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Consider this: where in your home do you spend the most time with your partner?
Is it in the bathroom as you both try to get ready for work?
Is it on the couch as you binge-watch your current favorite show?
Is it on the porch swing watching the sunset?
Is it in bed? (wink, wink)
Matthew and I spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen. I’m laughing as I write it because the kitchen is the smallest room in our apartment. So small that Matthew has learned to step out whenever I get a certain you-are-in-my-way look in my eyes. Still, despite the petiteness of our kitchen space, cooking is one of the most frequent things we do together. Almost daily we come together to prepare a meal.
It might seem obvious why. After all, we have to eat. However our purpose in cooking together is not merely survival. I am sure it is for some of you. You know who you are. But us, we meet in the kitchen to connect, explore, and have fun. Oh, and to eat delicious food too.
Connect, explore, and have fun.
I must confess that Matthew has the advantage on me in the cooking department. He not only graduated with a degree in Hospitality and Dietetics (so practical), but he also snagged a certificate in Culinary Arts. After graduating (early, I may add) he interned at little restaurant you might have heard of called Chez Panisse, home of the famed Alice Waters. Second confession: I did not know who Alice Waters was until Matthew made her out to be his hero. After a little research and a few cookbook scans I discovered she is kind of a big deal. The long story short is that Matthew knows what he is doing.
I garnered my cooking credentials from my mother’s kitchen, plus a few high school classes. Going into this marriage I thought that was pretty impressive. After all, compared to most people I know quite a bit about cooking. Like where the defrost button is on the microwave. Sure, I may not be able to cut and peel a carrot in under a minute, but I do know what tastes good. Like my mother, I am a taste-and-see kind of a cook. A little of this, a little of that. Never too much “measuring.”
On our first date Matthew made me a French Toast breakfast. It was at that point that I got on one knee and proposed. The rest is history.
All of this is to say, and it comes as no surprise: we love to cook, and more importantly we love to cook together. That’s why we partnered with The Chef and the Dish to bring you the cooking date of your dreams.
Skype a professional chef into your kitchen.
One of the biggest pros of using The Chef and the Dish is that you get a private cooking experience in your own home. It is just the two of you. (Though you can make it a double-date and sign up for the four-person package.) A professional chef then Skypes in from across the world to teach you how to make a dish of their local cuisine.
Let’s step back to take that in. If you sign up for a lesson in Thai cooking, a chef will Skype in from Thailand to give you a private lesson. How amazing is that?
We were thrilled to learn from Chef Paola Martinenghi, who Skyped us from outside of Milan, Italy. Our lesson revolved not around a dish, but an ingredient: Parmigiano Reggiano. On the menu was Bruschetta, Pasta Carbonara, and Stuffed Poached Pears, classics of Northern Italy. Matthew and I both love Italian food and have wanted to visit the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy (where this iconic cheese is made) for some time. After our lesson, we felt almost as if we had been there.
Chef Paola was not only an excellent cooking instructor, but also an excellent teacher. She taught us about the long process of creating Parmigiano Reggiano and how to tell the real thing from the imitation. She also taught us what distinguishes Italian cuisine from other types of cuisine. Having studied at ALMA, a prestigious Italian cooking school in Parma, graduated top of her class, and gone on to work for Michelin Star restaurants in Modena and Como, as well as having travelled extensively, Chef Paola was more than equipped to teach the likes of us.
Meet your new best friend.
I should make one thing clear: Paola is not your ordinary chef. Professional chefs tend to have a reputation for being . . . well, mean. It’s something that Matthew can attest to firsthand from his work in various kitchens. But having Paola in your kitchen is like having an old friend by your side who happens to know all about cooking. Even with her extensive credentials, she is the type of person you feel comfortable with and who inspires you to ask questions.
Before the lesson began we were able to get introduced to Chef Paola’s charming personality with a video of her buying food on market day in her home town. She bought fresh vegetables, cheese, and wine all the while chatting it up with the locals. This instantly made us wanderlusting after Italy and eager to get cooking.
We set all of our ingredients out on the counter in preparation, then our Skype call came in right on time. Chef Paola introduced herself before giving us the low down about where she is from and what we would be cooking. I confess that I was a bit nervous, considering the people I was cooking with both had far more cooking knowledge than I did. But I soon found that my nervousness was unwarranted. Chef Paola walked us through every step with a smile and was patient with me as I mounted the learning curve.
At first some of the methodology seemed unusual to me, like tomato juice on Bruschetta and Parmigiano Reggiano on poached pears. In the end, however, we were glad we trusted Chef Paola. The flavors were incredibly fresh and not in the least bit strange-tasting. After we finished our cooking, we said goodbye to Chef Paola and devoured our meal. Unsurprisingly, we both wished we had more room in our stomachs for more.
An experience you can take with you.
For anyone looking for something exceptional to do for an anniversary or birthday, or looking for a special wedding gift, this is it. It is unlike any other cooking class you will ever take—personal, exciting, romantic. When I asked Matthew his thoughts, he said, “It felt like being transported to another country.”
Food has a way of connecting people. Perhaps what makes a lesson with The Chef and the Dish stand apart is that this experience, learning something new together, you can take with you. The skills you learn, as well as the recipes, can make their way into your everyday life.
After all, you have to eat.
You can follow The Chef and the Dish on social media @chefandthedish.