Offering in-home or in-studio small group cooking classes in Midtown Toronto and Vaughn, The Chef Upstairs lets you grow your kitchen skills, and get a taste of what it’s like to work in a fast-paced restaurant environment. Chefs lead interactive classes where participants work together to create a seasonal menu using local ingredients.
Weeknight classes begin at 6:30pm and wrap up around 9:30pm. The hours fly by as you work as a team in a family style kitchen to create your meal. Then you’re in for a treat: getting to try each delicious course! You’ll leave the class with the skills and recipes to recreate the meal at home. All skill levels are welcome and the chef will offer tips and tricks to make each step fun and stress-free. It’s a supportive environment and a great activity to gift to anyone interested in boosting their confidence in the kitchen.
We were so excited to recently participate in one of The Chef Upstairs’ adult cooking classes, Canadian Winter Comforts, with Chef Pierre Beaumier. On the menu: a spiced squash and ginger soup, cornish hen with maple-glazed root vegetables and kale, and maple-whiskey butter tarts.
Sofia: Going into the class, I was worried about embarrassing myself with my lack of knife skills. Do I chop vegetables and meat at home almost every day? Sure, but I typically do so without good form and in a pretty dangerous way. I thought my lousy knife skills would be on display in front of a class of strangers and a professional chef. Also, when I read the menu we would be working on, I was hoping to be placed on anything but the soup course because it’s a recipe I frequently make at home. So when Andrea and I were placed on the soup course, I was nervous for all the chopping we had to do and a little disappointed thinking I wouldn’t learn as many new things to implement at home.
Andrea: While I was heavily relying on the fact that the class would be beginner-friendly (for my sake), I still expected the demographic to be older and experienced home cooks. I figured the type of person who would take a three-hour weeknight cooking class is somebody who already has a handle on the basics, and is serious about expanding their repertoire and talents in the kitchen! While I regularly cook at home, I don’t feel particularly skilled, and I had never made any of the items on the menu before (other than root vegetables). I was envisioning a giant test kitchen, and was equally apprehensive about my total lack of knife skills.
Andrea: We entered the venue to find ourselves in a warm, inviting, brick walled interior that resembled a homey condo more than a formal teaching kitchen (in a good way!) We were given the friendliest welcome by Chef Pierre and The Chef Upstairs team, in addition to the other students who had arrived. I was thrilled to see how diverse the class was, with people from a variety of ages and experience levels. Everyone there was just looking to learn, enjoy a fun winter evening and share a delicious meal. Shortly after our arrival, wine was poured and introductions made, and everyone was chatting. Immediately the entire experience felt relaxed and more like a fun dinner party than a class.
Sofia: Before we started working with the very sharp knives, Chef Pierre gave us a thorough tutorial. We began with the basics, how to hold the knife properly to have the best control over what you’re doing. This was news to me, apparently I have been holding the handle too far back for years. Next, how to ensure your fingers stay safe as you chop. This technique took a bit of getting used to, but my fingers will be happy not having to be on the line every time I’m chopping something. Finally, Chef taught us tricks on the most efficient method of chopping to get symmetrical diced pieces. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about in terms of lacking knife skills. No one was sent off to do a new task without support and guidance from the Chef. I’m actually glad we were placed on the soup team because we got to see our dish through to the end and learned tips on plating as well!
Format of the Class
Sofia: The large family style kitchen is reminiscent of a cooking show, with ample seating around the counter. Drinks are available to purchase before the class to enjoy as you cook and eat. Before the cooking begins, Chef goes over the menu, ingredients we’ll be using and demonstrates useful techniques. Then we’re divided up into teams to work on the various courses at the same time. Chef does an incredible job guiding a large group through the activity while empowering you to take initiative and make the recipe your own.
Andrea: When cooking began, I’ll admit, the menu and instruction started to feel much more advanced than I’d expected. From intricate multi-step dicing techniques, to slicing poultry spines with kitchen shears, there was lots to learn. Luckily we then broke into teams and only had to work on one thing at time – whew!! This made all the difference and we had a blast working on our soup from start to serve.
Final Thoughts and First Bites
Andrea: Chef Pierre was fantastic – always there to guide and instruct if needed, with an eye on everyone’s safety. At the same time, he encouraged us to try new things, be bold with our flavours and play it loose with recipes. The result? Beautiful dishes that were clearly designed by a chef, but that still bore our own unique stamps, as individual cooks! As we all enjoyed serving each other our meal, we had fun noting these little signatures, like extra spice in our soup, uniquely shaped pastry shells in our tarts, and our own decorative plating. The meal was delicious, and what stood out to me was how complementary the flavours were. The recipes enhanced the local ingredients without overpowering them – earthy beets, fresh kale and rich, nutty squash paired deliciously with Chef’s spice and seasoning choices – and of course, with some Canadian maple syrup. The butter tart was a huge highlight for me; the unsweetened whipping cream was the perfect balance to the sweet, decadent filling. I will definitely make these recipes at home!
Sofia: I genuinely enjoyed the experience and would definitely attend another cooking class with the Chef Upstairs. I learned a lot of useful skills that I’ve already starting implementing in my own kitchen. It was a fresh take on recipes I was familiar with and since I usually lean towards a sweater flavour profile when I cook, it was nice to experience savoury recipes I can use to switch things up at home. Chef Pierre was a great instructor! I was amazed by his multitasking skills and uncanny ability to seemingly be able to be exactly where he was needed at any given time.
Thank-you to the Chef Upstairs for kindly sponsoring our participation in this class. All feedback and opinions expressed are our own.