Saturday, March 5, 2011

For the Love of Food: My Scathing Review

In a nutshell: The food was great, the tension was not.

Ainsmar told us about a cooking class with a Moroccan theme and showing of Casablanca. We shelled out 175$ and this is how it went:

We arrived a bit early because I was worried about traffic. For some reason I thought it would be in an industrial park area. Nope. It was in someone's house. We parked. Chef Diane came out and started to direct traffic. When we got out of the car she didn't introduce herself or say welcome, she just told us we could go inside. She never did introduce herself.

The two helpers were inside. They couldn't figure out how to work the oven, the TV system, or the fancy coffee maker. There were packets of hot chocolate and tea bags, but no hot water for them. More and more people started to pile in. The tension began: Chef Diane started to argue with her helpers. It wasn't loud, it wasn't heated, but I could feel it, and I didn't enjoy it.

Chef then went through the recipes and told us how she would change some of them. Okay, if that is the case--then why didn't you take the time to change them before you printed them out? Most of the people weren't cooks, and had never had Moroccan food, so they were going to follow the recipes exactly. After the explanations (and some rules) she basically said --decide what you want to do and have at it. Then the chaos began. People running around, trying to figure out who was making what and where. Everyone trying to figure out where everything was in the kitchen.

More chaos and tension ensued. Chef did not know how many people were there, so the teams were unevenly divided. There were 17 people (she thought there were 19!) Too many for the amount of space and number of dishes (5). Poor Ainsmar was on his own making dessert, so Ross joined him. People were on top of each other, and there really weren't enough things to do for everyone to fully participate. Chef went around telling (rather than instructing I thought) everyone on how to do things. She was very controlling and was self-admittedly unpleasant. If she was kidding--she shouldn't have been. Her instructions didn't follow the recipes on some things, and that caused confusion.

More tension--no one could figure out the DVD player. Many of the guests tried to figure it out. She bickered and argued with her husband. That I could really feel and it was very unpleasant. There wasn't enough room in the ovens for everyone's dishes. I had to walk through her house--down a hallway that smelled like cat to use the restroom. I don't think cats and dogs belong in a professional kitchen--she didn't let them in until the end, but still. I didn't enjoy the yipping, yapping, scratching at the door dogs during dinner.

I want to say that the other people that attended the class were great. Everyone was friendly. The helpers were friendly, but brow-beaten into deferring to Chef, so they weren't always helpful--and I certainly didn't want to deal with Chef, which is why I asked them in the first place. I think Chef's attitude might have been right for a professional kitchen, and probably a professional classroom, but not for a casual cooking class. She actually argued with me about something non-cooking related. People shouldn't argue with their customers.

They never got the DVD to work. They ended up renting it through Fios and stopping it and restarting it from the beginning three times. There was effectively no sound. The movie part was really a bust. There were snacks at the beginning--toasted pita wedges with with hummus and baba ganoush, but we didn't start eating the food we made until after 10p. Wine was served with dinner. The lamb tagine sat on the counter because the Chef and her helpers were busy finishing the dessert. Meanwhile the lamb was getting cold. We were waiting for wine I guess. When we figured that out I just picked up the bottle and served our table. Ainsmar was really sweet and put candles in my dessert and had everyone sing Happy Birthday. Actually eating the dessert was difficult because I had already eaten so much food. All of the food was good. The lamb tagine was excellent. We ended up leaving at 11:45p!

This would have been a better experience with maybe only 6 people and 3 dishes. There were 3 different dishes with phyllo dough. That means three butter bombs. There was no real education going on. Ross was disappointed by that. Each person only got to see how their own dish was made. We didn't get to learn about the different spices. We didn't get to learn about much at all. For 175$ I could have bought a whole book of recipes and my own food, and figured it out by myself. I could have probably bought a tagine too. I feel like I paid for someone to wash dishes. Heck, I can just make Ross do that!

As strange as it may sound, I'm glad we went, but I will never go back. Eating all that food so late at night made it hard for me to fall asleep and caused indigestion in the middle of the night. Some Moroccan Mint tea would have been nice to aid digestion--if only that were my only complaint.


Nicole said...

That's a lot of money to spend for a not that great experience. Sorry it didn't go all that well. But wait, was it your birthday and I didn't know?

k. said...

There are complaints that I forgot to list in this review! At least the food was good.

You didn't really miss my birthday. I don't have one until next year (Feb. 29th).

Anonymous said...

I don't know who you are, but I have taken several classes and wine dinners with Chef Diane at For the Love of Food over the past few years and have had a great experience each time, learned to be a really good cook, made new friends, and always felt I got my money's worth. At least we agree that the food is GREAT!

How could you expect to cook a five or six course meal in under three hours, while receiving instruction and chef's demos? The website states that wine dinners last longer than other classes, are more social and less educational, and are usually over around 11:45.

When I have concerns about services or goods, I have the class to raise my concerns with the owner before writing a ridiculously long diatribe on a blog nobody will likely read. Do you really expect to be allowed to drink alcohol while using knives and carrying hot food around other people? Do you really think it is possible for a multi-course wine dinner, where strangers cook an elaborate meal together to run completely without a hitch? For god's sake --- Lighten Up and go with the flow!

k. said...

anonymous: Did I say I expected to be allowed to drink alcohol while carrying knives and hot food? When I said we were waiting for the wine it was between courses....while the next course was getting cold.

There wasn't less education. There was NO education. We were just given recipes and told to cook the food. I can do that on my own at home.

You want me to raise my concerns with the owner before posting to my blog--why? So she can offer me a free class that I don't want? Ha! It's my blog. I can post whatever the heck I want to.

I would have rather had a much smaller class and fewer dishes so I could have actually learned something. I seriously didn't learn anything from the Chef.

Go off without a hitch? A hitch would have been nice. The whole night sucked--the chef was rude--texting on her phone, arguing with her husband, and being short with people!

Anonymous said...

As one of the helpers, I don't understand the tension with chef that you're speaking of - Chef is, and always has been, a joy to work for/with. I certainly don't recall having any problems working the coffee maker or oven (the coffee maker does require time to power up ... not unusual) - though I know temperature control has been a problem when guests continually open and close the oven, against the advice of us helpers. As for the DVD player - I can't claim to know how to work that, but then ... I am a culinary assistant, after all. I know I had several people thank me after the class for teaching them about cooking techniques and cuisine - I am truly sorry if you didn't avail yourself of the room's collective expertise. It's not unusual for these events to end even later than yours did - it's hard for me to imagine how all of that cooking could get done any sooner. It is Friday, after all, and I didn't think people felt rushed. I am truly sorry you didn't enjoy yourself, but it seems perhaps the experience just wasn't for you. That's okay - many repeat customers have enjoyed themselves tremendously, and many more will in the future. Happy birthday!

k. said...

Anonymous helper: I didn't have any problem with you guys. I am personally very sensitive to tension. You are probably used to dealing with the chef and don't even notice the tension or the way she talks to people.

The 11:45 end time wasn't my main complaint. I was a little surprised at how late it was, that's all.

Thank you for your comment. I'm sure other people didn't even notice any of the things I did and had a great time. My main complaint is the number of people. I think anyone would have a better experience with fewer students.