Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
You don’t need to be a trained chef to act like one in Stratford, where a new cooking series is giving people hands-on experience with some of Ontario’s finest culinary creators.
The GE Café Series, presented by Savour Stratford, will pair 10 top chefs from Stratford, Toronto, Waterloo, Cambridge and Niagara with local participants between now and June.
The classes will be held on Sundays at the Local Community Food Centre, where GE has fitted the large kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances.
Each chef in the series will bring their own philosophy, skills and creative approaches – and some inside tips that are sure to impress friends and family at your own dinner events.
“The students are going to get right into the kitchen and work with the chefs, which is a really amazing opportunity I don’t think you get in a lot of places,” says Savour Stratford director Danielle Brodhagen.
She notes a cooking series has been on Savour Stratford's radar for quite some time, but wasn’t possible due to a lack of a suitable venue.
That all changed, adds Brodhagen, when the food centre, equipped with a spacious kitchen and dining area, opened its doors back in November.
“It’s something the Stratford Tourism Alliance is really excited about because we’ve been getting calls for years about hands-on cooking classes.”
The series begins Sunday with Aaron Linley of Bijou. He will be helping prepare a four-course meal consisting of bacon laced scallions, rainbow trout en papillote, ancho chili and cider marinated quail with duck fat potatoes and Moroccan eggplant salad and a green apple tarte tatin.
Linley says the classes are meant to be fun and not too labour intensive, noting he wants to share with people recipes and techniques that are accessible and can be recreated at home.
He’s also looking forward to getting some feedback he otherwise might not get at his day job.
“It’s nice to sit down afterwards and see the response, the reaction to the food, what works, what doesn’t work,” he adds.
The timing of the partnership between Savour Stratford and GE couldn’t have been better for the food centre – a collaboration described by food centre director Steve Stacey as a “win-win-win” for all three parties.
“We were able to provide a space for programs like this while at the same time GE Café could supply us with some absolutely amazing equipment,” he says.
And while the kitchen is used during the week by the centre to host classes for people who are living on low income and are learning how to prepare healthy and cost-effective meals, Stacey adds he is thrilled the space can be opened up to the broader community on weekends.
Other visiting chefs for the series include Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donovan, from Richmond Station, on Feb. 10, Tim Larsen of Mercer Hall on March 3, Ryan Crawford of Gastrohomestead on April 14 and Rob Rossi of Bestellen on April 21.
The series is scheduled to continue with Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall on May 5, Paul Finkelstein of the Screaming Avocado on May 26 and Nick Beninnger of Nick and Nat’s Uptown21 on June 2.
The final class, June 23, will feature Bryan Steele of The Prune, and is expected to tie into a fundraiser for the food centre, the details of which haven’t yet been released.
Classes are $75 per person and $210 if you register for three. Prices including beverages, food and take home recipes. Seats are limited; you can reserve your spot at www.visitstratford.ca/gechefs.