For every Yukoner who has ever felt intimidated by a new recipe or technique in the kitchen Chef Catherine (Cat) McInroy is here to help.
McInroy is the owner/operator of the Well Bread Culinary Centre, the only privately-owned culinary education centre in the Canadian North.
“We teach home cooks and bakers of all ages basic culinary skills and help experienced home cooks and bakers expand and challenge their existing skills,” McInroy said.
The classes are short, usually two and a half to three hours in length, and each class has a culinary focus and objective. For example, a pasta making class would showcase the guests making their own pasta dough from scratch using local eggs. The guests roll, shape, fill and cook their creations in new ways to expand their palate and recipe repertoire. When the cooking is finished, the guests join each other at the big family style dining table and enjoy their creations over great wine, local beer and conversation.
McInroy explained, “Our guests can expect to be greeted by our friendly staff upon arrival, offered a beverage of Canadian wine or local beer and enjoy a welcome snack while they get to know the other guests in the cooking class. After a brief introduction by the chef, the group observes the first cooking or baking demo, washes their hands and gets to work at their own fully set up work station recreating the dish they just watched the chef prepare. All the ingredients are pre-measured and all the cleanup is done by the amazing staff at Well Bread.”
Culinary classes at Well Bread are all about enjoying the experience and the food. The centre is fully stocked with every piece of equipment the home cook would find in their own kitchen, and specialty equipment that may be on their culinary wish lists; such an immersion cookers (sous vide machines), KitchenAid stand mixers and many small hand tools home cooks may be unsure what to do with.
“The ingredients we use are all produced and/or purchased locally and the goal of Well Bread is to get more people cooking and baking for themselves so food traditions are not lost,” said McInroy.
She adds, “Cooking classes for home cooks are not a new concept but are definitely gaining popularity as more home cooks take notice and control of where their food comes from. When I leave the Territory for a holiday, I always seek out an interactive food experience or cooking class and there are a surprising number of culinary centres like Well Bread popping up in the larger cities across Canada and the US. When I retired from the RCMP I knew I wanted to be involved in a food business but I didn’t want to replicate something that was already being done in Whitehorse. I forged my own brand, created a culinary experience that is interactive and unique, and I work a crazy amount of hours making sure my culinary classes exceed the expectation of every guest that adventures through my door.”
Well Bread Culinary Centre is working hard to connect Yukoners and visitors with local food producers.
“My business was built for the people of the Yukon and I also enjoy hosting visitors when they come here to see our amazing culture and wilderness. The local farmers and producers are making it possible to have year round fresh local meats, eggs, fish, dairy products, produce, honey, herbs and lettuces. I’m here to show the home cooks and bakers how to use those products with confidence at home. I believe it’s my responsibility to safe guard the techniques and traditions of home cooks by passing that on to as many people as I can. Food is the universal language of the world; we can all enjoy a common experience together regardless of language, race and religion. Food connects people in ways no other activity does. I love being part of that.”
Each class is focused on a specific topic; for example Thai, Indian, Ukrainian and all other ethnic cuisines, bread baking, cake Decorating, pierogi, cabbage rolls, and the list just goes on. McInroy explained, “Most of my clients are adults but I do offer many kids classes throughout the year. I’ve had children as young as five learning to make their own snacks and school lunch. I have a series of classes called ‘Preparing To Launch’ where youth come after school and learn to cook a full meal for their family which they take with them when they leave two hours later. Can you imagine your teenager cooking dinner for a family of four in less than two hours? Well believe it! It’s incredible to see the transformation that happens in that short period of time.”
She adds, “Many of my guests come in doubting their cooking or baking abilities and leave a few hours later full of culinary confidence and delicious food that they can’t believe they created themselves! That’s how I know I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be.”
The Well Bread Culinary Centre can be found at 6209 6th Avenue, Whitehorse. To learn more, including finding a schedule of their upcoming courses, visit wellbread.ca.