This past Saturday, I attended the Men’s Health Cooking School at Institute of Culinary Education in the hopes of picking up a few tips from most of these classes and to meet Chef/Owner Andy Ricker of Pok Pok in person.
These cooking classes are actually cooking demonstrations rather than the cooking classes where you would get your hands dirty touching and chopping the ingredients. Nevertheless, you will have fun since the chefs who were cooking for us are very cool people and beyond just a person who cooks for a living. They are funny and they are more than happy to answer questions about their dishes or their restaurant.
The first one I attended was the co-owner of The Meatball Shop, Chef Daniel Holzman. I like The Meatball Shop (my post) for making very good meatballs and let you pick the different meatballs and sauces to pair it with.
Chef Holzman was the most hilarious of the three chefs I’ve seen that evening. He cracked a few jokes like his meatball sandwich would be his first thing he ate to break his fast for Yom Kippur. The most important piece of knowledge I’ve picked up was that breadcrumbs (fresh or stale bread soaked in milk) adds lightness to meatballs. The more percentage of meat you have in that meat mixture, the more denser it would be.
Chef Holzman’s dish of spicy meatballs in a hero layered with fresh mozzarella was awesome and his braised kale was delicious to boot that I wanted seconds.
Chef Roberto Santibañez of Fonda taught the art of making tortas. A torta is type of sandwich but contains a certain set of condiments filled in the sandwich and it uses a soft roll like a Kaiser roll. Chef Santibañez showed us how to make carnitas (a very slow cooked pork from a tough cut like the shoulder until it falls apart by the slight touch of the fork) and a more street style kind of torta with hot dogs. My tastebuds adored the sweet, savory carnitas torta that was heaven. It was great even when it’s a few degrees cooler than room temperature when it was served to us.
Chef Ricker demonstrated Laap Meuang. During his demo, he talked about his restaurant that focuses mainly on Thai food from the city of Chiang Mai and his wonderful anecdotes of his experiences in the city that inspired and fueled his adoration to cook this type of food.
In case you don’t know, laap meuang is primarily an offal dish. Yes, I am talking about pig’s liver, kidney, spleen with a touch of pork loin (the latter being the only normal cut of meat) that is hand chopped with a large laab knife (like the one he held) to a fine, almost paste like texture. But I like offal and it tasted even better with the heavy hand with the chili, galangal and spices when Chef Ricker cooked the finely chopped meat mixture. The laap meuang was served family style with a large platter of raw vegetables (like napa cabbage, sawtooth herb, Thai basil, Thai apple eggplant, and a few other Vietnamese and Thai herbs). Some attendees taken a healthy helping of the laap and I’ve seen a few people skipped it entirely because they were freaked out about eating offal.
This cooking school was fun and you get to meet a few people who love food and get to meet the chefs you admire.
To view more photos of this event, please view the slideshow below (or CLICK HERE for my photo set):