The Best Cooking Classes in Toronto
Cooking classes in Toronto are easy to find. Options have grown steadily over the past decade as many of us have become cast under the spell of celebrity chefs or seek to emulate what we watch on the Food Network.
It was only about 15 years ago when there were limited options for cooking classes in Toronto like the Bonnie Stern Cooking School and George Brown College Chef School. Today one can find a much healthier range of choices from over a dozen different schools, shops and chefs in the city.
And the options keep evolving. With the locavore movement at its peak there has been a recent spike in locally focused offerings, and whole enterprises launched to satisfy the demand. Trends like DIY butchery in New York and London have driven early adopters like Cowbell and The Healthy Butcher here in Toronto to start offering demonstration classes. And with the explosion of charcuterie onto the Toronto food scene a couple of years ago (thanks in part to The Black Hoof), it can only be a matter of time until we start seeing classes on curing meats too (if they're not out there already).
But whether you want a fun and casual night out or you're serious about learning how to break down a whole side of elk - the variety of content, focus and price on this list should offer something you can sink your teeth into.
Here, in no particular order, are my picks for the best cooking classes in Toronto.
All Ontario, all the time. That's the mantra at Culinarium. With a series of cooking classes ($69) that highlight local and seasonal ingredients you can learn practical skills like working with different meats (poultry, lamb, beef etc), veggies and grains (fall harvest soups), and preserving (jamming, pickling, canning). Or enjoy cheese & bevy pairing courses like Brie & Champagne.
The Healthy Butcher
If you want to learn about meat, why not go to a butcher? Not only can you get happy local meat and all its accoutrement from The Healthy Butcher PLUS your kitchen knives too, but now you can also learn how to break down an elk carcass, spatchcock a chicken or make your own sausage. Classes are either demonstrations or hands-on and generally range from $80-$100. The groups are small (capped anywhere from 10-20 people) and sell out quickly so keep an eye on their online schedule.
Arvinda's Healthy Gourmet Indian
You might know Arvinda's from the line of Indian spices and curries they sell across the city at places like Fiesta Farms, The Big Carrot, and The Cheese Boutique among others. But Arvinda's cooking classes came first, and popularized Chef Arvinda Chauhan's personal spice blends. Her up-beat and practical classes ($65-85) cover all the basics of Indian cuisine, from curries to lentils/beans to butter chicken. She also offers 2-day "India Discovery" workshops ($160) where you learn the basics of cooking Indian one day, then enjoy a walking tour of Little India the next.
The Good Egg
A favourite among food lovers, this tiny Kensington Market shop has a great selection of fun/quirky books, supplies and tchotchkes. They also offer basic cooking/general interest classes ($75-$100). The classes are small and sell out super quick (like their regular knife skills classes), but keep an eye out for How To Host a Dinner Party (with Star columnist Corey Mintz and in 2011 they will roll out classes on fresh pasta, no-bake desserts, and How To Cook: A Catch-all Class for Beginners.
You may know Calphalon for their cookware and knives, and you've probably noticed their boldly branded culinary centre at the corner of King & Spadina. The cooking classes are a little on the pricey side, but they offer one of the widest selections of classes in the city. Whether you do the Demonstration only ($70), Hands On ($150), or the more intensive Specialty ($200) there's a class covering pretty much anything a beginner home cook might want to know. Seasonal classes are gearing up for the holidays with options like Festive Hors D'Oeuvres, or tackle cookery basics with Beef 101 or Sauteing & Pan Frying.
Great Cooks offers cooking classes for individuals ($110) or corporate team building (prices vary). Seasonal themes stand alongside basic skills classes. For example, this month's classes cover pizza, using up leftovers, Quinoa, Italian countryside cuisine, cooking with lamb, the art of pastry with Scaramouche's Joanne Yolles, and couples night risotto.
Nella built their business on their knife sharpening/rental services and restaurant supply. Today, the Nella Cucina location at Bathurst and Bloor offers a great variety of supplies for the home cook plus classes that will allow you to put all those supplies to good use. They too break their classes down into Hands On ($75 - $125) and Demonstrations ($75), and cover the seasonal bases (Holiday Baking, Soups and Stews) alongside basic knife skills. They also offer kid-friendly courses during the Christmas break.
Toronto District School Board
The Toronto District School Board offers up a healthy selection of affordable night classes including topics like Wine Regions of the World, Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Cake Decorating and Chef on the Run, to name a few. Each course meets weekly for about 11 weeks, with prices working out to about $20-30 per class (depending on materials). The classes are offered at several locations throughout the city, with daytime and evening time slots available.
George Brown Continuing Education
For the more dedicated home cook, George Brown offers a wide selection of semestered evening courses (roughly $200-$400 each) and certificate programs (prices vary). Whether you want to gain basic knife skills, learn the specialties of French Farmhouse Cooking or become a Tea Sommelier (yeah, it's a thing), they've got a class. They've also grouped classes into several different series, like the "Fast Life, Slow Food" series that includes "Fasten Your Greenbelt" or "Carbon Footprint Cooking" classes. Or commit to doing 6 different classes to pick up a certificate in Asian Cuisine, Vegetarian Cuisine, Baking Arts, Cake Decorating, or general Culinary Arts.
St. Lawrence Market Kitchen
Just over a year ago the mezzanine level St. Lawrence Market's renowned south building got a facelift plus a fully functional professional kitchen and is now used for a variety of food-related events. Among them is a full line of cooking classes, taking place with a great view overlooking the market vendors below. This month you can learn all about soups and stews, Thai cookery, working with chocolate, or bring the kids out to make Halloween treats. Classes run between 2-3 hours and cost $50.
The Bonnie Stern Cooking School
Bonnie Stern is a familiar food personality in Toronto, between her regular column in the Post, award-winning cookbooks and of course her cooking school. The school offers $150 classes with a mix of practical cooking, informational, and celebrity chef interview/dinner formats. Get back to kitchen basics by learning to master simple recipes like mac 'n' cheese, Greek salad and roast chicken, learn about the trendy topic of "super foods", or hear about uber-chef Mark McEwan's new book and growing culinary empire.
Dish Cooking Studio
Gone are the days of celeb chef Trish Magwood (who co-founded Dish) as she's made off to host her own show on the Food Network. Today Dish Cooking Studio boasts a catering company, boutique and cafe (which to the delight of lazy home cooks offers prepared dinners and other food) in addition to the cooking school. Prices for classes vary (about $125-$175), and several take a different approach in showcasing recipes from well-known chefs like Alice Waters and Ina Garten (why not just buy the book?). They also offer a kitchen boot camp for beginners, girls' night classes and couples cooking, among many others.
While I have a professional relationship with Viva Tasting, it'd be an oversight if I didn't include them on this list. You may have seen Viva Tastings at the St. Lawrence Farmers' Market on Saturdays, or heard about their 6 Degrees Underground Supper Club. Now you can learn to cook Viva-styles too. Local caterer and chef Karen Viva-Haynes hosts a variety of cooking classes and corporate team building events, covering everything from basic culinary skills, to entertaining for vegetarians and vegans, to holiday party planning. Single classes are $90 and include a sit-down meal & glass of wine.
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