Wednesday, February 2, 2011

MyChef South Indian Cooking Class

For Christmas, I received a “gift of experience”, a cooking class (of my choice.) Now, I love to research (especially when it comes to food) and this definitely required some research to meet my desire for a class that was A. hands-on B. featured some meat-less/dairy-free items on the menu for my cooking partner C. was reasonably priced (I don’t feel comfortable making someone spend too much on me…)I stumbled across MyChef on Yelp, liked the sound of the “South Indian wonders” class in January, and made a call to inquire about the menu and the hands-on factor. I received a lovely call back from Chef Francois who let me know that the group was small so we would be pretty hands-on and let me know that only one of the dishes had meat and dairy in it. Done and done!
We arrived on a Monday night at the Kingsway community centre and after a bit of confusion, found ourselves in a generic meeting room with a kitchen set-up. We were a group of 8, and there was room for us to stand and lean across the long counter facing the stove-top as Chef Francois introduced himself and explained that the night would go through 6 South Indian Dishes and that we would sit down and eat at the end (7:30-10pm). There was enough space, but the room didn’t have much atmosphere or anything in the way of cool décor- also, some bar stools for us to sit on would have been nice. In his introduction, he said he loved Indian food, and gave a shout out to the neighbouring Chutney Villa as a favourite place (me too! Love their katrika chops eggplant dish!) He had a laid-back approach to this cooking class, and said he would talk and demo through each recipe and get us to help along the way. He encouraged us to ask questions and wasn’t afraid to let us get in there.
We started learning some basics of Indian cooking with the preparation of the filling for the Mushroom and Cashew Nut Samosas- making your own Ghee from butter, going through the different basic spices, powders and seeds- where we could buy them and how long they would last. He got almost everyone involved at this stage with chopping.
The next dish, we started was the Guava Coconut Salad. More chopping, peeling, and slicing. Things started to speed up around this point and multi-tasking really kicked in. He showed us and then had us, de-bone and chop chicken thighs, started making chicken stock for the rice, and started the execution of the Chicken Curry. Once, all the crucial ingredients were in the curry, he taught us show to stove-top roast red peppers, peel the skin off, and then had a few girls in the class basically finish making the Red Pepper Chutney.
After de-boning the chicken thighs for a while, I got a quick demo on Samosa wrapping (using spring roll wrappers and sealing with an egg) and I dove into that task.
 Things were a bit chaotic, and I feel like instructions and demo went a bit out the window while a few people worked on the Carrot Halwa dessert dish and the Spinach with Baby Potato side dish (in fact I kind of missed out on this because I was busy wrapping samosas).
 After every dish was finished it was around 9:30am and we all went down to the Mychef café in the community centre. This had beautiful, funky décor and a cool atmosphere. It was great to sit down with our group, relax, and enjoy the dishes. Everything was delicious!

Overall, I really enjoyed this experience. Our group was three other extremely nice couples, Francois was also very nice, talented, and knowledgeable, the menu featured a great variety and the food was damn tasty…and for the most part pretty healthy. My complaint would be that things started at a great pace and everyone was learning a lot, but as the night went on, things got rushed and I think a lot of the teaching and demo were sacrificed in order to complete all three dishes. I think if Chef Francois had an assistant it would help to run things along a bit more smoothly with pre-chopping, stove management, and cleaning knives/cutting boards/plates and bowls.

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