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The best cooking classes in Sydney

The Time Out Team test some of Sydney's leading cooking schools. Here are the best of the bunch

Photograph: Daniel Boud

So you want to learn how to make beautiful pasta and craft incredible cheese? How about learning how to fillet a fish? Sydney has some incredible culinary schools where you can take a cooking class to enhance or finesse your kitchen skills. Whether you want to pickle the day away at Cornersmith, get elbow-deep in flour at Salt Meats Cheese or bake up a storm at Brasserie Bread, there's sure to be a class that'll teach you something. 

The best cooking classes in Sydney

Brasserie Bread

It’s been a long time since we’ve been this violent with a piece of food, but baker Matthew Brock actively encourages it. There are ten of us thrashing the living daylights out of our dough on a Sunny Saturday afternoon out at Brasserie Bread's Banksmeadow bakery/cafe. There’s still a measure of care, though - while we’re encouraged to stretch the gluten strands as far as possible, we don’t want to break them. During the three-hour class, we learn kneading techniques and shaping. Did you know, for instance, there’s a preliminary shape and then a final shape, which determines the awesomeness of your loaf? A loose final shape creates a loose uneven crumb structure. A tight shape equals tight crumb structure. Facts! We’re shown just how time consuming it is to look after your own starter (very - forget going on holiday for the first month of your starter’s life - it’s like having a new puppy), and how to slash our dough so our bread doesn’t split during baking. A tour through the massive bakery out the back shows trolleys heaving with pastries, loaves of bread and massive industrial ovens where we bake our dough. We end with a tasting of all the breads Brasserie makes and a free-for-all of the day’s over-bake. Aside from being sent home with enough bread to last an apocalypse, we also take home the dough we’ve been torturing through the class, to be refrigerated and baked the following day. The result? Well, it's not perfect (I was really convinced I’d become a master baker after three hours) but it's certainly honest and delicious, if not a little rustic (read: black as tar on one side, beige on the other).

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The Cooking School

“I am not a pastry chef,” warns Jessica, the boisterous woman leading a group of 16 – ranging from couples to one adorable nan/granddaughter duo – through a three-hour crash course on desserts one recent afternoon inside an industrial kitchen at Club Bondi. The good news is that what she lacks in self-proclaimed expertise, Jessica makes up for in care and encouragement. We’re here to make four dishes: apple galettes with vanilla ice cream, raspberry soufflé, pears poached in dessert wine and panna cotta with strawberry coulis. The class is, admittedly, spoiled with shortcuts: the coulis and dessert wine have been pre-made, the soufflé cups at our work benches already coated with butter and sugar. Jessica walks us through the preparation for each dish before letting us try ourselves. Along the way, she offers useful tips. Flecks of eggshell in the bowl? Scoop them out using… another eggshell, which acts like a magnet. She demonstrates a quick and easy way to make a cartouche using baking paper. And I now know how to properly store leftover puff pastry so it doesn’t end up a sad, frostbitten also-ran at the back of the freezer. (Hint: scissors and cling wrap.) There are no written instructions on hand, which actually forces us to pay closer attention to Jessica – and one another. And besides, all the recipes – as well as 14 more – will be e-mailed to us the following morning in a helpful booklet so we can try again at home. Most impressively, we all find success with our souffl

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Bondi Junction

Salt Meats Cheese

This Alexandria providore also hosts monthly pasta, pizza and mozzarella classes, burger workshops, and regional dinners where students cook their way through Italy’s most delicious destinations. Time Out takes on the pasta and ravioli number to get familiar with the cornerstone of Italian cookery. The tactile nature of making pasta means this class provides the personalised, hands-on tips necessary for becoming a pasta master. The warehouse-style space holds a long table equipped with all your tools and our teachers Sarah and Manu are both passionate cooks, ready to answer every question, making it perfect for beginners. Once we have made our pasta dough, we leave it to rest and snack on juicy olives and pizza. Then it’s back to work to feed our dough through the machines to make tagliatelle, then we try out handmade shapes like farfalle and garganelli. The class wraps up with a glass of wine and chats, all while tasting your very own pasta. On your way out peruse SMC's aisles for more kitchen inspiration, where you can pick up some Sicilian almond pesto, flavoured salts and infused olive oils to dress your homemade pasta. The Grounds may be the destination for foodies on weekends, but anyone with an interest in cooking should make a beeline for a class at Salt Meats Cheese.

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Sydney Cooking School

When it comes to flexing muscle in the kitchen, this writer is usually pretty happy with spreading a slab of butter onto a plate of Ryvitas and taking the cardboard delicacy at the breakfast bar. Luckily, the French Classics course at Sydney Cooking School is set up perfectly for lazy cooks – and there’s a fair whack of butter in the recipes for our meals, tarte Tatin and duck a l’orange. Head chef and teacher Brett Deverall takes care of a few steps in the process, such as preparing the quantities and laying out utensils required for the first dish. Working in pairs at gas stoves, Brett demonstrates each stage of the recipe sharing simple knife skills such as how to slice an orange to avoid any ugly white pith, and how to drain the fat from the pan without dropping the duck. Deverall, who once worked for chef Raymond Blanc, entertains us with stories of 100-hour working weeks in Paris as we finish off the two-hour lesson with a sophisticated, and very grown up, meal together at the table.

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Neutral Bay

Sydney Seafood School

Watching someone prepare Singapore chilli crab is a torturous experience when it’s almost dinnertime. The smell of frying garlic, ginger and chilli is enough to make you launch yourself down the five rows of auditorium seating at the Sydney Seafood School and demolish the demonstration dish. Fortunately, chilli crab is not difficult to prepare and the demonstration followed by your hands on attempt to replicate it only takes two hours. The prize for your patience? At the conclusion of the class you get to sit down to an enormous feast of crustacea and add “can prepare crab” to your kitchen CV. The monthly chilli crab classes at the SSS are wildly popular, with our class made up of locals, visitors and corporate groups. It begins with a thorough demonstration that covers seafood selection, de-shelling, cleaning and quartering your crab before moving on to the cooking. Then it’s your turn. You move through to the MasterChef style kitchen where groups of four or six apply their new skills to ten blue swimmer crabs and the recipes for chilli crab and stir-fried crab with ginger and green onions. Word to the wise, try and get both batches in the wok in tandem so they can be plated up together. You then take the fruits of your labour through to the dining room where you and your cooking crew get cracking with a glass of riesling and some idle chat between claws.

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Listening to the hilarious Wanitha Tanasingam talk about cooking you’d swear she was referring to the bedroom arts. “You must seduce the curry,” she says, and compares the timing of the addition of sugar to a satay sauce like the timing of a first kiss. Not just an amazing cook with 30 years experience, Wanitha is an entertainer. Her three-hour introduction to Malaysian street food such as kari ayam (chicken curry), char kway teow and roti jala is filled with useful tips about spices, which she calls “her best friends”. (While cumin is “assertive”, fennel is “congenial.”) There is instruction on knife technique, the relative uses of fresh and dried chillies, and the correct way to peel ginger – the answer may surprise. Attendees get to help out in making four different dishes and then chow down on the aromatic fruits of their labours. It’s an informative introduction to Malaysian cuisine for up to 12 people and while newbies may be a bit flummoxed, experienced cooks will be able to tackle these at home. This is one of many classes offered by Victor Pisapia’s company, popular for its corporate team-building events.

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Make like it’s your tenth birthday party all over again and head to one of these indoor activities to shoot lasers, bounce to your heart’s content, down some pins and more. You’ll soon forget it’s cold and miserable outside.

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