Our enjoyment of a meal is more than the sum of the ingredients and the equation that combines them. There are hidden variables that affect the result, like how the meal was made and by whom.
Cooking a dish yourself, as rewarding as it can be, will likely turn into a chore with enough repetition. You plan, taste as you go, add, subtract…maybe burn a wrist or get grease on your blouse. By the time you sit down and eat, you could feel fulfilled…but you could just as easily feel exhaustion or a hint of loathing. So instead, you can have a meal cooked for you – it’s effortless on your part, and you leave the pressures of producing a satisfying meal in someone else’s hands. But you do miss the entire process – we can scarf it down and pay the bill without the slightest hint of how much effort was involved, where the ingredients came from, and what really made it taste so good.
Doesn’t an understanding of the process bring more meaning to the result?
For me, a cooking class is the best of both worlds. You are cooking it yourself but it’s a willing, joyful experience with the help of a team and the direction of a professional chef. As you learn new techniques, often trade ‘secrets’ not common knowledge to self-taught home cooks, the process is revealed to you. You cook things you never thought possible – and you’re not alone. The teacher guides you along the way, and fellow classmates contribute to the 4-course meal you’ll enjoy later on. Your success makes the dishes taste all the more delicious. By the end of the night, your meal tastes like the best thing you’ve ever had, not only because of the ingredients or the recipe – but because you made it. And pride is the best garnish.
I recently attended a Craft Beer + Food Pairing cooking class at Dish Cooking Studio, downtown Toronto. With a flight of beer served upon arrival, Chef Erin Ross led us through understanding how and why to cook with beer, from vinaigrettes to ice cream. There were only six students for the class, so we separated into groups to tackle different aspects of the dinner plan the Chef had laid out for us.
Bitter green salad with orange + ale vinaigrette
Lager steamed mussels with mustard, kielbasa, bacon + dill
Petit tender with porter beer reduction, drunken mushrooms, roasted blue cheese fingerling potatoes + sautéed garlic kale
Chocolate fudge stout brownies with salted caramel stout sauce + vanilla ice cream
Dish Cooking Studio is a cooking school with a new space in Little Italy. I’ve taken a class with them previously, but this new location is a sleek, bright, open-concept space with enough room for the classes and a café with prepared foods at the front in one of the most bustling ‘foodie’ neighborhoods of the city: College and Bathurst. A few steps away from Bar Raval and La Carnita, they’re now right in the centre of where you go to eat your heart out.
Corporate events and team building workshops for large groups are their sweet spot, but they exude the same quality in their smaller classes. The class I took was a ‘hands-on’ session, where the chefs guided us through cooking the 4 course meal, showing us techniques along the way. The six of us were split into teams and each assigned different tasks, like one pair being assigned to dessert, and another assigned to the main dish. We learned about different types of beer, knife skills, and received a take-home booklet with the recipes we made that night.
The holiday season is around the corner, and I can’t think of a better gift than cooking classes for any foodie or aspiring cook in your life. Dish Cooking Studio has gift cards for purchase, and a ton of classes coming up – from death by chocolate to date night in Istanbul. It’s my favourite way to meet other food-lovers of all different culinary levels and hone my love of cooking.