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Learning from the Best – Cooking Class with Vivian Howard and Whisk

Hey y’all,

In case you haven’t heard me talking about it for the last 5 days, I had the awesome opportunity to sit in on a cooking class at Whisk with the lovely and supremely talented Vivian Howard. For those who are not familiar, Vivian Howard is a North Carolina celebrity for many reasons: she’s the head chef and owner of Chef and the Farmer in Kinston and the star of the PBS hit A Chef’s LifeIf you have ever had the chance to meet her in real life, you’ll also know that she is the most hilarious, down-to-earth person and her passion for creating good food runs deep (get it, because she’s from Deep Run. I’ll be here all week, folks).

I’ll start here by saying one thing- I am not a cook. I am someone who appreciates good food and has really basic knowledge of the kitchen. So before I jump in on the actual class, I would like to talk about Whisk (located in Waverly Place). I LOVE Whisk. They have thousands of gadgets that you absolutely need to have in your kitchen, whether you’re an amateur cook, a pro chef, or just someone who loves to eat. But don’t worry- you’ll never feel overwhelmed at Whisk. They have the friendliest owners, Dan and Diana Saklad, and a wonderful staff there to help you find anything your food-loving heart desires.

I have been to Whisk several times, but this was my first cooking class experience with them. The Whisk crew is a well-oiled machine. Honestly, I get stressed out in my kitchen if it’s just me and my husband trying to make a simple dinner. It was so impressive watching them all work together with Vivian in the kitchen area; it was like watching a Nascar pit crew assemble a freeform lasagna (I’ll explain later) and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. They host cooking classes regularly, and you can even book private events if you want a cooking class tailored to your tastes- I HIGHLY recommend a visit and signing up for one of their classes. Immediately. You’ll learn words like “silpat” and “tempering” and it will be very impressive to all of your friends and family.

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On to the cooking class! Whisk has a very cool set up for their classes, so no matter where you’re stationed, you always have the best seat in the house. You can see everything that the instructor is doing real time on a TV screen, so you get a bird’s eye view of the whole class. Vivian was also really good about narrating her steps and answering questions as she was working. I learned so much and I even took some notes!

Our menu for the evening was a fun twist on some great ingredients and classic favorites (see captions for full details):

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Brussels sprouts with apples, pomegranates, and blue cheese honey vinaigrette
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Braised pork shoulder and sweet potato freeform lasagna
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Warm banana pudding


She also made these delicious treats called Viv’s Addiction (recipe on her website here– they are no joke!! I literally could not stop eating them). Everything was just as delicious as it sounds, and my favorite part of this whole experience was that these items are not something I would have ordered myself at a restaurant. I’m not a big blue cheese person, but the dressing on the brussels sprouts was amazing and so smooth. Sweet potatoes are not my favorite, but I’ve been dreaming about that lasagna since last Thursday- I’m going to have to break out my cast iron skillet (for the first time EVER) and try it out. I’m not going to go through every single recipe because you need to buy Vivian’s cookbook– it is packed with recipes, stories, and a lot of other good information.

Here are a few things I learned from Vivian- I told y’all, I took some notes.

  • Use your brain and trust your instincts as a cook. Vivian said this was one of the best pieces of advice she can offer for all chefs, especially when following recipes. Her recipe might say cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, but her oven might be hotter than yours so it might take you 22 or 25 minutes to cook the same thing. Pay attention to what you’re doing and trust your chef instincts!
  • Leave that stuff alone! “One of our biggest problems as home cooks is that we always have to be moving,” Vivian explained. Sometimes you have to let things sit for them to cook properly- you don’t always have to be moving your skillet or stirring as you cook. My favorite quote from the night- “I would encourage you not to move this. You are not Gordon Ramsey.”
  • If it looks like it’s dry, it probably is. She said this about meat, but this same principle can apply to a lot of things when you’re cooking. If it looks like it isn’t done yet, it probably isn’t. Going back to the beginning, trust your instincts!

Vivian and the team at Whisk did a fantastic job at making me feel like I could recreate all of these things at home in my own kitchen, and when Vivian mentioned a tool that might make things easier, you bet Whisk had it at their store. I’ll have to make a trip over there so I can stock my kitchen for the holidays- I see a lot of cooking and baking in my future!

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Getting my new cookbook signed by the wonderful Vivian Howard

Huge thank you to Cary Magazine for putting on this event as a part of Women of Western Wake, Vivian Howard for being awesome and doing this cooking class, and Whisk for hosting and helping all of us become the chefs we have always wanted to be!

**This post was not sponsored by Cary Magazine, Whisk, or Vivian Howard. I just think they’re all really awesome and I was excited to share!**