Cooking classes a recipe for success

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 10/07/2014
 Maddox Wright
KIRK HARGREAVES
STIRRING IT: Maddox Wright helps out at the cooking school.

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Forget a coffee date or paintball excursion, cooking classes are the new must-do activity and Cantabrians are lining up. A few years ago, cooking classes catered to a pretty niche market of serious food enthusiasts or those in need of serious help. Fast forward to 2014 and classes are filling up fast and we can't get enough.

Akaroa Cooking School started five years ago and could've been labelled as a bit risky. The set-up was before the TV cooking show hype and before cooking became cool again. Owners Lou and Ant Bentley say not only has the business been successful, it's busy all year around and classes are booked out within a week of being advertised. "I think more people are getting into cooking," Lou Bentley says. "People are looking for different things to do and things that aren't weather dependent."

The Bentleys run a steady rotation of 18 different classes based on country of origin, particular chefs, special occasions or regional themes. They cater to singles, groups, corporate outings - pretty much anything you can think of. Classes can be demonstrations or hands-on.

Most customers are aged between 25 and 50 years old and many are men who are the primary cook in their homes - or whose wives have signed them up for a skills upgrade.

Lou says people are more than happy to travel for a prime waterfront location and a specialist experience.

In the city centre, Chillingworth Road also has an on-site cook school. It runs classes for adults, but also caters to kids.

Owner Leanne Wright says while the kids classes can be more educationally focused, they also run cupcake decorating classes and a variety of demonstrations.

"We're trying to change kids perceptions about what they like and don't like," she says.

Last week, children from Ouruhia School tasted juices where the true ingredients (like red cabbage, beetroot, carrot or celery) were disguised.

Wright has seen the industry grow in Christchurch. "It's gone mad," she says.

"There's not a lot to do in Christchurch and with shows like Masterchef etc it's encouraging people to be creative in the kitchen."

Classes all over Christchurch can teach anything from the basics of breadmaking to cake decorating, French cooking techniques or seafood preparation.

Prices range from $10 to $235 depending on the type of class and duration.

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