With all festivals, experiences and restaurants being cancelled or closed at some point during 2020, many chefs started looking at how to share their passion and love of food with diners no matter where they were. This led to a surge in cookalongs and online classes, which allowed us to connect like never before.
The fine-dining experience
When Matt Manning announced that you could enjoy Grab & Vine’s fine-dining menu in your own home – and play pro chef for the evening – I decided to go for it. Thankfully, most of the five-course menu was prepared by the Grub & Vine team, leaving diners to finish the starter (premade potato gnocchi) and main (duck breast). At a cost of R625 per person, the box came with videos and a PDF document outlining the recipes. Even with all this material at my disposal, I gained a new appreciation for fine dining after this class – my plate was an artful mess of doinks and squiggles that tasted much better than it looked.
The classic date night
Having established that plating was not in my skill set, I decided on something a bit more basic for my next virtual experience: Bertus Basson’s Food Sessions. For R145, you could access the step-by-step video for either the Date Night or Feast for Friends cookalong. After so many months of the hubby and I being in the same space all day, every day, I decided we needed something to liven things up, and Bertus’s Date Night was just the ticket. Bertus’s easy, conversational style meant that the recipes were easy to follow with maximum flavour and minimum clean up.
A taste of Italy
Airbnb Experiences means that you can cook with a Michelin-starred chef in the USA or drink sangrias with drag queens in Portugal. You can even learn to cook Cape Malay curry in Bo-Kaap. With COVID having derailed my plans to go to Italy this year, I jumped at the opportunity to make cavatelli pasta with a Florentine cook. A friend of mine also decided to join from Nelspruit, making this a truly special experience. It took a bit of work for everything to line up – load shedding frequently got in the way (a phenomenon I had to explain to Lucrezia, the Italian cuoca) – but when all three of us managed to find ourselves in our kitchens together, it was truly magical.