Saturday, June 7, 2014

Market Bistro's Cooking School

I was invited to attend a cooking class at the new cooking school inside the the revamped Market Bistro Price Chopper in Latham. The cooking school is right behind the full service restaurant near the front of the new food court area. I had my doubts about how successful this full service restaurant would be when I toured the new Bistro section of store when it opened. There were several tables of diners and while I didn't eat any of the restaurant's offerings the plates of food being served looked pretty damn good.

On to the cooking school... I was invited to a 90 minute class titled Two Guys and a Grill with a focus on Certified Angus Beef. The school kitchen is pretty sweet. There are three islands that hold up to 5 students each for the hands on classes. There are also long tables for more of a lecture style class.Here's a picture I took from the second row. You can see the three islands and a pretty slick kitchen setup.

There's a camera on the back wall that projects onto the two screens for close ups of the lessons.

The beef was cooked by Chef Michael Ollier (from the Certified Angus Beef organization) and the side dishes were prepared the the cooking school's Chef John Winneck. First up was a top round London broil. This was marinated in a Central Market Marinade named Neil's Favorite Marinade, apparently Neil Golub likes it. These steaks got an overnight soak in the marinade, a sear on the stove-top grill, and then a bake in a 225 degree(F) convection oven.

Then a sweet corn souffle was prepared. During this preparation, each chef offered their opinion as to why eggs should be separated cold - Chef Winneck says the albumen doesn't stick to the yolks as much and Chef Ollier says the yolks are firmer and less fragile. News to me, and that's the kind of thing I like about cooking classes. Just some spontaneous, off-topic pro tip.

The souffle was had an interesting texture. The bottom turned into a corn spoon bread and the top was a soft egg. The beef was thinly sliced and still had a nice chew to it. I thought the marinade had a nice flavor but was a little sweet for my tastes. I gave the marinade bottle a quick look and MSG and high fructose corn syrup were on the ingredient list. Neil and I differ in opinion here. I don't think the marinade needs either but that's a matter of personal taste.

The next up was a petite sirloin seasoned with Central Market's Quebec seasoning, some bacon caramelized Brussels sprouts, and a twice baked potato gratin. The Quebec seasoning looked to be a Central Market riff on Montreal seasoning. Here's the petite sirloin and potato gratin.

Both were good. I'm a food snob, so I'll nitpick a little - I forgot to look at the ingredient list on the Quebec seasoning. It had mostly a coarse cracked pepper flavor and none of the garlic, onion or mild heat that I associate with Montreal seasoning. But in fairness, it wasn't advertised as Montreal seasoning. I really liked the flavors of the potatoes, but if I were to make the recipe at home, I think I would make mashed potatoes and then just stir in everything else. Again, a personal preference...and a completely different recipe.

Then some trimmed up New York strip steaks were grilled. It looked like all they got was some salt and pepper, which I would argue is all a good strip steak needs. You could probably even skip the pepper. The steaks were grilled and served with the caramelized Brussels sprouts and a chimichurri sauce.

I liked everything on this plate. I was also impresses with the amount of char Chef Ollier was able to get on the steaks while maximizing the amount of medium rare in the steak with what looked like and over sized grill pan. Again, some more personal preference, I'd probably skip the chimichurri sauce with a strip steak. A good, properly grilled strip steak doesn't need dressing up.

Everyone in the class was given a folder with all of the recipes and a shoppping list for the menu. Some of the items on the shopping list don't exactly match the recipe (I'm nitpicking again), like apple wood smoked bacon on the grocery list and Hatfield bacon in the recipe, but I'm being a jerk here. Although on the comment form, I mentioned that there was a lot of product placement in the recipes. Several Price Chopper brands were called out, the Hatfield bacon, some Cabot cheese, Eggland's Best.This class listed for $40. Most of the other evening cooking classes run longer and seem look to cost $55. I'm sure prices will vary by course.

My favorite part of my time in the cooking school was the discussion about what qualifies to be Certified Angus Beef. It starts with genetics, the steer needs to be Angus. Then it comes down to marbling which is determined after the animal is slaughtered. One in four Angus has the proper marbling to be Certified Angus Beef. I had to ask, if you are packing large cuts to be broken down in the store, how do you know what the marbling is going to be like?  A cut is made between the 12th and 13th rib, which is the cut made to quarter the side of beef, and the view of the prime rib is used to make the marbling decision. They've even done studies to make sure that view is an accurate insight to the rest of the cuts on that side of beef. Who knew?

Certified Angus Beef was my go to beef before I got mixed up in raising our own so I used to eat it all the time. This was probably the most beef I have eaten that wasn't ours in over two years. The beef was good...I like ours better. But I'm biased.

Back to the cooking school, they are planning to do quite a bit of teaching there. The schedule is available here. They do private events - got 10 people that want a class in something, that can be arranged. They also do some kid classes and it sounds like they had their hands full with a Frozen themed class.  The kids classes are going to broken up by ages, 5-to-8 and 9-and-up. The staff was very friendly and Cooking School Chef John Winnek is a capable teacher. Not everyone that can cook can teach. He can.

Full Disclosure: Besides being plied with beef, I was given a Certified Angus Beef gift bag. I don't know if that's a standard practice at all the classes. I know some local programs either send you home with food or have an in-store discount after the class. Anyhow, the gift bag contained an instant read thermometer, a spice rub, little pad & pen, a chip clip, a little meat guide that you can probably pick up at the meat counter and a coupon. I'm keeping the stuff this time because I'd like to try the spice rub and my mother-in-law needs an instant thermometer. So, it's hers. The kids will do something with the rest.


  1. That was a fun and informative cooking class. I agree with you that the strip steaks and accompaniments were the best of the three tasting plates. Gonna try my hand at that menu tonight on the grill!

  2. Hi Rachel. I think the school shows promise. It's a great space.