Cooking classes: the gift that gives back to the gifter

Cooking classes: the gift that gives back to the gifter

(Photo by xiaofeng17) 

Unsurprisingly, cooking class registration increases in the weeks after Christmas, as wannabe chefs redeem gifts of culinary education. Those shopping around for just the right present will find options for any taste and talent level, with seminars on everything from making chocolate to tasting cheese or learning how to fry an Indian dosa. For romance, try a couples class; for kitchen newbies, there are beginner chef series. Below, our list of nine Toronto teaching kitchens and the gift-worthy classes they offer this December.

Dish Cooking Studio
A romantic gift idea for two is Dish’s cuisine-themed Date Night ($250), like a Tapas Evening in Spain, where couples mingle while making such small plates as fried potatoes with chorizo or cod with ham croquettes. To boost the swoony atmosphere, some classes start with prosecco and amuses-bouches.
Dish Cooking Studio,
390 Dupont St., 416-920-5559,

For Christmas, Toronto’s “locavore food store” has packaged some of its popular seminars with culinary products. The Bread 201 package includes a dough-kneading lesson, a bag of Ontario flour and a handmade rolling pin ($129); the Cheese Tasting bundle includes a pairing seminar with a box of artisanal, locally made crackers and a cheese board ($124).
705 Mount Pleasant Rd., 647-430-7004,

Viva Tastings
Focused on tasting menus, Cordon Bleu–trained chef Karen Viva-Haynes leads classes blending locally sourced ingredients with worldly cuisine. A popular Christmas gift is a certificate for a set of three classes ($225), which could include how-tos for terrines, pasta or Tuscan tapas.
Viva Tastings,
409 College St., 416-506-0054,

Calphalon Culinary Center
The Basic Skills Series of four classes ($500) introduces newbie chefs to knife wielding, soup making, grilling and more. The centre also offers an array of other classes (on topics ranging from Thai to root vegetables), including a delectable brunch option for couples who want to make crab cakes Benedict, then relax with a mimosa.
Calphalon Culinary Center,
425 King St. W., 416-847-2212,

Bonnie Stern School of Cooking
Though almost all of Stern’s classes are demo only (except for hands-on challah and pastry making), her lessons are likely to enthrall since the venerable instructor has over 30 years of experience under her belt and a dozen cookbooks to her credit. Lit-loving chefs will appreciate a ticket to her monthly book club, where Stern crafts a menu inspired by a timely tome, then invites the author to discuss the work over food ($135). Guests in 2009 included Margaret Atwood, and 2010 brings Stephen Brunt and Anne Michaels. $135–$225 per person.
Bonnie Stern School of Cooking,
6 Erskine Ave., 416-484-4810,

Shashi’s Indian Cooking
Focused on nutritionally balanced fare based on Ayurvedic principles, chef Shashi imparts a lifetime of knowledge on how to craft dosas and samosas that incorporate such healthy items as grains, beans and seeds. Sessions are limited to five or six participants and range from beginner to advanced ($65–$75, or any five for $250).
Shashi’s Indian Cooking,
250 Queens Quay, 416-593-7546,

Nella Cucina
Nella Cucina’s resident chef Joanne Lusted uses a scant five to eight ingredients per dish to demonstrate how to make meals that will last all week, or ones that are ready in little more time than it takes to heat up a Lean Cuisine (Cooking on the Fly, $75). Celebrity chef demos are also available, which in 2010 will include Massimo Capra cooking a four- to five-course meal of Italian favourites ($120).
Nella Cucina,
876 Bathurst St., 416-922-9055,

The Chef Upstairs
These “allergy aware” demonstrations are taught in a 100 per cent nut-free space by the likes of Mark McEwan and Christine Cushing. The lineup for the new year includes Healthy Baby Gourmet for New Mums ($50) and a class for cooking freezer-bound goodies, such as soups and stews ($99).
The Chef Upstairs,
516 Mount Pleasant Rd., 416-544-9221,

Stubbe Chocolates
Offering introductory options for chocolate tempering ($80) and truffle making ($80), or classes specifically for kids ($70), this midtown shop doesn’t just teach participants how to work with the “Food of the Gods,” it sends them home with enough of the sweet stuff to “give anyone a stomach ache,” according to owner Daniel Stubbe.
Stubbe Chocolates,
653 Dupont St., 416-923-0956,