Cooking classes for tourists in Valparaíso
April 14, 2016
If you’re a foodie like me, trying the local cuisine is often one of the high points of visiting another country. I’ve often felt that my visit would be enhanced if a local person could show me round the local market and explain to me how some of the local dishes are made. I was therefore delighted to learn that there are cooking classes for tourists in Valparaíso and I recently went along to check it out.
Australian Martin Turner and his Chilean wife, Lissette, ran a very successful bed and breakfast in Valparaíso for several years and often heard visitors comment that they would have loved to do a cookery class to learn how to make Chilean dishes. So, in early 2010, they launched Chilean Cuisine Cooking Classes.
The school has been a big success and now employs three teacher chefs, a sommelier, as well as cleaning staff. There are classes every day and it’s possible to book even at the last minute.
The concept is simple – people visiting Valparaíso spend a few hours in a small group preparing a few typical Chilean dishes, which they share in a convivial atmosphere, accompanied by Chilean wine. The classes are designed to be fun and hands-on and are usually in English, though Spanish, German and French are options and, from next year, classes will be available in Mandarin too. They also offer a number of bespoke classes, as well as a tour to visit wineries in the Casablanca Valley combined with a cooking class.
“We love to meet people and see them enjoying Chilean Cuisine, the wonderful local wine and learning about Chile´s culture as they chat over dinner and share stories. We are very proud of each of our small team” who “help show some of the best of Chile`s traditional gastronomy to visitors from all around the world,” Martin explains.
My class was on a cloudy Thursday outside of the main tourist season, so I thought there would just be a couple of us. In fact I was one of 12, an eclectic mix of 3 men and 9 women of different ages and walks of life from the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Colombia, Switzerland and Germany.
We met our teacher, chef Carolina, outside a café in Valparaíso’s historic square Plaza Sotomayor at 10 a.m. We took a bus together to the local market, where Carolina explained the menu options and we agreed what we were going to cook. Then we all went shopping together. Another bus ride and a walk uphill with our purchases and we were in the kitchen. A large table had already been set up with a chef’s hat and apron in the colours of the Chilean flag, together with a chopping board and kitchen knives for each participant. Everyone washed their hands and the work began.
Every class prepares the Chilean cocktail pisco sour, as well as the Chilean meat pasties known as empanadas and pebre, the classic salsa dish to be found on every restaurant table. Then there is the group’s choice of starter, main course and dessert.
Our group decided to make ceviche, where finely chopped filleted fish is cooked in lemon juice and served with diced onion and pepper. Next came a classic Chilean comfort dish, charquicán, a vegetable and minced beef stew. The final dish was the most fiddly, leche asada, Chile’s version of a crème caramel. The secret is getting the caramel right – it’s easy to burn it – and petite German travel agent Karen did a sterling job.
We split into small teams, each responsible for a particular task or dish and for the next couple of hours we were all busy chopping ingredients and preparing the different dishes. By the time we sat down to eat our lunch, it was almost 3 p.m.; the wine was flowing, conversation in full swing and everyone had a very healthy appetite.
The group was in good spirits following their class and there was a general sense that this had been a special experience in their travels around South America. Chilean Cuisine provided a deft finishing touch by emailing us all a booklet with all the recipes a few days later. I wonder if anyone will try the recipes when they get home…
- Phone +56 9 6621 4626