Cooking classes in Melbourne

Want some new skills this New Year? We sent enthusiastic pan-basher Steven Germain to road test Melbourne's cooking classes on your behalf. You're welcome

The Bones
The A-Z of bakin’ bread.

Who's here?
The Convent’s head baker, Marlon Otto, gives an international crew of 20- and 30-somethings the low-down on dough.

The meat
Starting at 8am, you’ll play the ‘name game’ and get down to making scones, sourdough, bread rolls, pizze and calzoni (folded pizza). Otto keeps the class pretty straightforward and we reckon his credo, “Will I eat this? Would I pay for it? When it doubt, chuck it out,” is worth following any time you’re experimenting in the kitchen.

The trimmings
This class will load you up with enough carbs to feed a small family for the next three days.

Seconds?
Yes ma’am! No booze here, but they fill you with enough free coffee to compensate.


Abbotsford Convent Bakery, 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford. $190. Fortnightly, Sun 8am-3pm.

The Bones
A hands-on lesson in using freaky international spices, led by blend experts Patrick Aldred and Jill Rowe.

Who's here?
A dirty dozen made up of couples and a sprinkling of seniors.

The meat
In the relatively tight studio, you’ll be listening to island music and bashing out ten (!) spice-laden dishes from Indonesian beef rendang to Ethiopian patties made with berbere – a spicy fragrant blend including peppers, chilli and fenugreek. Cooking and eating it all in 4.5 hours is a bit chaotic, but you’ll break halfway through to eat entrees and sip wine before tackling mains.

The trimmings
You’ll encounter spices you’ve never heard of. Smoky-sour Sri Lankan garaka, say, which blows our mind. They sell spice mixes here, if you’re inspired.

Seconds?
Yes. Aldred’s boundless enthusiasm is infectious, and you’ll learn a lot.

Spice Bazaar, 79 Victoria St, Seddon. $110. Fri, Sat.

The Bones
This half-day class teaches real Mexican cuisine.

Who's here?
A young crew of noobs – mostly hombres.

The meat
After learning about the many varieties of Mexican chillies, you’ll be split into teams to take on mole (that famously difficult chocolate and charred chilli sauce), hand-pressed corn tortillas, and your choice of main and dessert with chef Walter Trupp cutting in on a regular basis to address technique. We manage nine dishes over the morning including curries, tamales (soft cornmeal parcels, stuffed with spiced chicken and steamed in corn husks), and churros – fried dough sticks for dipping into spicy hot chocolate sauce.

The trimmings
Your labour is rewarded with a huge feast washed down with craft beer and vino.

Seconds?
Definitely. You’re learning about real, approachable, not-too-expensive Mexican cooking.


Trupp Cooking School, 1/57 Barry St, South Yarra. Daily.

The Bones
Baking for the gluten-challenged, with a dessert focus.

Who's here?
Perhaps it’s the Cheltenham location, or Tony Chiodo’s beautiful home kitchen setup with scented candles, but it’s a hot mamma class here.

The meat
You start off with some basic theory on how gluten (and gluten-free alternatives) work. Most of the evening is presentation cooking by Chiodo, although there is the opportunity to assist him in making the spinach and fetta quiche, pizza, pumpkin bread, coffee cake and biscotti.

The trimmings
We dig that there’s a cold beer or sparkling wine waiting for you when walk in the door.

Seconds?
Yes. Despite several dishes being crumbly, they taste good. Chiodo basically teaches you to take liberties with recipes – an invaluable kitchen skill.


Relish Mama Cooking, 347 Bay Rd, Cheltenham. $125. Various dates.

The Bones
An intensive theory-based session to get you brewing beer at home on the cheap.

Who's here?
Only five participants on our visit. All young and mostly dudes.

The meat
Paul Rigby gives a detailed report on beer’s key ingredients – water, malt, hops and yeast – and the chemistry that renders them drinkable, including at least two weeks of fermentation. It’s theory only, not a mash-in or a piss up, but beer is being brewed in the background for demonstration, and Rigby brings homebrews for sampling.

The trimmings
If you’ve made an attempt at brewing already, bring ’em in. Rigby is a certified beer judge.

Seconds?
It’s expensive, but this course preps participants for a step up from swamp-water kit mixes.


