Local chefs are opening up their restaurant kitchens to home cooks for a series of virtual cooking classes hosted by the Exchange District BIZ.

The first volume of the Exchange District Cooking Club runs Jan. 17 to Feb. 7 with four classes featuring dishes from Chris Graves of the King’s Head Pub, chef Sean McKay of The Mitchell Block, chef Alfonso Maury of Corrientes Argentine Pizza and chef Aron Epp of Amsterdam Tea Room.

Local chefs are opening up their restaurant kitchens to home cooks for a series of virtual cooking classes hosted by the Exchange District BIZ.

The first volume of the Exchange District Cooking Club runs Jan. 17 to Feb. 7 with four classes featuring dishes from Chris Graves of the King’s Head Pub, chef Sean McKay of The Mitchell Block, chef Alfonso Maury of Corrientes Argentine Pizza and chef Aron Epp of Amsterdam Tea Room.

The goal is to give Winnipeggers something to do at home during the long, cold winter months while supporting neighbourhood businesses affected by pandemic restrictions.

"It’s as much for the community of people who love and spend time in Exchange District as it is for the restaurants that are involved," says David Pensato, executive director of the BIZ.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Chris Graves of the King’s Head Pub expects to hand homebound cooks some tips on butter chicken.</p></p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Chris Graves of the King’s Head Pub expects to hand homebound cooks some tips on butter chicken.

Tickets are $75 each and include a meal kit of all the ingredients needed to make butter chicken, homemade pasta, empanadas and dumplings for two people (additional portions are available for a fee). Proceeds from the ticket sales will go to the participating restaurants.

Exchange District Cooking Club lineup

Jan. 17 - Authentic butter chicken with Chris Graves from the King’s Head Pub

Jan. 17 - Authentic butter chicken with Chris Graves from the King’s Head Pub

Jan. 24 - Pasta dough, fillings and sauces with chef Sean McKay of The Mitchell Block

Jan. 31 - Two varieties of Argentinian-style empanadas and chimichurri with chef Alfonso Maury of Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria

Feb. 7 - Hutspot dumplings with sauteed kale, purple sauerkraut and cashew cream sauce with chef Aron Epp of Amsterdam Tea Room

Tickets are $75 each or $300 for a four-class pass; necessary ingredients included.

The organizers have added a second run of tickets after the first sold out in just a few days. Pensato isn’t surprised by the popularity and says the BIZ plans to offer more virtual cooking classes in the future, perhaps indefinitely.

"It’s kind of got everything that people are looking for," he says. "It’s a bit of a connection back to the restaurants that they enjoy and the cooks that are behind the scenes there (and) there is the element of learning something new."

The hour-long Zoom classes start at 4 p.m. each Sunday with meal kits available for curbside pick-up the day before. Participants will be able to ask questions throughout the lesson with chef Pamela Kirkpatrick acting as host and moderator — a role that brings her back to the early days of Cake-ology, the bakery she founded on Arthur Street.

"We ran a little cooking show on Shaw, probably like 10 years ago," she says with a laugh. "It was like 6,000 degrees (during filming) because it was August and all the fans had to be shut off so we could be picked up by the microphones."

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Alfonso Maury, owner of Corrientes, will help home cooks create two varieties of Argentinian-style empanadas and chimichurri.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Alfonso Maury, owner of Corrientes, will help home cooks create two varieties of Argentinian-style empanadas and chimichurri.

The temperature should be a little more comfortable this time around and Kirkpatrick is looking forward to being the bridge between the chefs and the audience.

"I’ll be helping engage with the chef, so they don’t feel the pressure to speak through all those steps and all the little tips and tricks," she says. "There’s that lack of being there one-on-one with somebody… but people can ask a question or raise their hand."

Kirkpatrick says the chefs involved are excited for the chance to interact with the public again; something that’s missing in the pivot to take-out and delivery operations.

"They’ve been busy, which is so great," she says. "But it’s a different kind of busy, where you’re packaging things for hours instead of running food to tables and talking with people."

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Pamela Kirkpatrick, founder of Cake-ology, will act as host and moderator for the hour-long Zoom classes.</p></p>

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Pamela Kirkpatrick, founder of Cake-ology, will act as host and moderator for the hour-long Zoom classes.

The Exchange District Cooking Club is suitable for home cooks of any age and Kirkpatrick, who is part of the program’s planning committee, recommends getting the whole family involved. Cooking together is something that’s kept her family sane and entertained over the last nine months.

"You’ve got no extracurriculars going on, there’s not a lot of errands to run, there’s nowhere to go," she says. "Dave (Pensato) and I both have kids… so that was a lingering idea in the back of minds, that people need another outlet of something to do with their kids."

Tickets and more information at exchangedistrict.org.

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

   Read full biography