Hands On: Learning to Cook in a Pandemic

One of Vancouver’s most notable culinary institutions has chosen to keep its hands-on cooking classes despite hands-off regulations

Claire Brnjac // Arts and Culture Editor
Alina Sandu // Illustrator

Like all good cooking classes, the one I took at the Dirty Apron had a couple of elements of danger to it: the assortment of knives available for our use, the many grills, the burners on our stoves, and the fact that later that day Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a halt to all nonessential travel outside the Fraser Health region for two weeks due to the rising coronavirus cases. 

The Dirty Apron, which has been open for eleven years in Vancouver’s Gastown, started as a recreational cooking school. It has since expanded to offer a catering service and a delicatessen, which serves an assortment of sandwiches, salads and soups. They have plans in the future to create a range of meals you can make at home, so you can get the feeling of taking a cooking class in the comfort of your own house. 

However, their cooking classes are their raison d’etre and it shows; the teaching was both charming and informative, the recipes printed out and neatly hung at our stations, and the food delicious. They have two options: a two-and-a-half-hour course called Demo and Dine, which has been suspended due to coronavirus, or a four hour class with three separate dishes. It was the latter that I took, a class centered around meat called “On the Bone – Braise, Roast and Grill.” The menu was seared lamb shanks, Korean short ribs, and baby back ribs, one after another. This was bracketed by a starting course, a flatbread with tomato relish and hummus, and a dessert, which was roasted almond ice cream. 

The coronavirus has slowed down the Dirty Apron’s operations, as it has for most other businesses in Vancouver. Their catering service has been shut down due to the lack of events, and their cooking class capacity has been scaled down 40 percent to account for proper social distancing. Masks are enforced during demonstrations, though not required when cooking or eating. 

Despite these limitations, there’s very little missing in terms of the overall experience. Tessa Turcotte-Novosedlik, our cooking teacher for the evening, commented, “I feel like I’m connecting with everyone still. Even though we all have masks on.” The table of five across from myself cheered over glasses of champagne when she showed off the finished dishes. Despite not being able to get physically close, there was a kinship between all of us based on our love of food, even in dark circumstances.

We finished all three courses in just under five hours, from 5:30 to just past 10 pm. Just as I was leaving the Dirty Apron, Bonnie Henry’s orders came into effect. I had enough leftovers to last me until I could wrap my head around staying at home for another three weeks. 

Learn more about the Dirty Apron on their website, www.dirtyapron.com. The Capilano Courier recommends proceeding with caution due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic and the recent B.C. Public Health Order.

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