Hockessin's edible classroom
Dec 31, 2014 10:53AM
By Kerigan Butt
A cooking school class at Everything But The Kitchen Sink in Hockessin.
(Editor's note: This article first appeared in our Winter 2014 edition.)
By Richard L. Gaw
There is a school in Hockessin that promises its students trips around the world.
This year, they have embarked on journeys to Peru, to India, to Asia, to Mexico, and to 19th-century England for a holiday dinner. Their visits are culinary in nature and resemble veritable feasts that introduce their palates to the harmony of new flavors: chicken saltimbocca, dulce de leche custard topped with Italian port meringue, and pan-roasted squab with pear chutney.
The classroom is the Cooking School at Everything But The Kitchen Sink, and its teachers are some of the most talented and experienced cooks and chefs the area has to offer. For the hundreds of foodies and weekend chefs who have attended classes there, the school has become a recipe book brought to life, a "Master Chef" television program in their own backyard, and an interactive conversation between chef and students, with all of the scents and flavors that accompany it.
For a reasonable fee, students receive printed copies of all of the recipes on the evening's menu, as well as a step-by-step cooking demonstration by guest chefs who explain how the particular dishes are made. With a glass or two of red or white wine poured by sous chefs, students then get to enjoy that evening's offerings.
This fall, students were introduced to a class on craft beer introduced by local wine and beer writer Michael Steinberger; given a tutorial on the many ways that a poultry entree can be kicked up with a blend of spices and side dishes, taught by executive chef Peter Fontaine; introduced to the flavors of Peru, taught by chef Bianca Russano; attended a class about the delights and delicacy of serving crepes, given by chef Michele Uy; and took classes on preparing a seafood dinner, cooking with oysters, preparing gluten-free dishes, and making an Asian fusion meal.
“Everything in life comes down to relationships, and there's a relationship that occurs when cooking is taking place, whether it's between family and friends, or the chef and the food,” said Julie Sebring, director of the cooking school at Everything But The Kitchen Sink. “There's a mini-Thanksgiving every time someone goes into a kitchen and prepares a meal, a certain kind of fellowship that crosses all cultures, all ages, and every barrier.”
Sebring sees these same relationships forming at the classes. “Every class has its own personality, and it begins to take on that personality in the first few minutes,” she said. “In many ways, each class is a way for people to express themselves.”
For every one of the dozen students who attend the cooking school at Everything But The Kitchen Sink, there are just as many reasons that draw them there. Margie Gehrmann of Landenberg has a huge family, and for many years, she would prepare a complete dinner for as many as 30 people at her home. This year is no exception; she's already preparing ideas for what will be on her Thanksgiving table.
“I love to entertain and have guests sitting around talking while I prepare the food,” she said. “I always learn something new from these classes, little tidbits that I can bring to my own home, such as a new style of presentation. I always learn something I didn't previously know. For instance, I've learned how to peel and prepare garlic the right way.”
One could say that the penchant for cooking runs in Pike Creek resident Maile Rydgren's DNA. Her parents own a catering company in Baltimore. While she was an undergraduate at the University of Delaware, Rydgren cultivated her culinary skills as a student in the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management. As part of her learning, she prepared dishes at the Vita Nova, the on-campus restaurant. She admitted that her mind was hard at work during a class she recently attended with her friend, Erin Betterman of Hockessin.
“I said to Erin that this class brings me back to school,” Rydgren said. “I would attend classes in a similar demo room just like this, taking notes and looking at how to develop knife skills and selecting the right pans to use. Now, I'm remembering back and correcting what I learned back then.”
On the other hand, Betterman, a Hockessin resident, admitted that her husband is the chef in the family, and began to attend the cooking classes with her mother.
“My husband is the man in the kitchen, and I don't mind that he likes that role, but it's nice to be able to know a little about cooking,” she said. “I'm taking away everything from these classes that I can.”
For Corey Beattie of Lincoln University, however, the classes she is taking with her mother Marie represent a bridge to a career she has dreamed of for the past few years.
As the 2010 school year got underway, Beattie was an active senior at Avon Grove High School. She played softball, participated in track and field, was on the diving team and a member of a competitive cheerleading team. She loved music, and was a member of the choir and played the trumpet in the school band. After graduation, she intended to attend culinary school when, on Oct. 2, she suffered a broken neck and traumatic brain injury while a passenger in a car crash at the intersection of routes 896 and 841. Through rehabilitation and therapy, Corey's recovery has been a slow but steady one, but through it all, she has never lost sight of her goal to become a chef.
The Beattie family has found a local chef who has agreed to start working with Corey. Under his tutelage, she is learning the basics of cutting and cooking, as well as becoming familiar with the tools a chef needs in a kitchen.
Corey recently attended a class with Marie at Everything But The Kitchen Sink that introduced students to creative ways of making dinner with refrigerator leftovers. Corey sat in the front row, just to the left of chef Russano. She constantly wrote notes all over the pages of recipes she received for arugula salad with walnut vinaigrette, and butternut squash and kale lasagna.
“Corey has met so many chefs and she's begun e-mailing them, so she's networking with future colleagues,” Marie said. “For me, to see her excited and committed means everything to me, and these classes are such a valuable extension of her commitment. Part of what she does for her therapy is write grocery lists, and she's now at a point where she can push the grocery cart.
“We learn things from these classes, to the point where she attempts to make these dishes at home. Through cooking, she's learning how to re-use the strength of her left hand, to become a better master at her craft. Most importantly, she gets to use her creativity.”
Sebring is already beginning to plan the schedule at the school for next spring. Ideas are everywhere, she said; throughout the year, she scans food blogs and magazines for the latest trends in food preparation and popular culinary choices, and asks students what types of classes they may be interested in attending.
“What I try to do is get to target my audience and get a sense of what people would like to learn about," she said. "If, for instance, they hear about a type of food they may be interested in trying at a restaurant, they may be somewhat hesitant to talk to the restaurant's chef about it, but the school gives them the freedom to ask those questions in a much more comfortable setting, while the dish is being made.
“It's all part of the experience here,” Sebring added. “Everyone is here to learn, to observe and to enjoy.”
To learn more about the cooking school at Everything But The Kitchen Sink, visit www.thekitchensink.com, or call 302-239-7066.