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Adventures in gourmet cooking

The Whistler Cooking School invites food lovers to laugh, learn, and get their aprons dirty

Most of the people to walk through the doors of the Whistler Cooking School in the two weeks since Lauren Piper opened shop have no idea what goes on in there. After a short explanation and a quick tour of the facilities, however, they sign up for a class.

It’s a slow and nerve-wracking beginning for a new business owner, but gratifying all the same – from only a few curious visitors poking their heads in on their strolls through the village, every class has been a sell-out.

"The more people that understand what the school is all about, the more they like the idea," says Piper. "It’s not what they’re expecting, and it’s hard to explain. But once they get the idea, they’re in."

It’s kind of like an art class for food, only you get to eat your creation at the end of the lesson. And instead of learning from the same art instructor every week, your teachers are all the best artists of the Pacific Northwest.

The Whistler Cooking School is modeled after similar schools in the U.S., the most famous being The Cooking School of Aspen. The concept, as far as Piper knows, is the first of its kind in Canada.

The concept is also simple: bring in some of the most famous chefs in the Northwest, from the U.S., Lower Mainland and Whistler, and walk "students" through the preparation of a gourmet meal. Students are broken up into three or four groups of three or four people each and set up with their own stove, pots, pans, knives, cutting boards and ingredients.

The chef then walks the group through the preparation of the meal, sharing their experience and demonstrating the techniques that made them famous in the first place. All the while volunteer chefs walk around and help students. Each group can be making the same dish, or part of a multi-course dinner.

Once the class has finished preparing dinner, the whole class sits down to eat while the chef gives a lesson in pairing wines.

"Some people are keen to learn what they can, while others are just there to have some fun. Most of our customers so far have been couples, with no skills or knowledge whatsoever. And that’s great, because we’re giving people something to do with their evening that’s a little bit different and finishing it off with a gourmet meal. It’s supposed to be fun."

The lesson is generally less important than the delivery – most of the chef’s have been chosen because of their outgoing personalities and penchant for entertaining while they cook.


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