Dave, to be very approachable and I couldn’t help putting up my hand to ask multiple questions (food nerd!). Whilst you are cooking at your station, the chef and his sous chef would come by offering words of advice or a friendly chat.
Dish 1: Herb-crusted roasted beef tenderloin, served with a mushroom herb crepe and mushroom ragout.
The reason I had chosen to do the French class was that the menu sounded awesome. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint. The first dish, a herb-crusted beef tenderloin, was superb. I didn’t plate it very well but I can say that it tasted much better than it looks in this picture! Surprisingly, the beef requires very little cooking time and hardly any prep time so this dish is a good contender for a dinner party dish. The crepe felt like an unnecessary addition as it didn’t really add anything to the dish so I’d skip that step next time.
Dish 2: Mediterranean bass with lemon caper butter sauce and steamed vegetables.
The next dish, a Mediterranean bass with lemon caper butter sauce, was my favourite dish of the evening. Once again, I was surprised at how little cooking time went into this dish. Most of our work was in filleting the fish ourselves. I was incredibly nervous about doing this as I had never filleted a fish before and the chef prefaced this part of the class with “If you are going to cut yourself at anytime tonight, it will be here”…yikes! I felt the pressure. Thankfully I came out with no scars but with the satisfaction of decapitating and filleting my own fish. The rest of the dish was incredibly simple (score the skin, sear the fish skin side down, and throw it all in the oven for a few minutes). Bam! That is it! Who would have thought making tasty fish was THAT simple?! Not me.
Dish 3: Chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce.
Our final dish was a chocolate soufflé, which turned out surprisingly well. Mine was a little runny inside but that didn’t stop me from tucking in. Next time, I would give it a few more minutes and I wouldn’t bother with making the chocolate sauce for this dish as the soufflé was chocolate-y enough on its own. I would, however, use the sauce in another dessert or just over the top of vanilla ice-cream.
Overall, I had a really fun time at The Dirty Apron. The class format and the recipes were easy to follow, the chefs were friendly and relaxed, yet informative, and the school and dining room were very modern, clean, and inviting. My only complaint is the price of the classes. It is $150 (not including taxes) for this class and I find that quite high. Yes, all of your ingredients, tutorials, and two glasses of wine, are included but I still have a hard time understanding why it is that expensive.
I am extremely grateful that I had friends who were generous enough to help me do this class. I would love to go back and do another class or two but at that price it will have to be something I save for special occasions. If you have the cash (or generous friends), it is well-worth it.