I will tell you what is better. Having a chef come to your house, ahem, like myself, to teach you how to cook. I have had an increased interest in my cooking parties these days. What is a cooking party? It goes a little something like this – a group of friends hunger to get together to enjoy food, have a glass of wine, and learn some culinary skills watching a chef in action. It’s a relaxed and enjoyable evening. Pick a topic that you are interested in; such as pasta, appetizers, how to make a quick dinner with pantry ingredients, or desserts and then I get to work. I plan the entire evening for you including the materials and recipes. People feel entirely relaxed in the comfort of their own homes and quickly realize that I am there to nurture and nourish their cooking skills. Along the way, you and your guests eat well and have a good old time.
Often, people are self deprecating when it comes to having me in their home to cook and have a true “apron anxiety” (I wish I had coined this term, but alas, I did not.) I really try to dispense of this notion quickly. I encourage people to let me in on how they cook, I want to break down barriers and get to understand who I am cooking with and for. I want everyone that I cook with to feel comfortable, that’s it, no stove stress is needed. After I get people to feel comfortable with me, that’s when the true magic happens. People are less concerned with appearances and have increased awareness in the kitchen without fear. That’s the best part. Oftentimes, after a nice glass of Prosecco, when they are truly at ease, the questions bubble to the surface. People enjoy the impromptu tips and tricks that naturally come to me while cooking. For instance, I have been handling leeks for over 20 years. At my cooking school, there is an entire lesson on how to clean the leeks properly. Over time, these early lessons become routines and I don’t really think about them anymore. If I am handling a leek, cleaning it in front of someone, the inevitable question is, “why do you clean it with the water flowing away from the root?” I don’t even think about why I clean a leek like that anymore, but, the reason being is that leeks grow in sandy soil and you want to wash the sand out of the leek and not have it stuck deeper in the onion’s layers. Flexible moments such as this go way beyond a recipe. People learn that there is an ebb and flow to cooking, it’s not just a rigid discipline.
There is a very human element to cooking that involves the senses. When I am cooking for a group of people, recipes come to life and if the conditions aren’t perfect, we learn to adapt. I like to teach all different levels of cooking ability. In every group, there is the eager student, the excellent dishwasher, the timid cook and there is ALWAYS a comedian. When I cook with people, I can always find one skill that a person has and tease it out of them. And then we build upon that strength and create a platform of confidence. That timid cook secretly has excellent knife skills. Everyone has at least one cooking skill, I can promise you that.
I have had the privilege of having access to family recipes. One family that I worked with sent me their grandparents’ meat lasagna and tomato sauce recipe. Over time, the father of the family lost touch with how to make these cherished family recipes. I studied the recipes, blended them with my own techniques and taught the entire family how to make these recipes again. It was an amazing experience and then I was told it was the best Lasagna Bolognese that they had ever had. These are the joys of cooking. Learning a few skills, putting them together and having a delicious experience with family and friends.
What is new and exciting on my horizon right now is that I have been invited to start teaching cooking classes at a local restaurant in Red Bank, NJ. The restaurant is called Gaetano’s. It was purchased by new owners over the summer and they are looking to invigorate their cooking school program. This restaurant has been renovated and the new owners are super excited to share their new space with everyone. So, if you ever wanted to cook with me and try it out, come on down to Gaetano’s and learn to relish your cooking experience. Have some fun, learn a new recipe and meet new people. I promise it will be a great time.
Is there a culinary conundrum that you would like to tackle? You know I will help you. Contact me or share this post with someone you think can benefit from it. Consider me your culinary concierge, bringing the good stuff to you.