The Dirty Apron’s Friday Night Bites

Watch and learn.

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It is a common teaching method: hands-on, do-it-yourself.

There is, of course, an argument to be made for that, and it can be highly effective. But sometimes you just want to sit back and watch. And as adults, that’s our prerogative.

Popular Vancouver cooking school The Dirty Apron, which educates nearly 10,000 people every year, began to hear from customers that they wanted a night where they could have some wine and observe the teacher instead of doing the cooking themselves. And so, Friday Night Bites was developed.

Starting in May and taking place two Fridays of every month in the school’s cozy delicatessen, Friday Night Bites offers a more relaxed approach to a typical cooking class in that all the student has to do is watch…and eat.

“We want everything to be approachable for the home cook,” says chef David Robertson, who runs the course. “We’re not doing molecular gastronomy.” Robertson may be a professional cook, but he’s a born teacher as well—he is funny and enthusiastic, making it easy to get excited about what he’s cooking (and not just because it looks amazing). Offering tips and tricks along with techniques and background information, he breaks down each dish into its basic components, and focuses on the elements that make it sing. “In cooking, the one thing that will trump everything is flavour,” he says. “I will always take a good-tasting plate over a plate that looks good.” His plates, for the record, are both.

“We’re not doing molecular gastronomy.”

The evening is chopped into its four courses: each one is demonstrated by Robertson and then served for consumption. Wine, of course, flows throughout. For the Italian-themed evening, things start off with yellow fin tuna steak in a beautiful tomato, caper, and olive sauce; next, it is ravioli made from scratch and filled with arugula and goat cheese, and topped with walnut and sage butter sauce; meat must come into play, and so there is a soft butternut squash and ricotta gnocchi with braised lamb shoulder ragout; finally, it’s to a light and crispy roasted pear tart with Frangelico red wine syrup and Muscat sabayon. A mirror hanging from the ceiling makes sure even the folks in the back can see, and allows everyone to watch as chef plates each dish—an art in itself.

The evening is laid back, more of a dinner party than a cooking class. “With the Canucks doing so bad, people are looking for other things to do,” Robertson jokes. Students leave with a full recipe list for the meal, as well as a handy gram-to-cup conversion table. They also leave with full and satisfied bellies, and a Friday evening well spent, really, no matter the NHL standings.

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April 7, 2016