On Friday night, Peter and I joined 7 other couples for a cooking class at Sur la Table: “Date Night – Taste of Tuscany. Sounds delicious, right?
We had no idea what to expect and were pleasantly surprised that the class was not just a demonstration but a really truly, hands-on, aprons on and knives up lesson.
Our teacher, the adorable Chef Stephanie, greeted us and, with the help of her trusty assistants, got us all set up at our stations.
As she introduced herself to one couple in particular, Chef Stephanie was confronted with this:
Chef Stephanie: Hi. I’m Chef Stephanie.
Dude: I’m Chef Bob.
Chef Stephanie: Oh, you’re a chef!
Chef Stephanie: Great! Where do you cook?
Dude: I’ll tell you after class.
(At this point Dude, AKA “Chef” Bob turned his back and proceeded to start snapping selfies with his +1.)
Little did Chef Stephanie know, this was the first of many challenges she would encounter during the course of the evening.
Next, two people arrived who weren’t on the class list but insisted they belonged.
Chef Stephanie’s challenge #2.
No problem! Chef Stephanie rallied her troops to set up a couple of additional stations. Crisis averted.
Then a group of six, friends celebrating Paul’s 49th birthday (for the fifth time), arrived and immediately complained about their group being at non-adjacent stations.
Chef Stephanie’s challenge #3. No problem!
Actually this one worked out for us because Peter and I were relocated to the very front, right next to where Chef Stephanie was leading the class.
Can you say “Teacher’s Pets?”.
OK, let’s get started (after we welcome this final lovely couple who arrived 15 minutes late…)
In the interest of time, the fine crew at Sur La Table had already prepped most of our ingredients. Good thinking.
We learned that we would be working in teams of four – two couples per portable propane cooktop.
Unfortunately, the downside of our “front of the class” spot was that it meant we were teamed up with none other than “Chef” Bob and his +1.
We tried to engage. We really did. But got nothing. In spite of our attempts, the entire conversation consisted of “Needs more salt.”
Because of all the moving around of teams, Chef Stephanie had to reallocate some of the resources to different areas of the prep table. In doing so, the poor girl managed to knock over a full bottle of olive oil that shattered, sending both glass shards and gobs of olive oil INTO HER SHOE.
If you are keeping score, this is Chef Stephanie’s challenge #4.
Clean up took a little bit of time but soon we were all up to our elbows in Tuscan cooking!
We leaned some basic knife skills, how to make a simple vinaigrette, how to “supreme” an orange, and how to make a wine reduction sauce. In theory.
Phew, after all that hard work we had earned our 10 minute break. The perfect amount of time to stroll around the Sur La Table store and pick up all of the kitchen gadgets we never knew we needed and now couldn’t live without.
But the store was very quiet. Peter and I thought we had gotten so caught up in the 52 different types of salt available for purchase that we missed the call back to class.
No, the store was so quiet because Paul and his merry band of birthday celebrators thought that a 10 minute break was the perfect amount of time to run across the street for a round of drinks at the wine bar. And their new BFFs, the late arriving couple, went with them.
Now, you know me, I’m up for a glass of wine almost any time. But I’m also a pathological rule follower and if Chef Stephanie says 10 minutes, I’m going to do my very best to be back at my station in 10 minutes.
Chef Stephanie’s challenge #5. How the heck do I wrangle this group back together. Do I even want to?
I’m pretty sure that by this time Chef Stephanie was ready to break into the liquor cabinet herself.
FINALLY, a half hour later, we reassembled and it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labors.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that “Chef” Bob and +1 spent the entire 30 minutes of break time – I’m not kidding – taking selfies.
Never mind, it’s finally dinner time!
We started with an arugula and pear salad topped with a dijon mustard vinaigrette.
Chef Stephanie and her helpers prepared our Prosciutto wrapped chicken breasts for plating.
The chicken was topped with a chianti reduction sauce that poor Chef Stephanie, bless her soul, tried to save but our collective effort turned out to be a bit more of a chianti juice than a chianti reduction.
To be fair, it was still pretty tasty!
Our dessert was a yummy pane cotta with an orange and cinnamon sauce.
Because it had to “set” in the refrigerator, the pane cotta was the very first thing we made. That it turned out so beautifully is completely attributed to the fact that we prepared it before all hell broke loose.
Thankfully for Chef Stephanie, the class finally came to an end.
“Chef” Bob raced out before he could divulge where he does his cooking. I admit that I’m a novice but after teaming up with him and observing his “chef” skills, I’m pretty sure that the only place Bob cooks is in the love nest he shares with +1.
I have no problem with that but why on earth introduce yourself in such a ridiculously tool-ish way?
As Peter and I were saying good-bye and thank you to Chef Stephanie (with a hug thrown in because God knows she really needed it), we noticed that two other couples – the only other non-drama producing people in the class – had apparently hit it off so well that they were exchanging contact information.
That made Chef Stephanie very happy and almost made up for everything else.
I don’t care how much Sur La Table paid Chef Stephanie for her services, it was not nearly enough.
Peter and I left class and headed straight for our very favorite La Jolla restaurant, Whisknladle, for a glass of wine.
I just wish we had thought to invite Chef Stephanie to join us.Thanks for stopping by,
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