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Foodie Friday: Crowdsourcing dinner at the Urban Element

By Yasmin Nissim on February 1, 2013

We’ve all heard the saying “there’s too many cooks in the kitchen”, but that isn’t a problem at Hintonburg’s Urban Element – they’ve just made the kitchen bigger! My husband and I have been meaning to take a cooking class at the Element for some time now and we were finally able to this past Wednesday. Our class was all about Bistro Classics and ran from 6 to 9 in the evening. Our experience ended up being one of the most fun, lively and unique dinner outings we’ve had in Ottawa to date.

The basic format of the class has about 15 people creating a fantastic sit-down dinner, with all the tools, ingredients and resources provided. The chef plans out a series of dishes for the evening that consist of either stand-alone recipes, or several recipes that, once completed, will combine into one fantastic dish. Each recipe has its own assigned prep area that participants can choose to take on, though you are encouraged to walk around and see what everyone else is up to when you have a free moment. The best part of all this is that participants are guided and supported by the resident chef and staff who are on hand for the evening. So, even if some of the recipes look a bit daunting, there’s always someone there to make sure there aren’t any major snafus.

The evening began with a warm welcome from Barbara, one of the fabulous individuals who fielded a bevvy of questions from us “mini-chefs”.  Next, we were introduced to Tara, who used her skilled hands to keep the lot of us from burning down the kitchen. Tara also happens to be a chef at the Element (you can read about her upcoming World of Curries class here). Our chef for the evening was Anna March, who created the amazing menu we were about to indulge in. It consisted of a fabulous fish stew to start, followed by steak tartare, coq au vin and a beautiful tarte tatin with homemade vanilla ice cream and dulce de leche for dessert. Each dish was a combination of several smaller recipes that each participant had a hand in creating. I have to say, everyone in our group was a fantastic cook!

Apart from indulging in the final product, my favourite part of the evening was playing and creating in what I immediately recognized as my dream kitchen. Bright lights, acres of cooking and prep space, tons of excellent appliances and loads of fantastic ingredients, it was like walking into foodie heaven! We were essentially given the freedom to create some amazing things in a relaxed and supportive environment. It’s impossible to leave without learning a few things. I now know how to make steak tartare and how to properly mince things, be they vegetable or protein. The Urban Element’s classes are a must for any foodie or individual looking to pick up some skill in the kitchen while having a great time.

Spaces are limited for each class, so be sure to book early if you’re interested in checking one out. You can read about upcoming classes online, and if you have any intrepid youngsters looking to get cracking in the kitchen, the Urban Element has a kid’s camp scheduled for March Break.