13 hands-on cooking classes in and around Brisbane
Let’s not whip this into more than what it is. I’m not a cook. I never wanted to be a MasterChef contestant. And I would wilt faster than your average basil leaf in a Brisbane kitchen if I had to organise one more dinner party.
What I do is cooking classes. I L.O.V.E them… and the magic genie that comes with them. I get my three wishes: a genie buys the ingredients, offers me some wine, and then cleans up after me. Genie. Genius.
Over the years, I’ve made Cha Ca Va Long in Hoi An, Kerala Prawns in Kochin, and I helped cook something really awesome at the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay in Bali (note: the equatorial heat combined with free pour Veuve Clicquot neutralised any memory of what it was).
I’ve also done a fair share of cooking classes around Brisbane and I’d like to consider myself the Heston Blumenthal of judges when it comes to knowing where to go within a couple of hours of the capital. Here’s what I’d recommend:
1. Spirit House at Yandina, Sunshine Coast
Expect a little krapow when you book a class at The Spirit House. Located just off the Bruce Highway two hours north of Brisbane and about 20 minutes inland from Noosa, it’s hard to believe this alfresco restaurant was once a fallowed cane field because now it oozes oriental charm with towering bamboo trees and a picturesque lotus pond.
I’ve been twice: first for a “cooking for the clueless” class (my term) that turned me into a self-anointed Thai Beef Salad wizard. Second, I led The Remarkables Group into making yummy salmon sticks, fresh spring rolls and the perfect BBQ satay chicken. (Tip: soak the sticks in water for a long time so you don’t char them). Both times the food was divine.
This is a super popular activity especially around school holidays, so book well ahead. Also, there’s no accommodation nearby and the RBT (random breath testing) police team often choose the local roundabout so count all those drinks your genie brings to the table!
2. Life’s a Feast Cooking School, Noosaville
I swear I was looking at Lady Penelope from The Thunderbirds when I did this cooking class. I mean, how does Gail (the whip-smart and wonderful host), stay so perfectly coiffed after slaving over a hot stove for a couple of hours?
What’s great about this school is that classes are held in a relaxed, private home just a few minutes’ drive from Noosa’s Main Beach. There’s no fancy-pants commercial kitchen (it’s kind of like what you have at home, but with top-of-the-range appliances) and the food you cook is wholesome and bursting with flavour. Best thing is Gail holds hands-on classes and you actually learn. My knife cutting skills went up a notch or four under her careful tuition and I loved the tips picked up from On the Table in Twenty. Life’s a Feast also offers Noosa Farmers’ Market Tours for a true paddock to plate experience.
3. James Street Cooking School, New Farm, Brisbane
How posh! We were on James Street and both the fancy folks who ran this class and the softly-spoken guests who attended knew it. I bought a ‘how to prepare for the perfect party’ class for my bestie and we spent the night wrapping prawns up in Kataifi (that’s fancy speak for shredded pastry) and frying up halloumi.
James Street Cooking School wasn’t as hands on as some I’ve been to, but it was fun, centrally located, and we were able to relax afterwards at the popular Cru Bar downstairs.
4. Wild Lime Cooking School, Lost World Valley
Who cares about cooking when the scenery is this damned tasty? Ninety minutes’ drive south west of Brisbane is The Lost World Valley, an inspiration for your taste buds encircled by the dramatic ranges of Lamington National Park.
The focus here is on using local produce to create everyday dishes that are elevated to perfection – I learned how to make the consummate quiche – and then sitting back on the huge balcony to drink in the country scenery while you dine. Again, the kitchen is pretty regular; the flavours that come out are not.
I definitely recommend this one for a weekend getaway with a group of friends. Also, if you’re travelling with kids, the local homestay operators work in unison and you can drop them off at nearby Cedar Glen Farmstay for horse riding and milking cows while you create grown-up flavours.
5. Tamborine Cooking School, Mt Tamborine
It was so easy to turn this half-day cooking class into a one-day feast after Terri brought out an arsenal of local farm produce to tempt our palate.
Using triple cream brie from the neighbouring Witches Chase Cheese Factory, avocado and cherry tomatoes from the verdant valley below, local prawns and a very bold bottle of Prophesy from nearby Witches Falls Winery, we cooked up a four-course, gob-smackingly-drool-worthy storm for lunch. And then sat on the deck and enjoyed the stunning English garden and Aussie valley views.
Terri is not only an excellent chef, she is an advocate for the local farming community and we spent the afternoon popping into the providores and cellar doors to taste even more. This cooking class is a perfect country jaunt, easily done from Brisbane or the Gold Coast. But if you have the time, Mt Tamborine is worth an overnight stay.
6. The Golden Pig, Newstead, Brisbane
Take a funky warehouse in inner-city Newstead, add two passionate foodies, aka Katrina (ex-Spirit House) and Mark Ryan, and you’ve got Brisbane’s edgiest cooking school, The Golden Pig.
Our class was huge: about 40 colleagues working hard (and competitively) to create all manner of party canapes. It was festive and heaps of fun.
A big supporter of local, small-scale producers, there’s also a coffee bar, lounge, rear BBQ deck and retail goodies to browse.
7. Roar Food, Gold Coast
If you want to look like the beautiful people on the Gold Coast, then a two-hour Roar Food class is the place to start. Uncooked, unprocessed, often organic or wild, here we created delicious nut and dairy-free meals without once flicking on the oven.
Thankfully, it’s not all about skinny delights like raw beetroot pate and cold avocado soup whipped up in a blender; we topped off our lunch with a sinfully delicious cheesecake. Watch out, Roar Food now has hoop classes to make your meal calorie neutral.
6 more schools to get your kitchen cred going
- The Long Apron, Spicers Clovelly, Montville
You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Europe when Cameron Matthews, the acclaimed two-hat chef of the Long Apron Restaurant, takes you on a fortnightly European cooking tour in a one-day class.
- Norman Hotel, Brisbane
Hailed as Brisbane’s worst vegetarian restaurant and with 20 years of meat flipping it’s also the number one place to learn how to fire up the barbie in a two-hour class.
- Spring Food Wine, Brisbane
Smack in the middle of Brisbane’s CBD you can duck out for a “meeting” and do a cooking class and lunch. My vote goes for the Mighty Macarons.
- My Thai Kitchen, Enoggera (Brisbane)
My romance with My Thai Restaurant in Auchenflower began with Tuesday takeaways and Melrose Place back in the 1990s. I haven’t done a class yet, but I can sure vouch for the sumptuous flavours that come out of this kitchen.
- Sauce, Toowoomba is a foodie haven – with a range of cooking classes taught by a star-studded dream team of chefs.
- Classi di Cucina Italiana, Rathdowney
This is true pizza royalty. Pietro comes from Padova in Italy and Desley is from Brisbane. Together they ran the successful Schonell Pizza Caffé in St Lucia and now they teach you how to cook the national dish out in the country. Pick one of the lovely B&Bs nearby and make a weekend of your pizza-making class in the middle of a nature refuge.