Learning with the Masters
There's a cooking class out there for everyone-even you.
If you live or travel in Atlantic Canada, you know that we have some amazing chefs. Luckily for us, many are willing to share their know-how.
Chef Karen Mersereau, for example, is so passionate about food that she's set up Culinary Vacations, a series of two- to five-day edible wild food adventures and cooking classes at Hôtel Paulin in Caraquet, NB (hotelpaulin.com). On one of my visits, Karen introduced me to the Dugas family, who have been harvesting oysters for over 200 years. I also met Jean Patenaude, a professional mycologist who shows Karen's guests how to forage for mushrooms, and Alberte Doiron, a master cheese maker at Les Blancs d'Arcadie.
Aside from knowing all the food gurus in the region, Karen also knows where to find edible coastal greens such as goose-tongue, cattails and samphire greens, also known as sea asparagus. The combination of meeting local food experts and learning how to create memorable dishes is downright magical.
For an evening class, check out chef Trevor Rowe's 5 Senses Gourmet Culinary Academy in Moncton (5sensesgourmet.com). He offers a smorgasbord of one-night courses, from "Apas & Tapas" to "Soup for the Soul" and "Mouse in the House." He also offers several four-week programs that include "Kitchen Survival 101." Rumour has it that his classes are a blast.
Prince Edward Island features Experience PEI (experiencepei.ca) and Fall Flavours (fallflavors.ca), two programs with a "wow" factor of 10. One of my favourites is "Seaweed Secrets," with Goldie and Gilbert Gillis. The program involves learning all about seaweed, going to the beach to collect some, then sitting down to a meal that includes vegetable soup and biscuits (both made with seaweed) and seaweed pie-one that you helped to make!
Bonus for foodies: the Culinary Institute of Canada is located in Charlottetown (hollandcol-lege.com/culinary_institute_of_canada). It hosts a variety of culinary boot camps from "Seafood 101" to "Thrills on the Grill." Of special interest is a course for kids called "Kids 'R' Kookin'." This program elevates summer camp into a whole new realm.
If you're in Nova Scotia, you'll want to check out chef Alan Crosby's culinary sessions aptly titled "Chef's Magic" at White Point Beach Resort (whitepoint.com). Alan offers guests complimentary culinary classes every week. You might drum up a sexy pasta, make some decadent chocolate truffles or grill a salmon to perfection.
At the Digby Pines Golf Resort & Spa (digbypines.ca), chef Dale Nichols offers a fall culinary get-away. My sister, Carmen Phinney, decided to walk on the wild side and signed up last year. Her team prepared a "surf 'n' barnyard"-free range chicken breasts and local scallops presented on a wild mushroom risotto with "turned" zucchini and a fall fruit chutney. Although she didn't impress the chef with her ability to julienne, I gave her a gold star for making the best chutney I have ever tasted.
You, too, can impress your friends and family with new-found culinary skills. The best advice? Just do it.