Students who enroll in a cooking class with Dish Cooking Studio are in for a treat with a multi-course dinner — all they have to do is cook it first. The Meatless Mondays class I attended included raw Thai lettuce rolls, a curried peanut soup with lightly fried banana topping, eight-vegetable tagine with parsley and saffron couscous, and a polenta and ricotta cake with apricots and amaretto for dessert. Led by talented Chef and Food Stylist Abraham Wornovitzky, our small class embarked on a food adventure from Morocco to Thailand — all in under three hours.
The class was greeted with ice water, a glass of prosecco with cranberry, and an appetizer of beans, red pepper, lemon zest, and olive oil atop a pita with spicy sauce. We ate and browsed the beer and wine list while Chef Abraham explained the importance of Meatless Mondays — a global revolution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage sustainable eating by going vegetarian just one day (or more, if you like) per week. There were four stations set up, one for each dish, with beautifully laid-out ingredients in white ceramic dishes with vibrant colours and a pinned-up printed recipe to follow. Everything except salt and pepper had already been measured out to keep things organized (and also to avoid disaster with faulty measurements). The space itself is open, clean, and contemporary with a café on one side that's open Monday to Saturday with baked goods, sandwiches, and soups for customers and a fully stocked pantry of take-home meals like spinach and ricotta lasagna, chicken pot pie, or beef bourguignon.
Before pairs were let loose to their stations, Chef Abraham led the demonstration portion of the class, teaching us a variety of knife techniques — like how to hold a knife while still protecting your fingers, how to cut peppers, green onion, cabbage, and lemongrass, how to use a mandolin, and how to peel ginger with a spoon. These skills came in handy when we were paired off and did our best to follow the recipe, with the Chef and assistants there to guide us along the way. Whether students were either in charge of mixing a dressing for the lettuce wraps, cutting veggies to roast for the tagine, or soaking dates in amaretto for the cake, there was plenty to learn at each station, with opportunities to walk around and absorb what your fellow students were working on.
Pam Pridham bought Dish Cooking Studio in 2009, although it originally opened ten years earlier. She developed a business centred on both cooking classes and prepared food. She explains,
"We can teach you how to cook a wonderful meal, but if you don't have time you can come to dish and pick up delicious food to go or add some extra goodies to what you are serving. It's all about sharing fresh, tasty food with family and friends."
When all had been completed, students sat on the stools surrounding the huge kitchen island as the staff at Dish put together plates for each of us, with Chef Abraham using his experience in food styling to make it all look fabulous down to every detail. Our class was a success! Each dish tasted delicious, full of different flavour combinations and inspirations from different countries worldwide. Although the lettuce wraps won as the best-looking dish, with their edible flowers decorating each plate, the overall winner of the night was the curried peanut soup. Spices like cumin and ginger melded harmoniously with the peanut butter and a bit of cinnamon-sprinkled banana in each spoonful. Of all the soups at cooking classes I've attended, this soup was the first one I couldn't wait to repeat at home for others.
The style of the class really suited me, with enough setup done for you so that you could focus on the tasks at hand, but not so much that it's not hands-on learning. The studio is clean and roomy, the recipes were global, unexpected, and delicious in the end, and everyone that evening was unbelievably charming.
"You can taste the love,"
Pam told me about her passionate staff. After falling in love with course after course, making new friends, and learning new skills — all to come home and share the love over a newly learned dish with family and friends — I could not agree more.
MEET THE PHOTOGRAPHER: BEA LABIKOVA
Bea is a Toronto based musician, photographer, teacher and a multidisciplinary visual artist. Growing up surrounded by her father’s antique camera collection, Bea was naturally inclined towards photography since an early age. She loves taking portraits of unique faces and always tries to capture the colours of the world around us. Her main areas of interest are documentary, performance and travel photography.