Ceres Home Brewing Workshop, Cnr Roberts & Stewart Sts, Brunswick East. $95. Workshop dates vary.

The Bones
Pip Kerslake teaches tried-and-true Spanish classics that are easily replicable at home.

Who's here?
Half the class are repeat-customers, mostly aged 35 plus.

The meat
Fuelled by Kerslake’s trademark brandy-spiked sangria (yum!), you’ll start with some hands-on rapid-fi re prep of simple tapas (Spanish tortilla – omelette, not Mexican wraps – almond-crusted manchego cheese, and Spanish meatballs), followed by a cook-off. A divided class cooks the same paella (identical ingredients and recipe), with surprisingly different results.

The trimmings
If you’re new to cooking, Kerslake will straighten you out pronto, señor.

Seconds?
The food is pretty good, the prep is a bit chaotic, and the conversation curves onto subject matter we don’t expect to hear when handling food. It’s a unique experience.


Pips Cooking School and Providore, 20 Margaret St, Moonee Ponds. $99. Varied classes held evenings and weekends; check the website.

The Bones
Marisa Di Lisio teaches fundamental appetiser to dessert Italian cooking.

Who's here?
Suited to busy worker bees seeking basic skills.

The meat
You’ll cook two styles of bruschetta – tomato, and sautéed mushrooms – followed by Di Lisio’s nonna’s lasagne, with fresh Napoli tomato sauce, ham and a creamy béchamel. Tiramisu rounds out the menu for dessert, where Di Lisio stresses the importance of using real Italian ingredients like good mascarpone cheese.

The trimmings
Di Lisio and her son take care of most of the prep work.

Seconds?
This class is for you if you’re a total beginner looking to move up from frozen to fresh. Di Lisio runs more advanced classes for those with existing skills.


Bella Cosi, 71 Beach St, Port Melbourne. $130. Mondays (classes vary) 6.30-9pm.

The Bones
A discussion and a practical lesson on living raw.

Who's here?
Kemi takes up to ten around her kitchen table, but she’s upgrading to keep up with demand.

The meat
You’ll start with a garden walk, woven baskets in hand, with Kemi plucking parsnips and talking through all the key trees, veg and herbs in her garden. Inside you’ll learn uses for nut milk, make green smoothies and some mains, like an incredible cauliflower and carrot biriyani with fig and mint chutney using naught but a Vitamix blender.

The trimmings
You get an eco bag and seeds to plant. There’s a DVD and other ingredients for sale.

Seconds?
Absolutely. This is a game changer and the food is excellent.


Kemis Raw Kitchen, South Yarra. $240. Monthly Saturdays 10am-3pm.

The Bones
On the TV set of Love to Share Food, Robert Monteau shows you how to look slick holding a knife.

Who's here?
A pack of 30-40-somethings, here to take their cooking skills to the next level.

The meat
You’ll be covering knife sharpening and theory (which knife to use when), dicing veg to various specs, de-boning a spatchcock and filleting a red snapper. Monteau controls the flow of the day so that all knife-work practice materials end up on a plate ready to eat at the end of the afternoon.

The trimmings
The resulting lunch is terrific.

Seconds?
Hell yes. This class covers a lot of ground at a steady and relaxed pace. Not for newbies.


Raw Materials, 148 Cowper St, Footscray. $120. Tue, Sat & Sun.

The Bones
A masterclass in colourful puffballs by some serious sugar specialists.

Who's here?
On our visit it’s mostly women, with a lot of young Adriano Zumbo groupies in the pack.

The meat
Chef Robyn Curnow keeps everyone in line with clear and commanding instructions. The class is split into groups of four, each tasked with preparing two macaron recipes to varying Italian, Spanish and French specs, resulting in six macarons all up. Trying to achieve proper consistency in meringue as well as filling is hard.

The trimmings
The buffet-style lunch is pretty killer.

Seconds?
Yep, these guys are pros. It’s the most organised class we’ve seen, with the best recipe booklet to boot. It’s expensive, but you get what you pay for.

Savour Chocolate and Patisserie School, 22 Wilson Ave, Brunswick. $260. Daily.

First published on 20 Dec 2012. Updated on 7 Mar 2014.

By Steven Germain   |   Photos by Graham Denholm   |  
 

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