At Home Gourmet
With the resurgence of making things yourself and the added pressure reality television cooking shows are piling onto even the most basic concept of hosting a dinner party, there’s never been a better time to take charge in the kitchen and upskill your at-home gourmet game. Read on for the lowdown on where and how to learn to make your own cheese, pasta and preserves and through to doling out delicious desserts, the satisfaction of baking your own bread, curing your own meats and pulling off an epic, multi-course dinner party for the ages – who says you can’t take the heat?
As luck would have it, rather than taking the ‘a magician never reveals his tricks’ approach, many of our city’s top chefs are only too happy to let the rest of us in on their killer kitchen secrets, with a number of Christchurch’s best eateries running associated cooking classes.
With a reputation for creating some the city’s finest desserts, alongside fierce Euro-style offerings, Strawberry Fare’s legendary 2- and 4-hour Bake School classes-cum-lunches range from the decadent introductory Desserts 101 to Bread Baking (five breads in four hours), the Winter Tasting Plate and, of course, the happy ending for which they’re locally famous, the sin-sational Death By Chocolate. Go for the 2-hour classes on weeknights, or get properly down-to-business with their 4-hour sessions on a Saturday (with lunch included), and not only will you be newly-armed with ninja-level baking skills, but you also get to eat your own delicious creation at the end of the class! (How come learning at regular school was never so brilliantly incentivised?).
Also sharing their wicked, cacao-infused magic are the master chocolatiers residing at Governors Bay institution She Universe, where a variety of chocolate-making classes ranging from Beginners (chocolate appreciation) through to Advanced (chocolate immersion!) will infectiously impart their own passion for the stuff on to you, and have you whipping up your own delicious confections in no time.
Fans of Asian cuisine need look no further than Jackie Hendrick’s line-up of exotic workshops at her renowned restaurant/cooking school The Asiatique in Sydenham, where her decades of experience as a culinary goddess go into creating The Asiatique’s sensational range of authentic, fresh Asian street food. With equal measures of quality, fresh ingredients, passion, and culinary magic, Jackie will have you turning out delicious dumplings, mastering miso paste and slaying satay, pad Thai, bao, fresh rice paper rolls and then some. You can even take your lessons abroad and join Jackie on a 21-day culinary odyssey to Thailand and Laos in August, where cooking classes, street food, food trends and South East Asian culture are set to collide.
Head out to the Victorian opulence of Tai Tapu’s Otahuna Lodge, where legendary executive chef of 13 years Jimmy McIntyre’s showcase of seasonal cooking at its finest follows the Lodge’s own ‘potager to plate’ ethos. Tap into the five-star philosophies and cuisine genius that has been justifiably lauded by the likes of Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveller, and The Financial Times with ‘Staples of Mexican Cooking’ (16 & 18 June) and ‘Jimmy’s Greatest Hits’ (28 & 30 August).
While regular Cook School classes at Redwood’s oft-lauded Chillingworth Road are on ice until October, the crew are offering private classes of 8 or more in the art of hands-on baking bread, creating canapés, making excellent (read: easy) meals at home and wowing with high tea creations, among others.
Back To School
A number of specialist cooking schools in and around Christchurch have established an outstanding reputation not just nationally but internationally as well. Get serious about your own kitchen exploits at one of these specialty schools that will give you the mad skills to take things to the next level.
Hat-tipped by Lonely Planet as one of the 10 best places to learn to cook local cuisine in the world, Akaroa Cooking School offers a huge range of class options including, appropriately enough, French food, Mediterranean, Indian, Thai, Spanish tapas, and special event and skills options like Gourmet In A Day, canapé inspirations, and Christmas Banquet, each of which pops up regularly on their schedule.
Also singled out for praise by Lonely Planet, (what can we say, they clearly love Banks Peninsula cooking classes!) Lyttelton’s Ground Culinary Centre also showcases different dishes from around the world in its cooking classes, focusing on a theme or region each regularly-scheduled night. Take yourself on a culinary skills tour of the world and ensure you arrive hungry!
Keeping things on the Peninsula, family-run Preserved in Diamond Harbour (in the old Chalfont Café site) are passionate about reviving and promoting heritage arts of cookery. Their rolling workshop schedule includes the chance to make your own sausages and bacon, their ‘Three Things Italian’ workshop of making focaccia, ricotta and fresh pasta, and even ‘Pig in a Day’, which tackles processing a free range pig into sausages, prosciutto-style hams, brine-cured hams, wet- and dry-cured bacon, chorizo, salami and more.
Just outside of Rangiora, acclaimed chef and New Zealand venison ambassador Gordon Brown runs his small-group cook school The Cookhouse on his 25 acre deer farm. Groups of 10 can book their own day to take advantage of Graham’s 40 years of experience as a professional chef, enjoying a day that starts with visiting local growers and vineyards for ingredients and ends with cooking and enjoying a full menu, which can be tailored to group requests.
Another chef working from home is My Home Chef’s Rita Yosef, master of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and European cuisines whose regular schedule of fun, casual (BYO!) and interesting lessons span Italian Delight, Moroccan Discovery, and Mexican Tequila Fiesta in June, Asian Fusion and Marrakesh Adventure in July, and Middle Eastern Journey, Flavours of Spain, and Healthy Cooking for Life in August.
For a real back-to-school-experience, join the line-up of talented chefs and cooks at Papanui High School’s Adult & Community Education programme where you can tackle creating the ultimate dinner party for 6 with a little help from Baretta and The Cuban’s head chef Mark McCracken as well as bread and cheese making, Spanish tapas, Thai cooking and cake design. Those interested in something a little more exotic should check out Risingholme Community Centre, which offers a range of short and longer-term cooking classes both to punch up your general game and allow those interested in specialty areas to explore specific techniques from basic cooking skills through to Argentinian, Egyptian and Kashmiri Wazwan, preserves, sushi, and raw and vegan techniques.
Likely to become an inner city institution, Kakano Café and Cookery School (www.kakanocafe.co.nz) at 100 Peterborough Street will focus on traditional kai and family cooking, with an emphasis on fresh and foraged local organic and nutrient dense food, while the Asian Garden Cooking School (www.roughdiamond.co.nz) due to open in Harewood as we went to print, is a purpose-built facility and deli from the people behind the city’s Buddha Stix and Thai Talay/Thai Temple restaurants, and features its own onsite market garden.
Curd Your Enthusiasm
If mastering the art of making cheese is more your style, Home Cheesemaker’s (www.homecheesemaker.co.nz) mother and daughter team Mel and Pam can show you how to turn out your own delicious cheeses with their 4-and-a-half-hour Feta, Camembert & Ricotta workshops near Oxford and covering a range of cheesemaking workshop options from quick and easy lessons on soft cheeses for beginners through to two-day cheesestravaganzas for the more advanced and harder cheese courses – no literally, classes in which you can make hard cheeses – are Donna’s Homemade Cheese (www.homemadecheese.co.nz).
Strawberry Fare www.strawberryfare.com
She Universe www.shechocolat.com
The Asiatique www.asiatique.co.nz
Otahuna Lodge www.otahuna.co.nz
Chillingworth Road www.chillingworthroad.co.nz
Akaroa Cooking School www.akaroacooking.co.nz
Ground Culinary Centre www.ground.co.nz
The Cookhouse www.thecookhouse.co.nz
My Home Chef www.myhomechef.co.nz
Papanui High School www.papanui.school.nz
Risingholme Community Centre www.risingholme.org.nz