Leave it to a global pandemic to make you long for pricey cocktails at a noisy bar. Sigh. While your go-to dates from pre-COVID times probably don’t fly anymore, there still are ways to be romantic.
Folks are finding creative (and safe) ways to keep dating right now, and the upcoming WellFest in September is no exception, providing interesting and engaging activities for you and your partner. This year, the virtual weekend – focused on mental and physical wellness – offers a virtual cooking class with Acme Chef and Owner Kevin Callaghan, filmed in the new Durham Technical Community College kitchen at American Tobacco Campus.
This is the first cooking class outside of Durham Tech’s culinary program to use the space since the college acquired it in April 2019. Formerly the Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, the kitchen now typically hosts some 55 students – the first batch to enroll in the school’s new associate degree program for culinary arts.
The halls and rooms of the practice kitchen are eerily empty, and thousands of dollars worth of equipment has been left untouched since March. But Kevin will soon light the flames on the stoves again and people will trickle into the kitchen, if only just a few.
“I’ve never taught a virtual class before,” Kevin says. “I mean, I’ve done a fair amount of work with cameras, but there’s also been a live audience who’ve been there at the same time. But I’m excited! It’s fun to get in front of people and talk about food and demystify it. A lot of people want to make it really difficult, but food should be a really exciting part of our lives.”
Kevin plans on covering everything from experimenting with new ingredients and fixing mistakes to giving viewers feedback … well, sort of. Shannon Media Inc. COO Rory Gillis will be there with him as a participant.
“She’s going to be, sensibly, the kitchen idiot,” Kevin says. “When you’re cooking in a regular class, there’s a lot of feedback that you’re getting. People look at you or they smile or they laugh or they ask questions or they look confused. So I think when you don’t have that level of feedback, you have to make sure you’re clear about what you’re saying – take our time, do it right, communicate all the various points. Because if I skip something, people don’t have the ability to raise their hand.”
Keeping the monotony that these past few months of staying at home has brought in mind, this class won’t be just virtually sitting in the kitchen the whole time. Participants will follow Kevin and Rory to Firsthand Foods (read about them in our September 2018 issue) to highlight the local source of the meat they use in the meal.
“I’m going to work very hard to make it as fun as possible,” Kevin says. “I’ve watched enough cooking videos in my life that are just completely boring.”
Produce delivery company Hungry Harvest will be providing some on-the-fly seasonal ingredients as well. Fighting food waste and hunger, the company rescues produce “that doesn’t make it to the grocery store,” says Bart Creasman, senior markets manager for Hungry Harvest, “whether it’s overstock or not meeting size, shape [or] color [standards].” The ingredients will vary depending on the month, or really, the week, so participants are in for a surprising and sustainable meal. Call it “healthy delicious,” if you will.
What that means, Rory says, is “producing forward meals made with sustainable produce and meat sources.”
Couples can also add a wine or beer flight, or a mini bouquet, if they want to take date night to the next level!
“Restaurants are open, but people are still iffy on eating out, so [this event is] an opportunity to bring a high-quality restaurant experience into your own home – in a different way,” Bart says. “You get to be a part of the process of creating that meal for yourself and your family. And that’s something unique and probably something we wouldn’t be doing if it weren’t for this situation.”
A portion of proceeds from WellFest benefits the Durham Tech Foundation, which funds scholarships to support future frontline workers. To purchase tickets for two at the early-bird price, click here. The discount expires Aug. 31.