Food

Cook like a master chef

SIZZLING HOT A class in session at Wisdomania Photo: Thulasi Kakkat   | Photo Credit: Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Looking around for someone to teach you how to plan and cook a five course meal or tiramisu or blueberry muffins or the perfect icing? Wait before you reach for that fancy cookbook or log on to the Net. Just pick up your newspaper and you can shop for your cookery class, yes, right here in ‘nammude' Kochi.

Super cooks!

Frieda Ipe, who taught cooking in Kuwait for 25 years and in Kochi (at Thevara) for the last couple of years, says, “Earlier dessert would have to be made out of pineapple, banana or tender coconut. Now? People are familiar with most things culinary and these are available here. I was surprised, for back then when I was here, you couldn't find most of the ingredients given in cookbooks.” Blueberry for muffins? Mascarpone cheese? Fret not!

The fragrance of freshly baked cake lures one into Anitha Issac's deliciously named cookery school, Manna, in Mamangalam. She says, “The girls have changed but the boys haven't. They love good food and girls know that the way to a boy's heart is through his stomach.”

A good percentage of her students are girls all set to tie the knot. With 25 years in the business she has observed a change in attitudes as far as learning to cook goes. “Earlier mothers would have to practically drag their daughters to my classes, today most girls walk in un-chaperoned by their mothers,” she says. She even has a ten-day ‘bridal cooking' course for to-be brides. It starts with making tea and moves towards a five-course meal. Tea? “Yes, I have seen girls trying to break eggs by banging them on the wall!”

Traditional cooking – the avial-thoran variety – holds little appeal; it is what some people would call the ‘fancy' kind. Nalini Varma, another veteran of cookery classes, agrees with what Anitha says. It is easily learnt from home, from mothers or grandmothers, if inclined. Mothers and grandmothers who attend such classes don't want to learn ‘naadan' because they already know.

Unlike Anitha, Nalini conducts her classes at her house in Panampilly Nagar. In her kitchen, to be very precise. She has seen the ups and downs of cookery classes in the last 25 years, she says. “A couple of other places (cookery classes) have shut down. Ten years back it appeared nobody was interested in cooking,” she says. According to her, this resurgence happened in the last five years or so. Like Anitha, Nalini also teaches the more ‘popular' cuisines such as Chinese, Continental (Spanish, French, Italian included), Indian besides baking and desserts and presentation (‘plating').

Frieda says when she was planning to start a class after returning from Kuwait her friends warned her against it because ‘there are cookery classes on TV.'

But she was pleasantly surprised. She agrees that television is responsible for it. The other is the Net (food blogging primarily). It's a given that food is a major preoccupation on TV. Either somebody's cooking on TV or teaching how to cook or competing to be a ‘masterchef'.

Who is the average cookery student? Generalisations fail. Kids, tweens, teens, about-to-be married, newly married, married (the years don't matter) and grandmas. The men, not to be left behind, attend classes.

Wisodomania is among the latest entrants in Kochi's cookery class scene. It is a place which gets an eclectic bunch of students for its eclectic kind of classes. Says Madhu Sree Maya Babu of Wisdomania, “I teach in a way that can be adapted to Indian conditions.” Gujarati cuisine, wine-making, uncommon cakes, even Kerala cooking (‘from the length and breadth of Kerala'). Befuddled by cookbooks she decided to teach in a way people understood. Interestingly, here, she maintains that recipes are just guidelines, there is ample scope for innovation.

Hands-on

The approach to teaching in most of these places is hands-on. There is a ‘kitchen' around which eight to ten people can stand and work in Wisdomania. Ditto for Anitha. But she has two ‘labs' where students have do-and-learn classes. The classroom has brightly coloured chairs and tables facing the kitchen counter from where Anitha teaches. It is as school-like as a place can get and Anitha transforms into a ‘no-nonsense teacher' when classes start. Nalini and she strictly follow a ‘no notes' policy. ‘Students' have to take down notes when classes are on, “otherwise they just don't pay attention.”

Frieda also teaches from home and it is word-of-mouth publicity that works for her and then there is Facebook. There are some recipes that require hands on learning such as icing and decorations, for the others it tends to be demonstrations.

Cooking stories abound…talking about classes Frieda has a story, “A mother of a bride-to-be came and said she wanted her daughter to be the only one in class. I said ‘I need more students for it to be viable'. And she said she'll pay for the entire batch!” And she did.

THE YUM FACTOR

The ingredients are provided.

Samples can be taken home.

The ingredients (generally) decide the fees which can be anywhere from Rs. 500 to a few thousands.

Duration can be from a couple of hours, for two days to 10 days.

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2020 3:13:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/cook-like-a-master-chef/article2931957.ece

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