Kitchen Creativity

Club enables gastronomes to up their culinary quotient

Whether you’re a foodie, a newbie in the kitchen, or an experienced cook who wants to add some new tricks to your repertoire, the CAPE FEAR FOOD AND WINE CLUB has something for you.

The club’s banquet of culinary events includes hands-on and demonstration cooking classes, wine education classes, wine and food pairings, and murder mystery dinners.

Fine dining is featured at each occasion, whether it’s a dish you and your classmates whip up or a fabulous three-to-four-course meal prepared by one of Wilmington’s premier chefs.

At all club events you’ll have full access to the chefs, who freely share their secret ingredients, special sauces, and favorite products. You’ll leave each class with recipes and the answers to all your questions. All in all, you’ll have a great culinary experience.

“The classes are very entertaining,” says LINDSAY SMITH, who has enhanced her cooking skill at the club since its inception. “You get a ton of tips to use in your own cooking and actual recipes. The classes are all-round educational experiences.”

In addition to classes, the club offers special events such as bachelorette parties, corporate gatherings, and children’s birthday parties and camps.

The club is hosted by the Seasoned Gourmet, a Wilmington staple that has offered cooking classes for 15 years. In 2011 the store’s staff decided to expand its offerings to meet Wilmington’s growing interest in all things food-related and formed the club. They call it “the place where foodies meet.”

In the club’s hands-on classes, you learn to make your way around a kitchen with or without a recipe. The fundamental classes include knife skills, basic sauces, working with herbs and spices, and baking skills. In other do-it-yourself classes, you’ll expand your cooking repertoire by preparing dishes such as pasta, pizza, cheesecake, composed salads (theme salads), sushi, vegan dishes, tortillas, and the perfect steak. Along the way you’ll learn about proportions, what foods work with other foods, why certain ingredients are used, how to make substitutions, and how to fix mistakes.

“I learn something every time I go,” says BETH HOLLIS , who has been taking classes at the club for five years. “You learn how to have confidence in a kitchen. They (the chefs) make it look so easy, and it really is.”

The club is also the place to learn about and try new cooking methods like sous vide cooking, a process that vacuum-seals food and cooks it in a temperature-controlled water bath, says Erin Tifft, the Seasoned Gourmet’s event coordinator.

If you don’t want to don an apron, you can take an At the Chef ’s Table class. These elegant dinners, which double as demonstration classes, are a real treat. You not only get to indulge in a multiple- course meals created just for the class, you watch the chef prepare it and can query him or her about anything related to food preparation. And, again, you’ll leave with recipes in hand.

“It’s like having your own private chef,” says PAM WILLIAMS, the Seasoned Gourmet’s manager. “You can pick their brains. And you get a fantastic dinner at a reasonable price.”

At the club’s Food and Wine Pairings, students imbibe wines from around the world that are paired with each dinner course.

The Mystery Dinners bring a whole new element to the club’s offerings. While feasting on a fabulous dinner, club members, dressed in costume and acting in character, solve the mystery.

No matter which of the club’s events you attend, you’ll be feted by one of Wilmington’s premier chefs. Though they hail from different backgrounds–restaurant ownership, in-home catering, teaching— each is renowned for his or her creative, delectable taste sensations. Just a few of the culinary luminaries who share their expertise with the club are Jennifer Wright of Port City Cheesecake, Keith Rhodes of The Catch, Dean Neff of Pin- Point, Ramon Villaseñor of Taqueria Los Portales, Michelle Rock of T’Geaux Boys Food Truck, and James Nash and Bobby Watkins of Bento Box.

The club’s students give the classes four stars, saying they learn a lot, are entertained, enjoy wonderful food, and become more adventurous—and better- -cooks. “The club offers such a nice variety of instruction, I can’t imagine someone not finding something to learn about,” says DENISE MILLER , a regular club student. “It’s a lot of fun, and you get a great meal.”

Club membership is $25 a person, or you can try the club for a month for $5. Club members get a 10 percent discount on store items and special wine discounts during classes they attend.

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