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We straggled in to the Culinary Arts Kitchen: enthusiastic cooks, complete neophytes and everyone in between. The beautiful room on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ new Seven Seas Explorer is a cooking-school dream: 18 stations (one person to a station), excellent flat-screen television coverage for up-close viewing of demonstrations, and mouthwatering programs of instruction.
The instructors were warm, humorous and down to earth about culinary practice, equipment, technique and improvisation. They gave clear, easy demonstrations and recapped the steps for each dish before circulating among us, refilling glasses of inspirational wine, giving comfortable advice and making sure disaster was averted.
We learned to use a thin coat of ghee on a hot pan for fish. We discovered how to use parchment paper to make Limoncello-soaked almond cake. We learned to mix dressing in the bowl where the salad will be tossed rather than pouring it over the top.
Whisks clattered. Broad knives chopped. (“Those wooden blocks with all the knives? I don’t know what half of them are for, and I’m a professional chef,” one of our instructors said.) And small frying pans hissed as the class prepared Asian Rumaki; French Mustard Vinaigrette with Greens; Fish in Crazy Water; and Drunken Limoncello Tea Cakes. There was considerable confidence and laughter among us.
We were shown how to make a cartouche out of parchment paper to form a vented cover to shallow-poach fish. (“It’s a hat, but in cooking school they told us, ‘You call it underwear, we call it lingerie; it’s a cartouche,’” an instructor explained.) And we learned how to hold a knife properly, as well as how to balance it to choose the right one for your hand.
The wine flowed as we plated each dish, and at the end of class, everyone was invited to call their friends onboard to share in the feast.
Culinary Arts Kitchen chefs teach 18 different programs onboard Explorer, from “At Home Italian” and “Who Wants Dessert” to “Teatime at the Abbey” (where participants learn how to make sweet and savory dishes, including scones inspired by the PBS television series “Downton Abbey”). Classes are two hours, so clients should be comfortable standing for that long — although the time passes like a flash. Starting at $89 per person, the cost is below the going land rate and well worth every penny.