A cooking class inside Melbourne’s most iconic market? Sign me up! The Social Kitchen is a pop-up cooking school inside Queen Victoria Market. I went along on a midweek morning to see what’s cookin’.
Now, I’m not a cook. Nor a chef. I mostly survive on a daily basis on pieces of cheese on crackers, or hummus on crackers. Boring? Yes. While I can definitely bake, cooking is not my thing. So I was pretty darn excited to try out an actual cooking class. Maybe by the end of the session I’d transform into someone who likes to cook!
At the end of one of the main produce halls, Fisher & Paykel’s The Social Kitchen looks less like a pop-up and more a permanent cooking school. My +1 and I were incredibly impressed by the layout — the second we walked in, we saw nothing but gleaming appliances, tons of sharp cooking knives, and everything laid out just so, from the aprons to the washcloths, that we would need for our class.
I picked the $135 Heirloom Vegetables class, but you can pick from ones like ‘BBQ lamb deluxe’ and ‘Americana’, or ‘Sparkling New Zealand Seafood.’ There are also Masterclasses, where $275 will get you guidance from the likes of Maha’s Shane Delia or The Town Mouse’s Dave Verheul.
The class began with a cup of coffee (for my +1), or tea (for non-coffee fiend me). I’ll admit to being a bit intimidated by the lineup of four dishes we were about to embark upon making:
- Roasted Free-Range chicken, Heirloom Carrots, Miso Dressing
- Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
- Heirloom Beets and Goat’s Cheese Salad
- Tomato Tart from ‘The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook’
How would we manage to make it all — and make it taste good? Well, that’s where The Social Kitchen staff were there. I’d never have been able to do it on my own.
Our teacher for the day was the fantastic Keith, who explained how the day was going to run. Then we were off! It was two-and-a-half hours of solid chopping, roasting, and braising. There was a brief foray into the Queen Vic Market, under the tutelage of one of the Social Kitchen staff, to gather some additional produce. (Most of what we were using had already been purchased and laid out on our benches, as you can see above.)
Back to the kitchen, it was all hands on deck. Keith — an English transplant to Australia 20-odd years ago — regaled us with stories of what it’s like to cook for Ambassadors and Elton John, dispensing wisdom as we went. He managed to walk us through some of the dishes all together, with others allowing us to read the recipes and get right to it. Because we had such a small class (six instead of up to 20), we all got personalised attention that really helped our skillset improve. My +1 is much better at chopping now!
I never thought I’d manage to make an entire gazpacho soup on all my lonesome — nor did I expect the recipes to be so, well, easy! Of course, it makes everything simple when you have the ingredients laid out for you, and various staff members coming by to whisk away dirty pots and pans. If only every cooking experience at home could be so delightful.
Each and every dish looked and tasted simply marvelous. The produce was of course as fresh as fresh could be, and the recipes were not only simple enough to handle, but had some really neat tweaks. The miso dressing on the roasted veggies added that great umami flavour, and the huge caper berries on the goat’s cheese salad worked wonders.
The shared meal at the end was glorious. We’d all worked up huge appetites, but of course the amount of food was way more than we could manage. If I had one suggestion, it would be to allow us to take Tupperware containers home like you can at the Moroccan Soup Bar. After all, the Victorian Department of Health says doggy bags are just fine. Failing that, knowing that our leftovers would be donated to a charity would be the icing on the cake of a great day.
The entire experience at The Social Kitchen was a delight. I never thought I’d be able to make four complex dishes in a few hours, or that they’d all turn out to be so delicious. Walking home with our gift bags of recipes, apron, and some special sea salt — not to mention full tummies — I couldn’t believe how much fun I’d had.
COMPETITION: Win a $270 double pass to The Social Kitchen! (Ends 3 February.)
The Social Kitchen Cooking School runs until 10 May 2015 at Queen Victoria Market.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones won two tickets through Gourmet Chick.