One of 2020’s few bright spots has been a profusion of digital culinary classes from Toronto’s most talented purveyors. These are some of our favourites
If You Want the Eataly Experience
Back when casually wandering around a crowded indoor space seemed like fun, a visit to the 50,000-square-foot Italian food emporium could easily become an all-day affair—especially with a visit to Eataly’s on-site cooking school. But now, the course offerings are online, with workshops for all things Italian: namely pizza, pasta, wine and cheese. Grab an ingredient kit from Eataly (or have it delivered within the city of Toronto for $15) and follow along while learning to make signature pizzas, regional specialties like pasta alla genovese or bucatini all’amatriciana, or how to pair wine and beer with cheese.
Eataly at Home, $65-$120, one to two hours, eataly.ca
If You Want to Roll Your Own Sushi
Sushi-making has a mystique to it—probably because apprentices in Japan go through a decade of training before they can officially call themselves a sushi chef. Sang Kim—the chef and restaurateur behind Blowfish and Koko Share Bar, among others—won’t make you into an itamae overnight, but his livestreamed classes will walk wannabe omakase experts through the techniques behind some of the most popular kinds of maki rolls, including inside-out California rolls, nori-wrapped tuna rolls and cone-shaped temaki. Ingredients, bamboo mats, chopsticks and the chef’s special soy blend are included.
Sushi Making for the Soul, $60, about two hours, sushimakingforthesoul.com
If You Want to Mix Razzle-Dazzle Drinks
You could simply buy modernist cocktail whiz Frankie Solarik’s bottled Barchef cocktails at the LCBO, but then you’d miss the show that goes into making every drink. His virtual mixology workshops feature one or two cocktails of your choice—think an autumn old fashioned, roasted tequila sour or vodka-and-elderflower spritz—but also cover fundamentals, like how to stock a home bar and the basic architecture of a classic cocktail. Kits include all the ingredients you need, from lemons to bitters and liquor, and come with tools like a shaker tin, julep strainer, jigger and stirring spoon.
Virtual mixology with Barchef’s Frankie Solarik, $70-$100, about one hour, barchefevents.com
If You Want to Sharpen Your Skills
This isn’t your casual YouTube cooking demo. The Michelin-trained Romain Avril (formerly executive chef of La Société and Lavelle) is all about precise, technique-based instruction. That includes detailed pre-class shopping and equipment lists, but there’s also an all-ingredients-delivered option. Avril focuses each workshop on a particular technique, dish or menu of your choice: that could mean honing your sous-vide salmon skills, or producing a stunning chocolate soufflé or short-rib ravioli. For dedicated home cooks looking to expand their repertoire, this is a chance to learn from an expert with a long tenure in the industry. Just make sure your chef’s knife is sharp.
Romain Avril virtual classes. $175 and up per person, per hour for groups; $500 and up per hour for private instruction. One hour or longer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Want to Sip and Schmooze
Jeremy Lago, owner of Little India’s Pantry Fine Cheese, has been doing beer-and-cheese pairing nights at east-end breweries since 2015. During pandemic times, he’s shifted the location to your living room (or bed, no shame), along with about 20 other participants via Zoom. Curated by Prud’homme-certified beer sommelier Justin Spencer, the five or six beers are from a featured Ontario craft brewery—whether locals like Godspeed or Blood Brothers, or provincemates like Ottawa’s Dominion City—and served alongside six Canadian cheeses selected for the brews.
The Pairing Club, $79, two hours, instagram.com/pairingclub
If You Want to Max Out on Buttercream
This North York bakery excels at eye-catching desserts. So here’s a chance to decorate your very own Eunice the Unicorn cake, complete with a shiny golden horn and rainbow buttercream spirals. For bakers looking to develop a more traditional repertoire, other class options include apple pie, scones, gougères and traditional holiday cookies—ginger molasses, chocolate crinkle, linzers and more. The delivery includes all ingredients and tools like piping bags and parchment paper. The results are guaranteed to be (almost) too pretty to eat.
Le Dolci, $85-$123, one to two hours, ledolci.com
If You Want a Plant-Based Dinner Party
Cozy community vibes are the core of this plant-forward supper club, which was held at Urban Acorn’s private west-end tasting room before the pandemic hit. Wife-and-husband team Marie Fitrion and Daniel Holloway—known for their seasonal, innovative vegan cooking—bring just as much warmth to the virtual version, which is perfect for sharing a meal with some new friends. November’s menu plan, designed to highlight late fall ingredients, includes caramelized kohlrabi and sunchoke soup, rutabaga and turmeric dumplings, grilled beet flank with garlic confit mashed potatoes, and sweet yam and carrot pie with fried sage. All you have to do is heat it up and follow the Zoom link.
Urban Acorn Supper Club, $45 plus $8-$10 for delivery, about 90 minutes, urbanacorn.ca
If You Want to Master the Art of Sourdough
Those familiar with Matthew Duffy’s Instagram videos know two things: the man can bake, and Juniper, his two-year-old daughter, is the world’s cutest sous chef. The Centennial College baking program coordinator and instructor (and Maker Pizza’s culinary director) offers Zoom classes for both seasoned bakers and beginners. You can opt for a 30-minute consult to troubleshoot your sourdough starter, or a longer, step-by-step bake-along on bread, pizza, challah or brioche. You procure the ingredients, and Duffy tailors the class to your kitchen setup. He’s also launching a series of courses this fall, including a sourdough-for-beginners workshop and a complete pizza-at-home how-to.
Baking with Matthew Duffy. $100 per person for groups of four or more; $150 per person, per hour for private instruction. 30 minutes and up, matthewjamesduffy.com