Whether you're a new cook anxious to impress with your contribution to a holiday feast or a seasoned baker looking for fresh ideas to spice up your cookie repertoire, it's fun to talk food with like-minded individuals. And if they happen to be experts, all the better.
That's the driving premise of Viking Cooking School inside Harrah's Resort in Atlantic City, where holiday workshop themes include designer cookies, holiday cocktails and gingerbread house making. Harrah's executive chef John Whelan says he enjoys the interesting exchange of ideas he finds there.
"What's really interesting in these forums is the instructors there have this open dialogue. Maybe a cook in the class will say 'When I do it at home, I do it this way,' so there's a lot of swapping back and forth," he says. "There's always this openness and conversation about best practices. Food is a living thing spawned by people eating it and preparing it and discussing it.
"It's minds wide open when you come into Viking."
Whelan says Harrah's partnered three-plus years ago with the Viking Cooking School, which also has locations in other cities, to offer more non-gambling attractions alongside its Red Door Spa and nightlife venues. The recipes mostly are developed by Viking's test kitchens.
If it's your inclination to learn to make all seven parts in the traditional Sicilian "Feast of the Seven Fishes," Viking has got you covered. A tappas-style tasting dinner visiting each fish takes place Saturday night from 6 to 9. That designer cookie workshop is noon to 3 p.m. Monday. Or bring the kids to make giant gingerbread houses Dec. 22 and leave the mess to the pros. The classes usually cost about $79 to $129 per person. The gingerbread session is $59.
Whelan says many of the classes call for the use of sharp knives and alcoholic beverages are served, so they're not generally suited to younger children. He has seen plenty of adult mother-daughter duos, bachelorette parties and colleagues on team-building exercises in the classes.
But the gingerbread houses are another story.
"They're really popular because we open them up to the kids and the houses are already formed, so really, it's just decorating," Whelan says. "When the instructors come out, they're all beat up. They're just covered in flour and royal icing and then there's the candy and the kids; it's pretty funny."
"This much I know; there's more candy eaten than put on the houses."
If you're looking for more general entertaining tips, there are workshops with names like "Italian Pasta Party," (11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday) "Steak and Bake" (6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 20) and "Titanic Dinner Party" (6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 22). "Best of…" workshops condense the techniques for a whole dinner party into just 90 minutes - including eating time - for those who are more experienced, or "just don't want to dedicate a lot of time to a class."
Viking limits the number of attendees in each workshop to 16, but if a class is already is full, don't despair. Just call up and ask to be put on a waiting list, says Whelan; the most popular classes often are repeated to accommodate interested parties. Viking Cooking School also books private events. Call 800-242-7724.
Contact Felicia Compian:
609-272-7209 or FCompian@pressofac.com