Today we take a short break from the November to Remember series to talk about an amazing experience I had last night, which involved one of the few things that’ve paralyzed me in my tracks for years —
Back when my Dad used to run a restaurant, he would give me my first set of jobs ever. While I was really good at customer service and bookkeeping, there was one thing I really sucked at — and that was anything having to do with the kitchen.
No matter how hard I tried, I could never do prep work fast enough. Or cook anything right. The only thing I was good at in the kitchen was messing up. So after I got through that horrendous experience, I never got anywhere near cooking again!
So imagine my surprise when Buytopia.ca offered me the chance to get a 2-hour cooking class, where Chef Pino Padula would teach me how to make a 5-course meal, presumably without burning down the house!
Who is Chef Pino?
Born and raised in Bari, Italy, Chef Pino got an early start in the restaurant biz when his father would pay him 10¢ a day to do dishes. Many days (and many more dishes) later, he would save up enough to buy his first bicycle. Continuing to work in restaurants as he went through his teenage years, more responsibility meant more money, the bicycle became a motorcycle and the legend of The Chef on 2 Wheels was born!
Chef Pino is an extremely personable gentleman who strives to get to know his clients and treats everyone with the same amount of respect. You get the same Chef Pino whether you spent your last dime hiring his services or you’re working on making your next million. He’s polite, he’s classy and he’s secure enough in knowing what he’s doing that he has no problem sharing his recipes and methods with you!
And for a couple of hours, he was bringing decades of experience (from such celebrated places as Toulà and catering for celebrities at both Toronto Fashion Week and the Toronto International Film Festival) to my home so he could teach me a thing or two… hundred.
The 5-course menu was lavish and offered tastes of things I normally wouldn’t have without finding a nice Italian restaurant to visit. The menu included:
Appetizers: Thinly Slices Beef Carpaccio with Lemon Oil Dressing & Parmigiano Shavings
Pasta: Penne Alla Vodka
Intermezzo: Scroppino with Chaffonade Mint & Pink Peppercorn
Main Course: Encrusted Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with swiss Cheese & Caramelized Onions
Dessert: Classic TAJAN Vanilla Ice cream in Affogato
Here’s a look at some of the prep work and outcomes of the food I got to try — everything was delicious!!!
What I Learned from Chef Pino Padula
You can’t help but learn from Chef Pino. There were little tips and tricks I’d pick up as he worked — like not putting the sauce in the skillet until the onions are translucent, or that hard cheeses go with pork and soft ones with chicken — but here are 3 key lessons I’ll take with me when I try to make meals of my own!
1. You Can’t Make Good Food from Ingredients Gone Bad!
Chef Pino would emphasize multiple times that the thing giving his food so much flavour was its freshness. He buys everything as close to the prep date as possible, only holding on to ingredients for short periods of time before they’re no longer good — and his attention to detail definitely pays off!
2. You Get What You Pay For
You might think that a sauce is a sauce is a sauce, but Chef Pino would tell you how wrong you are. He showed us that cheaper sauces include seeds and skins, making them bitterer the longer you cook them, while premium sauces had neither, making them sweeter the longer they simmer. And he had tips for every ingredient.
3. Eat the Food the Way You’re Meant To Eat It
When I went to another course without cleansing my palate first, Chef Pino pointed out that I wouldn’t be getting the true flavour of the food. After following his advice and taking a mouthful of sgroppino, I could note flavours that I never would have tasted otherwise! So here it’s important to:
- use a palate cleanser
- eat the food fresh off of the stove
- eat enough to appreciate the food but not so much that you regret it — your state of mind is part of the dining experience
Years later, my Dad would tell me that there was a lesson he wanted to teach me those days I spent in his kitchen staff:
“I want you to learn about the things you hate to do so you’ll go out and do amazingly at the things you love.”
While he may have been right that cooking wouldn’t be my secret to success, I don’t think he intended to turn me off from cooking forever.
Before Chef Pino came along, the kitchen would be the last place you’d ever find me. I’d take any chore over cooking if ever given the choice.
It only took two hours for Chef Pino to give my confidence back, and in the end, that’s better value than I would’ve gotten from any cooking show.
Have We Tempted You?
If you want to try this experience yourself, Buytopia has a deal for Chef Pino’s services! Instead of the $320 you’d normally shell out for the service I just described, you can score it for $99!!! Vouchers are good until December 16, 2013; he also offers fish and vegetarian menus; and can come to any house in the GTA. These make awesome Christmas, anniversary or birthday gifts for the people who already have everything and are impossible to shop for. (To be honest, I got a couple of vouchers, myself!)
And if that’s not enough incentive, I had some good chats with Chef Pino himself, and he’s informed me that this just might be the last round of discounts before it goes back up to full price forever! The deal’s only on until midnight Sunday, December 16, so if you want it, you’d better get it while it’s hot!
Thanks for reading, and if you do get the chance to try what Chef Pino has to offer, let me know how it goes!
Next Up: Back to A November to Remember, Caribbean Edition!
[Disclosure: I wrote this post as a member of the Buytopia.ca Inner Circle, where we try goods and services before blogging about them and earn affiliate percentages for successful sales. But I’m honest and will never write a dishonest review for the sake of money — without integrity, we have nothing.]