Sep 24th, 2020

Online Cooking Class: Fall Flavors

It’s a new normal.  During these unusual times, 75 people can no longer gather for an in-person cooking demonstration followed by a delicious buffet dinner.  Instead, culinary classes have moved to a virtual format, just like schools, meetings, tours and just about everything else during this pandemic.  We’re excited we can offer online cooking classes because it allows us to reach an entirely new audience.  You no longer have to be in Richmond, VA to attend! You could be in the class with attendees from anywhere in the United States or even the world!
We are so fortunate to have Meriwether Godsey’s Executive Chef, Anne Maury Haapala,  teaching our classes. Chef Anne is definitely a crowd pleaser and she has a knack for teaching online. I recently spoke with her to learn more about her journey to teaching cooking classes, adapting to the virtual format and what she is planning for the next virtual class.

Online Cooking Class will be the newest format for Chef Anne Maury Haapala

Chef Anne Maury Haapala shows class participants a culinary trick last fall.

Q: What inspired you to go to culinary school?

A:  From restaurant manager to corporate event planner for Marriott International in Baltimore, MD – my path right after college led me straight into overwhelming responsibilities and a leadership role that I admittedly was not fully prepared for – BUT, I jumped in headfirst and ended up leading a great crew while learning from them at the same time.  I was 22 years old, green as could be and ready to make a difference in the hospitality world.  And I did…. eventually…after I realized the industry was extremely tough, exhausting and not what I expected at all.  The knowledge I gained while fumbling my way through hotel management, was priceless and could never be taught in school but the reality was I was losing control over my life and handing it over to the industry.  I wanted to work with my hands – have a little more control over what I did daily.  So, I packed up my life and went to culinary school in Charlotte, NC and have never regretted it for one moment!  Best decision I have ever made – a college student again at 29 years old and I was finally ready to focus on my education and boy did I learn and absorb everything I could!  I was finally a good student, studying things that I was truly interested in.

Q: Tell us about your path to Meriwether Godsey and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

A: After an amazing internship at the Biltmore in Asheville, NC. my first real cooking job was in the catering department of a swanky country club in Charlotte.  This is where I learned more about fine dining, knife skills, catering for hundreds and some of the behind the scenes critical thinking that make kitchens function.  But…more importantly, I fell in love with a chef who worked there and a few years later, married him!  When my husband was offered a job as the Executive Sous Chef at the Country Club of Virginia in Richmond– we jumped at the opportunity to move here.  That’s when I applied to work for Meriwether Godsey at Lewis Ginter.  And again, I was given the opportunity to work for an amazing company where I can learn and grow every day.  Added bonus that it happens to be at a gorgeous botanical garden too!!

Q: What do you enjoy about teaching culinary classes?

Culinary classes with Chef AnneA:  Sharing information and the interaction with the crowd, specifically the “ah-ha” moments that are audible from the audience. That still gives me butterflies!

Also, I love it when people share their successful cooking stories with me.  But even more importantly, when they share their kitchen mishaps and I can walk them through how to try it again with a few adjustments.  That’s what these classes are all about — sharing information to make cooking a little easier and more enjoyable.  It should be fun and I hope that shines through in the classes!

Adaptation: Online Cooking Class

Q: What interests you about this new virtual format?

A:  Interest…. that’s an “interesting” word to use as a virtual format wouldn’t be my first, second or third choice.  But…given the current times, it is a necessity.  Truly what interests me about the virtual experience is that I have ZERO experience with it and only want to get better to provide an interesting class for the viewer.  Ultimately, I want to make the class as interactive as possible – that’s what I miss the most – the crowd participation.  I would like to have live questions on air – have an “ingredient pick-up” so that you can cook with me, a more hands-on experience overall.  We are still working towards the best version of a virtual class – if you join an online class and don’t enjoy a certain aspect of it – let us know.  Let us grow and adjust – we are all learning in this new world.  And until further notice – you are stuck with me via Zoom, so let’s make the best of it together!

In Season: Fall Flavors with Chef Anne Cooking ClassQ: What does cooking “in season” mean to you?

A: Using what’s available to you at that time.  Sustainable eating because you are using produce that is readily available. Using fresh ingredients that nature is providing – letting the farmers dictate what’s on your menu.

Q: What excites you about fall and fall foods?

A: Everything…everything…. everything. Eating delicious warm comforting food while wearing a sweater, jeans and wool socks.  All of it.  There is a feeling that rushes over me when I see the leaves turning and there is a smell of fall in the air (you know what I am talking about!).  All my favorite dishes are cold-weather-inspired — stews, ragouts, roasts, root vegetables, soups.  Food is heart- and soul-warming – when the weather begins to get chilly, fall foods are there to warm us up.

Attend from anywhere!

Q: What do you plan to cover in the upcoming class In Season: Fall Flavors with Chef Anne on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, from 12 – 1 p.m.?

A: Butternut squash risotto – I will try to push the risotto method so that you can make it at home In Season: Fall Flavors with Chef Anne Culinary Classwithout a recipe (EEK! But you can do it, I promise) or if that is too scary at least substitute in other aromatics, veggies and cheeses to personalize the dish to your liking.

Braised chicken thighs with apples and greens – one-pot meals – these are the best!  Browning and braising tips – such great things to know for fall cooking

Fruit galette – who doesn’t like a pie that you don’t have to fuss over??  This one is so simple!  Foolproof, food processor pie dough that’s easy to work with.  Add some fruit that’s in season and you have a dessert that is sure to please your family!

Q: For “first-timers,” what can participants expect in a Chef Anne virtual class?

Virtual Cooking class with Chef AnneA: I’m hopeful that people walk away from the class having learned at least one or two things.  Everyone’s culinary skill level is different and that makes it hard to plan exactly what to demo during these classes.  But you can never go wrong with the basics – and I feel like I repeat myself all the time during these classes, but that is exactly what culinary school was for me. The methods and instructions were the same, but the ingredients changed. I repeat myself so that tips become habits and habits allow you to express yourself in your cooking once you feel comfortable with the basics. A few things I often repeat are: “Taste as you go – season with every layer to make a better final product” and “Don’t panic — there are no mistakes, only “happy accidents” (great advice from Bob Ross).  Join me next week for In Season: Fall Flavors with Chef Anne on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, from 12-1 p.m. to learn more of these handy tips.  

Megan Compton is the Adult Education Assistant at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She enjoys spending time with her husband and children, gardening, reading and studying history.

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