Cookin’ Up Good Clean Fun with Dirty Apron in Vancouver

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Groups can opt for an evening of easy, entertaining cooking classes at The Dirty Apron School & Delicatessen in Vancouver, offering more than 30 international menus and teambuilding options sure to bring out your team’s Top Chef attitude. We spoke to Callie Cooper, who manages special events bookings for the school, about a few of their most sought after and savory options.

Prevue: Can you give us some background on the school’s history?

Callie Cooper: The school is owned by Nico and Karri Schuermans and David and Sara Robertson. They worked together and decided they wanted to pursue their dream to teach so they came over here and created this wonderful school and developed an atmosphere where people can teach and learn, all the while enjoying good company, conversation and a couple glasses of wine.

Do you work with corporate groups often?

Very much so. We probably have two or three corporate groups here every week during our busy season. Otherwise, we still have about five a month.

What kinds of classes can groups choose from?

We offer three different styles of events. One is our 4-hour hands-on style. The group gets exclusive use of the school and with that they get to choose one of our 30 menus to make for that evening. We have everything from Italian cooking, French cooking, Japanese cooking, Thai–you name it, we’ve got it. And then they get to do that class with their peers.

We also offer a teambuilding-style event with a little bit of competition. We bring in a group and divide them into “team appetizer,” “team main” and “team dessert.” Each team has their own chef to help guide them through the night and give them all the tricks of the trade to help them complete their course. At the end we pick a winner based on who had the best dish.

Nice! Sort of like the cooking shows on television?

Funny you should say that, our last class type is our team Top Chef competition, which is very similar to what you might have seen on television with the Iron Chef competition. With that, we bring the group in and we divide them into two teams and they each get their own chef that we provide to guide them, although they mostly stay in the background. There are two secret ingredients introduced the day of the event and they basically have to compete with their opponent.

How intricate of a dish are groups expected to prepare?

Basically, they’re all restaurant quality dishes so we have everything from the basics all the way to the plating, so they really get the ability to create a restaurant quality dish. We have everything from foie gras to a really great French toast if you take a brunch class, so there’s a range of dishes that we offer.

One of my personal favorites would have to be the roasted Berkshire pork loin with herb-roasted potatoes and natural pan juice. It’s probably one of our most popular dishes here and it’s on the “No Place Like Home” menu. It’s got a really great apple mustard that we put on it and it’s just a really unique dish.

Another favorite that people really tend to enjoy is the “Mamma Mia” class, because they get to make handmade pasta from scratch. They have to knead the dough, put it through the pasta-making machine and let it set and rise, so it’s a really great experience.

Is there a venue in the school where outside groups can enjoy the food you guys cook up?

We have a deli attached to the school. It’s not like the type of restaurant where they take your order and you are served. It’s really sort of New York-style where you come into this great heritage building and it’s really got this rustic feel to it. Everyone comes in and does deli-style serving, and there are unique sandwiches on the menu like our really great pulled pork sandwich that’s a twist on what you might see with Southern barbecue. Instead we use Vietnamese barbecue.

We also have a popular crab and shrimp sandwich and every day we have two or three lunch specials and sides, soups, salads and things like that, made fresh in-house daily. We also have an amazing pastry chef that makes incredible baked goods. It’s pretty great.

How long are the group classes?

They all run four hours long. They begin at 5:30 p.m. and run until 9:30 p.m. It’s a 3-course meal for most of our menus except for a few select ones and the first two courses are served with glasses of wine–a really great red and a really great white–that have been handpicked by our in-house sommelier Robert Stelmachuk, and they pair beautifully with all our dishes and everyone gets to enjoy that with their first two courses. Then we bring out our house coffee and tea for dessert.

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When are classes offered?

Every day. We offer two time slots. We run our regular classes Monday through Sunday from 5:30-9:30 p.m. unless a corporate group would like to book it instead. Then we would put one of those people in that time slot. However, we also have the ability to do an afternoon appointment or a lunch event. Those run from 11 am until 7 pm.

Our maximum capacity for groups is 32 people. We are a small and intimate venue. We don’t divide our groups, we do it all in one room. Even though it’s small it tends to be better than having to divide a bigger group.

We’re sold! How do groups sign up?

They can contact me over the phone or through email at callie@dirtyapron.com. I will describe the different events to them, let them choose which one they want to do, and then once they’ve decided we take a deposit and collect the balance 30 days before the event. We’ll get information from them like dietary restrictions, and in the week before the event we will hammer out the details. If they want to decorate or bring in party favors we will organize that for them, as well.

What kind of feedback do you get from groups?

I tend to send corporate groups a follow-up email the next day thanking them for coming in and asking for feedback. I’m proud to say that thus far we’ve had amazing feedback.

People really enjoy it. I think it’s a really unique way to get together when you’re in a corporate setting and to enjoy each other in the kitchen. I think with a lot of people, the kitchen in their home is the center of everything, and in our business our kitchen is the center of everything too.

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