It seems everyone's a food critic these days, which means cooking for a dinner party, or just whipping up a post-work meal, can be daunting. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen – and into someone else's. Here are some of Melbourne's best cooking classes.
Spice Bazaar | Seddon
If you've never been to a cooking class, Spice Bazaar is a great place to start. The small, hands-on classes are loads of fun, and you get to eat whatever you cook – usually several courses, so come hungry – accompanied by matching wines. Some classes focus on regional cuisine, such as Thai street food or Spanish paella, while others allow your tastebuds to go globetrotting – the Curry Lovers class includes Ethiopian pastries, Sri Lankan seafood curry and Sumatran beef rendang. No matter which mouthwatering cooking class you choose, the dishes are sure to help spice up your repertoire.
The Essential Ingredient | Prahran
Looking for freeze-dried passionfruit powder, dwarf peaches in truffle oil or a sachet of squid ink? Head to The Essential Ingredient, a drool-inducing gourmet food shop that attracts foodies like flies to a bowl of organic demerara sugar. Looking for some of Melbourne's best cooking classes that will take you beyond the basics and into serious foodie territory? Head upstairs to The Essential Ingredient Cooking School, which holds such diverse classes as butter-making, brining and pickling, cooking with salted caramel and even making your own tofu. Teachers include chefs from some of Melbourne's favourite restaurants; Victor Liong (Lee Ho Fook) leads an Asian cooking class, Jessi Singh (Horn Please) teaches a hands-on introduction to Indian food, and Daniel Wilson (Huxtable) takes a smokin' hot look at smoked meats. Looking for guests for your next dinner party? Hi, nice to meet you…
Gewürzhaus | Hawksburn
Sydney has the Opera House, but Melbourne has the 'G; Sydney has Herbie's Spices, a shop overflowing with herbs and spices, but Melbourne has three Gewürzhaus shops, each one a fragrant ode to sugar and spice and all things nice. And while the shops are best known for their sublime spice mixes and unusual ingredients (vintage merlot salt, anyone?), their cooking school is also whetting appetites. Diverse topics include Israeli, Mexican and Moroccan cuisine, chocolate-making and salt appreciation; there's even a class on traditional German cookies conducted in conversational German, perhaps not surprising as the shop's name is German for spice house. Book early as places sell out faster than you can say, 'Gewürzhaus – another reason Melbourne is better than Sydney.'
CAE | MELBOURNE CBD & Box Hill
Ah, CAE. That bastion of learning, its hallowed halls echoing with the footsteps of eager students, its very air full of knowledge, its – dumplings! And éclairs! And fresh pasta! And – oops, sorry, got a bit excited there. If you think CAE's a daggy old-school school, think again. CAE offers some of Melbourne's best cooking classes, ranging from from vegetarian banquets to slow-cooked comfort food and, yes, dumplings. There's even a 'boot camp' style course for those of us who think a cheese toastie counts as cooking. Hell, if you've completed CAE's breadmaking course and you're making your own white sliced, it does count as cooking. Bonus points if you use homemade condiments on that toastie after attending the chutneys, pickles and relishes class. Ah, CAE. With so many tasty courses on offer, it's a surprise those initials don't stand for Cooking And Eating.
Pip's Cooking School | Moonee Ponds
Whether you're allergic to cooking or allergic to food, Pip's Cooking School has a class for you. Don't know your chef's knife from your frying pan? Enrol in a beginner's course – there's a three-hour session or a six-week course for those wanting to learn more than the basics. Gluten intolerant, or trying to impress someone who is? Get de-floured at one of Pip's gluten-free baking classes, which include breadmaking, cakes and pizza. She also runs a high tea session in which participants make and eat their own scones, petit fours and profiteroles – and gluten-free options are available. Now that really takes the (gluten-free) biscuit.
Gânache Chocolate School | South Yarra
Stop drooling. Just because Gânache, a much-loved chocolate shop, also offers short courses in how to make truffles, macarons and bespoke chocolate bars, that's no excuse. But we'll forgive you if the thought of building a chocolate house makes you salivate. That particular class is for group bookings only, so get your friends together and go back to school. Learning has never been so sweet.
Oasis Bakery | Murrumbeena
As if we didn't love Oasis Bakery enough, the Middle Eastern bakery, cafe and grocery store in one also offers regular cooking classes. It's the perfect place to learn all the tips and tricks on Middle Eastern cooking with classes including Winter Soups, Duck Tajine, 11 Minute Meals (this one will be popular!) and Lebanese BBQ. Once you've brushed up on your cooking skills, stop by the grocery section to pick up all the ingredients to recreate the dish at home, along with a copy of Oasis Bakery's cookbook Yallateef! Sorted!
Main image credit: My Darling Lemon Thyme