John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Chef Ned Grieg, executive chef at Woodman’s and the Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about why you should take a cooking class. Welcome, Ned.
Ned Grieg: Good afternoon.
Types of Cooking Classes
John: Ned, are there different types of cooking classes that are available for people?
Ned: Yes. They are all very, very different. The ones that we give at the Essex Room are more like a culinary demonstration in a dining experience. People see me prepare certain dishes, but they’re really coming to sit down and eat and enjoy our full course meal.
One thing I do in that type of cooking class, I try to de‑mystify at least one particular recipe, how to make a hollandaise, or how to make a souffle, freeze it, take it out of the freezer, and it would still be good six months later when you re‑warm it up.
That’s what we do there, but I also give professional cooking classes, where I’m training people to become chefs, and I also do cooking classes for my son’s school up in South Berwick, Maine, and I do that to teach these children how they can make healthy choices, as opposed to some of the snacks that we will prefer our children not to be having these days.
Those are three types right there. I’ve also done one where I’ve literally taken people out to a farm, we go harvest ingredients, and then whatever they have in their basket is what we create. That’s a lot of fun.
John: That would be a lot of fun.
Ned: There are different ways of doing it. The ones that we like or at least the clientele that we’ve had at the Essex Room, they are definitely coming to eat. They want to see a few recipes, but they don’t want to get their hands dirty. They just want to see what’s going on.
Reasons For Taking a Cooking Class
John: What are some of the reasons for people taking a cooking class?
Ned: Education, entertainment – it’s a great night out. It breaks up the monotony. If you’re a foodie, of course you’re going to like it because you’re going to be able to learn something firsthand, and ask questions to an executive chef that you’re probably not going to be able to get over the Internet when you Google those words.
Cooking Classes for Couples
John: Do cooking classes make a fun date for couples to do together?
Ned: Definitely. Just ask Cynthia. She is one of the reigning partners right now at Woodman’s Restaurant Group in the Essex Room. She just loves it. She will bring about three or four of her girlfriends every time. That’s her week. That’s what makes her happy. She gets a lovely meal and entertains her friends. Yes, it is. It’s a great thing to do.
Do men and women enjoy cooking classes?
John: Do men and women both enjoy taking cooking classes?
Ned: I think the ladies prefer it more. It may be a young housewife. The last one we had, there were actually three couples that came. They were a mother and daughter, which I thought was interesting. We had 18 and 42‑year‑olds that were coming to do this. Men do come, just not as much as women do.
John: I think it would be something interesting for me. I always enjoy cooking now and then. It would be good to learn some new skills, and things like that. Like you said, sounds like making a hollandaise sauce, just sounds really intimidating to me. I’ll bet once you show people how to do it, like you said, it de‑mystifies it and makes it seem like, “That’s really possible. I could do that.”
Ned: It is. It is not that difficult to do. Of course, I’ve probably done it 5,000 times so for me, it’s fairly easy for me to do. Showing people little tricks of the trade, how to fillet a salmon, how to make your own bacon, do you know what the cost of bacon is these days? A good bacon is ridiculous.
If you go to your butcher, you can get a pork belly for $2.19 a pound, and it will weigh 11 pounds. It’s going to cost you three dollars to cure that piece of meat. You’ll have the best bacon you’ll ever have in your life.
My children, they go through about two pounds of bacon and a gallon of maple syrup a month. I found a way to make my budget work a little bit better. That’s another good reason to learn how to cook better or take a cooking class, is that you can take your ingredients and instead of going out to dinner, you can do this at home because if you go out to dinner, you’re going to spend $150. You can do it at home for probably $45.50.
John: Just buying those raw ingredients…
Ned: Doing it yourself.
John: …and making it yourself.
Ned: Making a night out of it.
John: Sounds like a lot of fun. Chef Ned, Thanks very much for sticking with me today.
Ned: You’re welcome. Anytime.