Culinary Arts @ George Brown College
I haven't seen any posts here about the Culinary Arts (and Baking Arts) classes at GBC. Has anyone taken any and have any positive/negative feedback?
I took Culinary Arts I a long time ago and I thought that it was pretty basic, and although I did learn a few things, I found that I could make a lot of the basic dishes better than the way they taught. Value was good, I paid $300-something at that time for 10 classes which included a take home meal, but none of the dishes wow'ed me. I expected a little bit more from learning from professional chefs.
I took the George Brown baking course (it was the only one that fit in my schedule at the time) a few years ago, and for me it was well worth the money. The recipes were simple/standard stuff (e.g. apple pie, eclairs, shortbread cookies, etc) but at the time, I was a pretty tentative home cook, and it gave a but more confidence and skills to use in the kitchen.
For something a little different and fun, a group of friends and myself signed up with Liason College (Longbranch location on Lakeshore West) for a one night cooking class. Essentially, it was set menu of a specific theme (e.g. thai, italian, etc) and we could either watch the chef prepare it, or we could do the cooking ourselves with him instructing/guiding us. In the end, we cooked ourselves a great meal, and all the drinks (wine, beer, soft drinks) were included in the price. Considering it was a bunch of friends gathered together, it was a lot of fun, a large dinner party we all helped to create.
I took the basic culinary arts course at GBC many years ago. I don't think the dishes in and of themselves are meant to wow, they're not the point. I believe the course is designed to teach the techniques required to make each of those dishes. Once you learn the basic techniques, what you do with them is up to you, you can go on to make "wow" up your own dishes.
I don't even use recipes anymore, or at least not to the letter, thanks in part to the foundation of understanding the GBC course helped me to establish. I'll scan a recipe to determine the basic cooking tecnique it's based on and the flavourings involved and then decide if I'll follow the plan or play my own riff.
ltn - It sounds to me that the GBC classes were perhaps too basic for your level of expertise.
Has anyone taken any classes since the renovations were completed? Have the asian kitchens improved significantly (most woks were in disrepair, the venitng system so loud you couldn't hear the instructor, poor sight-lines, etc)? Would love to know which courses you took most recently, name of instructor and your opinions. Thanks.
I recently finished Culinary Arts I. Not having taken classes at GBC before the reno, I can't really compare - but I felt that the facilities were more than adequate. Good quality cookware, nice gas ranges and convection ovens, everything still quite clean. The dish pit was shared by two classes so it could get a little chaotic.
Overall I enjoyed the course but felt there was room for improvement in the syllabus. It seemed as if we started off doing a lot of cooking, but that gradually tapered off - the last 3 or 4 classes (out of 12) we mostly stood around watching the chef demo various dishes and barely got to do any cooking ourselves. I don't know why they've designed the course that way - the last class was all demo, which no one was happy about.
The level of cooking was a little too basic for me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Haven't seen the asian kitchens so can't comment about those. If I could do it over I would take the Skills course instead - which is not much more expensive, but is graded, and students must make all the dishes demoed, not just one. In Arts you only get feedback from the chef if you ask for it really, whereas in Skills everything you do gets evaluated.
Oh, and regarding the sight lines - not sure if there was anything similar before the reno, but it looks to me like all the rooms now have cameras over the chef's workspace linked up to screens around the room. So as long as the chef actually uses the camera (ours didn't), then you shouldn't have a problem seeing all the action...
When we first got married, my wife took a few courses there, and I sat in for her on occasion. I thought the courses were first rate, the chefs both knowledgeable and open to questions. Later, after we hired a live-in housekeeper, we sent her for both Chinese and Thai cooking classes; after, we enjoyed fantastic food at home for a fraction of the price of take-out. Sweet and sour chicken where the sauce was really sweet-and-sour and not 50% cornstarch; Thai beef with basil using real Thai basil leaves; coconut shrimp soup - the list goes on. We've always thought the courses were a great investment.
I took a whole battery of courses at George Brown when it was on Nassau-Baldwin. It was 1971/74! At night...There were two cooking courses, two baking courses, two wine courses (all labelled Beginning and Advanced) plus a menu planning course, and -- ta da -- a meat cutting course. In the latter, we had to pay more, but we got to cut up a half a steer and take home all the meat. At that time, the fees for the GBC courses were 100% tax deductible -- they did not break it down into tuition and supplies. It was all tuition. I had a great time, since nobody really knew the mechanics of cooking. The only book around was Saulnier's Repertoire, Joy of Cooking and Good Housekeeping. Plus Julia Child. Precious few other cookbooks.
At the end, we got a Diploma in Haute Cuisine (DHC). I still have the papers and the recipes.
We learned the rules so that we could break the rules. Each night was 4 hours long, with a 15-minute break. We cooked and carried home our food. My wife and I took them together, so we ended up with 48 croissants for breakfast the next day, or 36 Danish, or four pies. We fed our co-workers. Jacques Marie taught the wine courses, Willy Brandt taught the cooking, along with Maurice Pryor.
Good basic stuff...