If you got a chance to catch last weekend's episode of "Eat It and Like It," then you saw something that hasn't been spotted in a very long time on our show.
The most loyal, who go way back with us to that first season in fall 2011, will probably know what was different this weekend.
The answer? We were back in the kitchen.
I actually sat down and did some math and came up with the fact that it had been almost two years since we shot a new cooking segment in a kitchen.
Last weekend, we circled back around to the spot of one of our very first cooking segments: 700 Kitchen Cooking School inside The Mansion on Forsyth Park.
Executive Chef Peter Russo and I had a blast in a beautiful facility, and frankly, it made me think about Christmas and unique Christmas gifts. What better idea for that food lover/wannabe chef in your life than a visit to that cooking school?
Chef Peter is relatively new to town. He arrived in Savannah from the Washington, D.C., area in May. Four days after he rode into town, he was cooking his first class.
He took a little bit of time to look at what his predecessor, Chef Darin Sehnert, had built at The Mansion since the school opened in 2005.
I recall chatting with Peter over the summer and him telling me he wanted to change a few things, and it would all take a little bit of time. Time is up, and you need to go try some of these classes.
The biggest change was scheduling. For years, the cooking classes were during the day, which really only opened them up to tourists, or locals looking to play tourists. It was hard for anyone who lived in this area to take a random Tuesday off to enroll in a class. I mean, sure, you could, but getting some friends together to enjoy it with was undoubtedly a challenge. Chef Peter is now offering some classes in the evenings, at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., and it varies with the day, the menu and the time of year.
But seriously, how much fun could that be to get a few friends, bust out of work early and head over to an evening of learning great techniques, dishes and menus, and have a blast in the process. And I haven't even told you about the other big change.
Once upon a time, I recall asking Chef Darin if he served wine during his classes. He kind of squinted and said, "No, I try to stay away from that."
Which was more than understandable. You get alcohol involved and people tend to lose focus of the reason why you are taking a class in the first place. Well, the rules are different now and Chef Peter has no problem saying so.
"When we are cutting and lots of knives are involved, there is no wine," Peter says. "But if we are just mixing and stirring and maybe sautÃ©ing some crab cakes, I'll pour a little wine so everyone can relax a bit and enjoy themselves."
At no extra charge. Hey, if you are spending about $100 to take a fantastic cooking class, the chances of it turning into a sloppy, washed-out wine fest are very slim, and that's a good thing.
I popped in on one of Peter's classes last week ahead of our shoot and just loved the scene in there. There was music playing in the background, strangers were chatting and creating stuffed mushrooms, another group was making crab cakes, still another group was grilling shrimp skewers and chicken. The energy was fantastic. Group photos, selfies, laughs and a good time. It looked like a blast. Of course, I love to cook. Heck, I'd better, or I need to go find another occupation.
The courses are similar to what they used to be. Lowcountry cuisine is very popular, but the chef has introduced an Italian course that teaches you how to make fresh pasta, much like we did on our show.
"I should sell pasta machines in here," Peter says. "Once everyone sees how easy it is to make fresh pasta, they are addicted."
No surprise. There's also a course like the one I witnessed on hors d'oeuvres, and even one showing you how to make your own baby food. I guess if you can't convince your significant other to try something new, you can leave them a tiny jar of split pea stuff and slip out the back with your adventurous foodie friends.
Seriously, though, this is a good time to get together with some friends or even a husband-and-wife team. The classes have been Trip Advisor's No. 1 attraction in Savannah for years, and with good reason. New instructor, same high standard. There is a ton of food to eat once you are done, and of course, those couple of glasses of wine. A perfect gift for someone you know who would enjoy it or even a girls night out type of thing. Looking for a gift for that someone you know who has everything but loves food? You might want to start at The Mansion.
See you on TV,