“Cook Like A Personal Chef,” although daunting, made me click on the itinerary. This would be my second culinary class at The Cucina at Gervasi Vineyards in Canton. I looked at the details. Sure enough, I envisioned myself making “Braised Fingerlings with Rosemary, Sautéed White Fish, and Pan-Seared Steaks with Red Wine Pan Sauce” in my own kitchen and on my own accord. But wait, there was more: scrumptious sounding sauces and dressings, among them “Spring Lemon and Thyme Dressing, Mango, Lime and Ginger Dressing, and Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette.” YUM. I registered right then and there.
Gervasi Vineyards is a destination all to itself. Once you drive under the wrought iron archway, the meandering tree-lined road forces the car AND the body to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. By the time you’ve walked into The Bistro to meet a friend for lunch, gathered with family to celebrate a special occasion, or found a quiet spot by the lake to enjoy a glass of wine, daily stress has melted away.
For the class, I drove around the main set of buildings, past rows of grape vines, over the one-lane bridge, and parked at the Villa Grande. I stepped into the foyer, and my eyes were drawn upward to the massive chandelier made of wine bottles. Wow. Just then, Jennifer Wolfe Webb, Director of The Cucina, greeted me at the door and showed me to a table lined with gift bags.
Although the surroundings are rich and elegant, the feel was casual and light. We chatted easily with fellow Personal Chefs In The Making, and snooped around the massive kitchen (ours for the night). Chef Tamara Mitchell, instantly warm and personable, put us at ease.
In a vibrant green chefs apron, she moved swiftly around the kitchen then called our class of eight over to begin. Like a group of kindergarteners let in on a secret, we huddled around her as she demonstrated how to peel a mango, slice a shallot, and chop herbs. She gave an overview of the evening, and then set us on our tasks. Oh yes, we would be making AND eating! Bravo. Amy and I dashed over to the Mango, Lime and Fresh Ginger Dressing station before anyone else claimed it.
The recipes were easy to follow with direct and proper insights: “Let the cutlets cook without messing with them… because it’s sweet, a little goes a long way… pour onto a pan lined with aluminum foil for easy clean up…” And dressing – Why use store bought? Tami hoped after her class we would never buy bottled dressing again, which lead our group into a discussion as to what could possibly be in that long list of ingredients in store bought salad dressing when the basic components are three-fold.
As we focused on our tasks, Tami assisted us without making us feel foolish and answered questions readily. She encouraged us to visit other stations to learn techniques, watch processes, and at times (“Here, let me hold this while you pour…”) simply help each other out! We laughed and bonded over The Mystery of the Lost Ginger – A huge chunk of fresh ginger that was there one minute, gone the next. We joked all night as to who took it and why. We oohed and ahhed as final touches were put on dishes, and couldn’t help but sample (never double dipping) as we cooked. It was fun, it was educational, and it was an experience.
And then of course, there was the feast. Towards the end of the three hour class we lined a buffet table of delicious, freshly prepared food – Made tastier because it was our own creation – And helped ourselves to our prize-winning fare. Will I use the recipes at home? Absolutely. Will I buy store bought dressing again? Never. And do I “Cook Like a Personal Chef”? Well… I’ve since tried out the knife skills and they need some work, but my confidence in the kitchen has increased. So I could say yes, perhaps, I cook MORE like a personal chef. And I will surely sign up for another class.
For Cucina Class schedules and general information, visit www.GervasiVineyard.com.
Tamara Mitchell’s personal chef service, Dine-In Diva, offers in-home catering services, as well as classes and personal coaching.