Various cookery courses have sprung up recently in order to satisfy the growing demand for the mastery of this, no longer predominantly women-controlled, art. With the opening of the borders and an increasing number of people travelling, studying and working abroad, it is no longer the mothers, or necessity that teaches people to cook. Those who travel, discover new cuisines and want to recreate the tastes they have tried abroad. In addition to this, cooking has become a respected hobby, a fashionable trend, and so people have started to venture into spheres the older generations considered exotic and distant.
Chef Parade, one of the schools located in Prague, offers teambuilding courses, private parties, dating cookery courses and a private chef in your own kitchen alongside regular cookery courses. Their studio is located in Žižkov and consists of two fully equipped kitchens, each of which accommodates around 20 people.
Their website offers all the necessary information, though only in Czech at the moment, since its English version is under construction. The majority of the chefs speak English, some even French and German, however, if attending an open cookery course, it is necessary to specify the language requirements beforehand in the online application form.
Ordinary cookery courses take place in groups of four to five, formed on the spot. The people share the ingredients and the working space, as well as the duties. Courses start at 6pm and take up to four hours.
Upon arrival, we were met by our chef for the evening, Martin, and offered alcoholic and soft drinks for reasonable prices. When all the people had gathered, Martin introduced the topic, which was beef and duck, offered advice on meat and where to get it and distributed four vacuum packed beef sirloins. We started by ridding the meat of the tendons, cutting the right sizes of steaks and having a go at a beef tartare while using the rest of the meat for an Asian stir-fry. The stir-fry was prepared by Martin alone and while it was impressive – he used a gas bomb cooker and a massive wok – it was far from hands-on, and the recipe was lost on us in the speed. We tasted the stir-fry while finishing the beef tartare on a toast.
After frying the steaks on our pans, Martin collected them, making sure the steaks from different groups remained separated and identifiable, and placed them in an oven. Then he proceeded to prepare a sauce and vegetables for the side dish. Meanwhile, he also prepared roast beef and showed us how to prepare the duck breast.
Our group was united in the wish for medium-rare steaks, and so we watched the time they spent in the oven with suspense. And when we thought the time was right, we interrupted Martin in his serenade on the red wine sauce and made him get the steaks out. All the participants then moved to the table in the next room, where we proceeded to eat all the meals prepared. Martin, however, did not join us and stayed in the kitchen.
Overall, though I am far from being a proficient cook, except for a couple of tips concerning the preparation and handling of the meat, I did not learn much. My companions and I would have preferred a more hands-on approach. Nevertheless, some of the other groups, especially the one consisting of five thirty-something gentlemen, seemed to enjoy themselves. The atmosphere was relaxed and open, and Martin was communicative and pleasant. Still, this particular course seemed to be aimed at kitchen virgins.
For further information visit www.chefparade.cz
Price for an open cookery course: CZK 990/person
For other English speaking cookery courses try also www.olakala.cz which currently offers English cookery courses for companies but plans to reintroduce open courses next year.
Prices: from CZK 3,000/person