Owner of Audrey Claire opens a kitchen–classroom.
Audrey Claire Taichman opened Cook this month, a kitchen–classroom that allows patrons to learn and enjoy the art of cooking. Cook is more than just a venue for a culinary education; it is an experience outdone only by the appearance of your favorite chef making you dinner in your own kitchen.
But this is no family kitchen. Cook is structured like the set of a TV cooking show, decorated just enough to evoke the comforts of home.
Only a dozen classes into its career, Cook should already be seen as a prodigal child in Philadelphia’s foodie scene. In the last three weeks, the classroom has housed everything from “Une Soiree Avec Georges Perrier,” the owner of Le Bec Fin, to the “GERSHMAN Y SERIES: Holler for Challah with Bonnie Eisner,” longtime Philadelphia baker.
Last night, it was MidAtlantic and RL2 chef–owner David Stern’s turn to take the plate. Stern was quiet at first — I arrived early to find him toiling over the positions of his pots and the presentation of a massive pork rib brought in from Lancaster County. But once the 16 seats were filled, Stern set out to prepare a course of poached fluke and crab, potato sauce and caviar. There was little doubt as to his ability — not only as a chef, but also as the host of what was undoubtedly Wednesday’s most fabulous dinner party.
When he overcooked the tuna, Stern balked and sheepishly admitted his mistake. But that is the fun of an evening at Cook. The magician is stripped of his curtain. He bears all to his audience and is consequently forced to work slip–ups into his presentation. At Cook, we appreciate the learning process and pay homage to the imperfect art of cooking.
Seated at the countertop, patrons are in constant dialogue with the chef, with Cook’s obliging staff and with one another. When conversations dwindle, visitors can count on Executive Director Lily Cope to supply some wit or a second glass of whatever wine she has chosen for the evening. Last night, we began with a Prosecco and finished with a port.
In just two hours, I thumbed through dozens of cookbooks — all for sale at Cook — tried four different wines, watched one of Philadelphia’s top chefs remove a helmet of salt from the baked ribcage of a pig and made quiet conversation with a man who seemed to have memorized the name of every chef ever mentioned on a food blog.
Do not be fooled, however; the adventure comes at a price (admission is over $100 on most evenings), and while I have typically found quality and cost to run inversely, I would happily eat microwave meals for a month to save for one more night at Cook.
253 S. 20th St.