Once a month they connect and create… a great way to learn how to cook
They might be Mister Chefs but when it comes to cooking in the kitchen there are no rules – simplicity is the vital ingredient.
It’s all about enjoying cooking, eating healthy food and meeting some great people who may also lack the confidence to take on the culinary challenges that frighten most.
Welcome to Linda Mullen’s monthly cooking class for blokes in the Yankalilla Youth & Community Centre on a Monday morning. And good on ’em for wanting to learn new basic skills in the kitchen.
This fabulous program, which began earlier this year, is presented by the Yankalilla Council, and team leader Claire Taylor said the response from the community has so far been terrific.
“We had a Fleurieu Foodies group involving cooking for men here some years ago, but it fell away for whatever reason,” Claire said.
“Like a lot of things, we started this men-only cooking course as a trial, and it has really picked up with at least seven turning up and a maximum of eight every month.
“There are a lot of men – and women for that matter – who for whatever reason did not learn cooking skills when they were younger, and taking basic lessons with others in the same kitchen has encouraged them to learn.
“We have had really enthusiastic support from the management at Council, which subsidies this program, although it costs each person $15 a session. At the end of the lesson the men get to sit down and enjoy what they have cooked, have a real good chat, and get to take something home as well so it is excellent value.
“Some of the men have been widowed or simply live alone. For some, including those married, this is about connecting.”
The Mister Chefs learn the basics about nutrition, and even things like setting the table including putting out the salt & pepper and what knives and spoons to set, preparing and serving, and even doing the dishes. They get print-outs of the recipes to take home and talk about what they would like to cook in the future.
Claire said it all started with a ‘learn to fillet fish’ demonstration, and the interest was so positive the need for cooking classes was obvious.
Linda, who is contracted to conduct the course and has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years, said no one was made to feel inadequate in this kitchen. “We help each other and have a lot of fun,” she said.
“The guys do alright, they really do. I always believe that if you can read you can cook because basic recipes are easy to follow. Of course, there are very complicated dishes, but the day-to-day home meals can be easy. Most people think cooking is harder than it is going to be.
“The biggest problem with home cooking is that we buy packets for everything from supermarkets and forget about the fresh herbs and spices and things that are fresh. The difference between something with freshly ground spices is just amazing – you must try it.”
Participant Jeff Sparham, of Normanville, said he wanted to extend his cooking knowledge so he could feel confident in the kitchen when his wife was not home.
“This is a great way to meet people,” Jeff said.
“I’ve discovered cooking is not hard… I think it’s more about being frightened to burn something.”
The blokes whipped up a delicious Ratatouille – and not the Disney Movie kind – this particular day, plus a casserole of potatoes, and rest assured the fancy names sound a lot more complicated than they are to make.
Claire said the program would be expanding to include casual cooking classes for both men and women. Good news – curries are on the menu for this Monday’s session from 10am-noon costing just $5. There are also plans for cooking classes for youngsters during the school holidays.
Once again, it’s all about getting a bit of encouragement to have a go in the kitchen. There is no ranting and raving by chefs most people here have never heard of, no flying pots and pans and no outbursts of tears and emotion explosions.
The participants also learn things like basic hygiene and safety in the kitchen.
Claire said the popularity of cooking shows on television had encouraged a lot of people to try cooking, but in this program there was no harsh judging. Mind you, there was a speck of gravy on the edge of Deane’s plate of Ratatouille so we took off a point, but we gave him top marks for taste and definitely for effort. Well done (but not overly cooked).