Tree House Kitchen is truly a teaching kitchen! Chef Nancy’s philosophy extends to everyone who comes into Tree House, including apprentices and assistant chef instructors. In the collaborative way of creating that is her style, the Tree House team learns from one another and from the experiences each one has with students.
Assistant chef Lauren Charman offers a behind-the-scenes look at the components that make Tree House Kitchen cooking classes unique experiences for staff and students, especially in attention to detail, environmental connection, and empowering sensory exploration.
Update: We’re so proud of the work we’ve done in our hands-on teaching and dinner party classes. Working with you, our clients has played such an important part in the new direction of Tree House Kitchen as a food literacy company, specializing in problem-solving skills and resources for busy families, and community members – like you! We hope you enjoy reading about our past classes, and also where we’re headed in 2017, and beyond.
Attention to detail: At Tree House Kitchen we explore various styles of world cuisine, anchored by our skills, palates, and a whole food concept. No corners are cut in creating the demonstration and hands-on recipes, as well as the finished dishes which guests enjoy at the dining table during cooking classes. For instance, we are always simmering homemade stocks and building foundational flavours, and we go to market, gather, and prepare carefully sourced ingredients before cooking classes. Zesting and juicing fresh citrus, accurately chopping vegetables, and washing and chopping fresh herbs are always taken care of at the last minute, for bursts of flavour and colour. Take-home recipes are tested carefully, so that students have recipe systems which will work when they start creating at home. More than just a series of tasks, recipes include details of the questions curious cooks and eaters ask about food – the “how, what, why, where” of culinary exploration!
Environmental connection: The Tree House Kitchen team explores whole foods for more than just their flavour or nutritional aspects, but also from the perspective of the environment and the community. A delicious French lentils du puys recipe development time includes researching the sustainability and low carbon footprint of a Canadian lentil variation. As a team, we have gone to the forest to forage for wild mushrooms, fiddleheads and wild leeks, and have watched maple syrup production. Recipe testing includes trips to the sustainably planted wildflower garden outside of Tree House, to gather edibles like aronia berries, Queen Anne’s lace, tomatoes, and handfuls of fresh herbs. We connect with talented local farmers like ManoRun Farm and Chassagne Farm, to source fresh, flavourful, and nourishing ingredients. This is all part of an ongoing learning process about the connection between our natural world and the food that we eat, and also another way that we have fun exploring food!
Empowering sensory exploration: Nancy believes that everyone has the ability to learn new skills and expand their palette, and each person who joins the Tree House Kitchen team wholeheartedly shares this belief. Cooking is personal, based not only on cooking theory but on an individual’s prior skills, cultural influences, and taste experiences. Nancy’s recipe systems give students the opportunity to use their innate sense of exploration: touching, smelling, tasting, asking questions, and watching for quality ingredients out in the wider world around them.
This exploration was exemplified at Tree House Kitchen’s recent Parent and Child Family Fun Cooking Class. Pictured here – five family groups prepared barbecue sauces from an assortment of the same ingredients – yet each one turned out unique AND delicious. Students intently sampled components, smelling herbs, and tasting spice blends as they built their signature tomato sauce. This same concept was explored at our hands-on soup building cooking class. Students were given Nancy’s top ten tips of soup building (available as part of her Tree House Tips Newsletter), then given the chance to explore as teams, developing their own flavour profiles! Our goal is accomplished when students feel empowered in their own kitchens, nourishing themselves after learning through hands-on connections and taste sensations at Tree House Kitchen.