Sitting 420 metres above sea level in Kowloon is The Chef’s Table at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. Already known for its quality dining options, The Ritz-Carlton created this private dining room for cooking classes and tastings, to allow guests to learn more about and appreciate the art behind the exquisite food served at its restaurants – a culinary backstage pass, if you will! As a passionate home cook and lover of Italian food, I was excited to try out a cooking class at The Chef’s Table taught by Pino Lavarra, the two-star Michelin chef at the hotel’s Italian restaurant, Tosca, and see what I could learn from a true expert.
I arrived at The Ritz-Carlton a little before 10am on a Saturday morning and found The Chef’s Table, a private room tucked away on the same floor (102nd!) as Tosca. While the burgundy furniture, carpeting and saxophone elevator music was in typical hotel fashion, the room offered a spectacular harbour view, even on a misty day. We were offered warm beverages, as well as a full-length apron, chef’s hat and a USB flash drive containing the class’s recipes. Technology in all areas of life and culture… you gotta love it!
It turned out we didn’t actually need our hats and aprons (though we got to keep them, which was nice), as this class was more of a demo than a hands-on session. Chef Pino explained that he does sometimes offer hands-on classes but because they are much more time consuming, he can’t zip through as many recipes as he’d like. I was a little disappointed at first, but soon appreciated this style of cooking class. One of my fellow classmates told me he actually prefers demonstration-style classes, viewing them almost as performances – he gets to watch, learn and appreciate something he loves, but is incapable or reluctant to do himself… An interesting perspective!
Chef Lavarra was an engaging teacher, showing us how to make buffalo carpaccio, basil spaghetti wrapped in swordfish paper, Mediterranean tuna with eggplant purée and potato soufflé, and finally, lemon soufflé with raspberry and beer sorbet. The chef and his assistants had great personalities, were enthusiastic to answer questions and had no problems when their guests grabbed and poked at ingredients, equipment, or err… Chef Lavarra himself (let’s just say one lady was particularly fond of the chef)! There were approximately ten other attendees who seemed more of a local crowd, but most spoke English, were very friendly and passionate about food – so you’ll be fine if you plan on going to the class by yourself (like me!).
However, definitely don’t make the same mistake I did and eat breakfast before the class! We tasted samples of every dish made during the cooking demonstration, and then followed the class with a three-course lunch at Tosca with wine pairings. Needless to say I was very happy but in a total food coma by the time I left the Ritz-Carlton in the afternoon! I’m probably happiest when I’m eating sautéed veggies topped with an egg, so the gourmet Italian cuisine at Tosca was a little too fancy for my humble tastes (check out our full review here). That said, the food was undeniably elegant, creative and delicious; Chef Lavarra stays true to his roots and manages to retain the simple, classic flavours and ingredients of Southern Italy while putting an innovative, modern spin on them.
With a hefty fee of $1,200 (plus a 10% service charge) and no practical takeaways for the home cook, cooking with Chef Lavarra is definitely not for everyone. Nevertheless, I do highly recommend this experience for more advanced food connoisseurs, gourmands and lovers of fine dining – if this is your scene, it’s actually a really good deal because you get three hours of access to one of the best chefs in Hong Kong, a decadent three-course meal with wonderful wines and a chance to meet other people as passionate about food as you are!
Fancy making a weekend of it? Check out our review of a staycation at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong here!
Cooking classes at The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong cost $1200, plus 10% service charge. They happen one Saturday per month; contact 6119 2433 for more information and bookings.
Tosca 102/F, The Ritz-Carlton, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, West Kowloon, Hong Kong
2263 2270 www.ritzcarlton.com/…
Iris blogs about clean living and her cooking adventures figuring out a HK-sized kitchen at Eating Clean In The Dirty City