The folks from Beano flew me out from Boston to NYC for two nights and three days for a culinary adventure. It was a whirlwind trip, but I packed in as much fun as I could during my stay. Let me share with you a little bit about the school…
The Natural Gourmet Institute is a no kidding culinary arts school. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this was a hands on, get your fanny moving and chop chop chop kind of program. Some culinary schools offer classes where you sit there and sip wine while a chef shows you how to cook.
Not this place. Our chef had us slicing, dicing, sautéing, woking (I think I can make that a verb, right?) and even making ice cream at a more than steady pace. Matter of fact, I found it challenging as we only had so much time to prepare our recipes and the chef was pretty vocal about us keeping our eye on the time.
And this is a really good thing because it stretched me a bit. I gleaned a lot of information from the instructor. Our course focused on Thai cuisine which is much more intricate than I ever imagined.
Curries, satay, pad thai and mango ice cream were some of the dishes we created during the program. I knew that Thai cuisine was complex, but I never knew exactly how complex it was until I found myself trying to cook it. Take curry, for example. One of my team’s tasks was to make a particular curry with a mortar and pestle.
I cannot even begin to tell you how physically demanding that is. Hand grinding spices like peppercorns until they are pulverized is an arduous task. It took me a half of an hour just to pulverize some dried chiles. Thai cooking is not for the weak.
In total there were sixteen of us in the program. And as one team worked on one recipe, another team was busy whipping up something else. The kitchen was heavy with the scent of spices in the air. Fish cakes were browning in a pan, noodles for pad thai were being thrown into a sizzling wok, someone else was sautéing jumbo shrimp in a curry sauce. The hours flew by in a frenetic whirlwind of cooking, learning and finally eating…
Because that was the best part of the program. We got to sample everything our classmates made. Not a bad way to end a day of fast paced instruction.
I’m not a beer drinker, but I thought it was pretty cool that the instructor passed around ice cold Thai beer to compliment the meal. Matter of fact, the whole thing was cool. I really enjoyed my time there.
After the program was over, I stayed at a very hip hotel. The Flatiron Hotel which is located just blocks from the school. The hotel itself was nicely appointed with ultra modern furnishings. My room was spacious which is a rare thing for a New York City hotel. There was a jacuzzi tub, a television embedded in the bathroom mirror and the most comfy bed I’ve ever slept in. I’d stay there again in a heartbeat.
But the very best part was the live entertainment. Both Friday and Saturday night I enjoyed listening to the bands that played a wide range of music that had everyone (including me) dancing the night away in the hotel’s Toshi lounge. And what made me feel really comfortable was that it didn’t cater to just one age group. It didn’t matter how old you were. If you were over 21 years of age, you totally fit in. I had a blast.
I didn’t have a ton of time to play tourist in the city, but I did run around and snap just a few pictures to share with you. It was bitter cold this trip and I was very grateful that most of my time was spent in a warm kitchen. But here are some pictures that I thought would be fun to share…
A big thank you goes out to the folks from Beano for sending me on a really great trip. They took care of every single detail which I really appreciated and I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Also, many thanks to the Flatiron Hotel for such a pleasant stay. I felt comfortable and pampered throughout my visit!
This is not a sponsored post. That said, Beano paid for my trip to NYC as my prize for the Beano Cook-Off. All thoughts and opinions are my own.