A recent invitation to the Spice Island cooking school at San Remo revealed cooking classes don’t need to be a tame, hands-off affair; quite the contrary. Paul Stafford’s teaching style is energetic, fun and unfrazzled.
His school is about good food, good company and good fun. I’ve attended many classes over the years but Spice Island would have to be the rowdiest and most unruly; the best I’ve ever been to.
During the 90s I spent many evenings in the small kitchen of Aruna Kuba, an Indian lady, who ran regular cooking classes from her tiny apartment above the bustling streets of Riyadh.
About a dozen expatriate women would squeeze around her kitchen island; it was the stage to her ever-changing performances. A calm, meditative air surrounded all her demonstrations, these were my benchmark.
To arrive at a vibrant, colourful open-plan cooking school cum café in downtown San Remo was not what I was expecting. The only thing meditative about Spice Island was the name of Paul’s efficient offsider called Angel. Everything else is fast-paced, frenetic, hands-on and delicious; it’s my kind of cooking.
A long bench encumbered with a psychedelic array of Balinese mise-en-place took centre stage. Armed with a Phillip Island Purple Hen sauvignon blanc and an apron we were ushered to our stations to grind, chop and stir the night away. Somehow, amidst the frivolity and wine our group managed to create a Balinese extravaganza. Chicken satays, roasted eggplant sambal, aromatic poached chicken and curry fish miraculously materialised before our eyes.
But the best part about the evening was retiring to a long communal table laden with the fruits of our labour. The philosophy behind Spice Island is simple. Cooking classes designed for groups – friends, corporate and family – seeking a little ‘me’ time.
It’s a dinner party with a twist.
San Remo is a relaxed few hours drive from Melbourne. The Silverwater Resort, moments away from the school, is the perfect base for a weekend escape. Luxury apartments await your arrival.
Spice Island Cooking School and Pantry
117 Marine Pde
17 Potters Hill Rd
T 1800 033 403