Cooking Class Craze

Once seen as a mundane chore for housewives, cooking has now become a favourite hobby of men, women and even children. Television cooking shows abound, making celebrities out of chefs who teach home cooks recipes and techniques previously seen only in restaurant kitchens.

 The cooking craze is firmly implanted in Cayman and cooking classes are increasingly becoming a popular way to spend an afternoon or evening. Depending on where they’re held and the chef, the classes can be instructional, entertaining, competitive or possibly all three.

The Lighthouse

Every month features a different menu, which stays the same for all the cooking classes that month.

Executive Chef Remy Azavedo of the Lighthouse Restaurant in Breakers is a pioneer when it comes to cooking classes in Cayman, having started them back in November 2003.

The affable Chef Remy realises that his guests are looking to learn to cook dishes they can make right in their own kitchens and he says they’re always something people can make at home using ingredients from the local supermarkets.

The two-hour Lighthouse cooking classes are held every week during the year, except when Chef Remy goes away for his annual vacation. The classes, which are generally only for 10 people, are held Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Special group classes at other times can also be held when pre-arranged.

Every month features a different menu, which stays the same for all the cooking classes that month.

Chef Remy’s teaching style is friendly and entertaining, or, as he calls it, “up front and personal”.

“It’s about interacting with [participants],” he says. “You have to make it a fun class.”

Unlike some other cooking classes, however, in addition to learning recipes, participants can learn practical cooking techniques like how to cut and squeeze a lime so that the seeds don’t end up in the dish or how to wash and store cilantro properly.

Chef Remy also passes on general cooking knowledge, like that salt shouldn’t be used in meat marinades because it “bleeds” the meat of moisture; that parsley is added to many foods to diminish the smell of garlic; and that when making desserts, a chef shouldn’t try to compromise by using light or low-fat ingredients.

“All you can do [to reduce calories] is eat less,” he says.

The Lighthouse cooking classes cost $35 per person plus gratuity and include a three-course meal and a glass of wine for the Saturday afternoon classes.

Bon Vivant

If you want to sit back and watch and drink a glass of wine, you can.

Another location for frequent cooking classes is Bon Vivant, a high-end kitchen appliance and accessories store which is currently located at Governors Square, but will move to Camana Bay in late 2011.

With a professional kitchen set up at the store, a series of visiting chefs conduct about 40 cooking classes a year, says owner Cynthia Hew.

The chefs all have their own style, Hew says.

“Some are more technical, some are more interactive,” she says, adding that regardless of the chef’s style, participants can be as involved as they want to be.

“If you want to sit back and watch and drink a glass of wine, you can,” she says. “If you want to put an apron on and get in the kitchen, you can do that as well.”

Ideally, participants will take away some practical knowledge from the classes.

“It’s all about elevating not only the style of your cooking, but the quality of your cooking as well,” Hew says.

The Bon Vivant classes are usually limited to 15 people, and cost $55 per person. The classes include a meal and two samplings of wine.

Bon Vivant only advertises the cooking classes by email.

“We’ve never had to go further than that because we usually have a waiting list,” Hew says.


Companies like the classes for team building  

A relative newcomer to the Cayman cooking class scene, the restaurant Ortanique at Camana Bay started a monthly Saturday afternoon interactive cooking class in May 2011.

The classes are designed as competitions where three teams of up to eight people actually prepare some of the dishes on the Ortanique menu.

Restaurant owner Cindy Hutson gives hints on the recipe and some helpful cooking technique tips – like how to use fresh ginger – while Ortanique sous chefs assist the competing teams.

The participants interact with each other, the sous chef and Hutson as they learn while they cook and then eat the resulting three-course meal. Also classes, which cost $108, include a welcome glass of sparkling wine, different wines paired with each course and gratuities.

The cooking classes are also available for private functions, although not necessarily with Hutson present because she is usually tending to her home restaurant in Miami.

“Companies like the classes for team building,” she said. “The bottom line is the wine is free-pouring and everyone has a blast.”


The cooking classes at Brasserie restaurant at Cricket Square in George Town focus on fresh ‘farm-to-table’ ingredients.

Held once a month on Sundays between October and June, the classes start with a welcome cocktail made from fresh seasonal fruit and herbs, which the participants learn how to make. Guests then walk through the Brasserie’s chef’s garden to actually pick some of the ingredients for the dishes they will make.

Brasserie Executive Chef Brad Phillips and consultant chef Dean James Max conduct the classes together in the restaurant’s kitchen for up to 13 guests.

“Everyone sits in the kitchen at a table that has a place setting in front of them, recipes, pens to make notes, and they enjoy their cocktail while Brad or I go over the first of three courses,” Max says.

”We then plate the course in front of them, serve them and [sommelier] Kyle [Kennedy] pairs a wine and discusses why he chose that. We do the same for the entree and then a dessert and then take questions at the end.”

Max says the classes are more demonstrations because the guests don’t have any hands-on participation, but there is interaction.

“Everyone asks questions as we go and we cover tons of technique and give other options to what we are doing,” he said.

A different wine is poured with each full course, all for a price of $86 including gratuity. The classes start at 11 am and are usually over at 1pm, but many people don’t leave until 2pm.

“That’s because everyone has a blast and hangs to chat after,” Max says.

Ristorante Pappagallo

The new kid on the block for cooking classes is Ristorante Pappagallo in the Barkers area of West Bay.

Although Pappagallo isn’t offering the classes on a regularly scheduled basis, owner/operator Vico Testori says they’re available by group reservation. He also says that when the various charities ask for donations to be used in fundraisers, he’s going to give away cooking classes.

The restaurant gives classes on how to make fresh pasta – which is relatively easy even if it is labour intensive – and some simple pasta sauces.

“There’s no sense in doing something too elaborate that people aren’t going to be able to make at home,” Testori says.

Pappagallo’s classes are led by sous chef Marco Signori and Andrea Lupo, under the watchful eye of head chef Steve Wagner.

The two offer lots of tips on ingredients. For instance, Lupo says Mediterranean mussels are more flavourful than those from Prince Edward Island because the Mediterranean has a lot of rivers flowing into it, adding more flavor-adding mineral salts to the water.

Signori talks about how extra virgin olive oil isn’t very good for cooking because it has a low burning point. In order to get some of its taste without the burning, Pappagallo uses a 50-50 mixture of extra virgin olive oil and pure olive oil.

The lighthouse Cooking

Lighthouse Cooking Class
stephen clarke