Adelaide has several existing cooking schools to chose from but already the Sticky Rice Cooking School at Stirling in the Adelaide Hills, promises to offer something special and unique which sets it apart from the others.
Claire Fuller the proprietor wanted something more than a cooking class which was confined to a set of recipes or delivered in a soulless kitchen; she wanted something more than a demonstration by a celebrity chef once a year; and she wanted something more than a basic level of tuition but without the formality of chef school. From this desire, was born Sticky Rice Cooking School, a place where the food journey you choose, takes you on a first class cooking and cultural experience and delivers a wealth of knowledge and fun along the way.
The product on offer at Sticky Rice Cooking School is that of a well organised class, with excellent tuition from experienced chefs. Hands-on classes of up to 18 people, cook up a storm in the inspiring and aesthetically pleasing 1940’s building in Stirling. It’s a fun filled, social class with plenty to offer the novice or experienced cook. It’s a unique experience where the spirit of cooking is shared between food lovers.
You will find the classes lively with social conversation and inspired chatter and the chosen chefs’ approach is always fun and often humorous. Your cooking class is held in the renovated and custom designed kitchen space where the latest design in cooktops and cooking facilities are complimented by inspiring antique furniture, reminding you of ancient times and foreign lands. During your day of discovery you will learn an abundance of interesting facts and stories relating to the ingredients and eating customs of counties such as Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Nepal. You will dine on the delicious food at the end of the day and enjoy a complimentary wine or beer while chatting to new friends.
For the owner Claire, she simply wanted to offer the things that she had been looking for.
“If I go to a cooking class, I want a food journey, a day of discovery and I want to learn enough about the cuisine and ingredients so that I can take away the principals and apply them to my experimental cooking at home. I want knowledge about the cooking processes, I want to understand how the flavours work with each other but I also want to know about the people, the culture and customs associated with the food.
The knowledge is a way of building up a relationship with the food that I am preparing. It creates respect, which leads to care and attention. I want to make sure that the importance of a dish is recognised and that the star ingredient is given due attention. When I learn that a dish found its identity because of a royal or religious custom for instance, I want to preserve that identity, and I therefore want to do it justice and not fuse it or change it.
Preparing a dish without understanding something about its meaning or something about the ingredients in it, is a bland experience for me, a hollow, meaningless activity, a chore even. In contrast when I am thinking about the story or learning which ingredients connect to a dish, it becomes meaningful, it becomes important to get it right, and it becomes creative. When I know why I am trying to do something a certain way it also makes it easier to critique and to better my own work. It inspires me.”
At Sticky Rice you won’t just learn the recipe set, you’ll make them and learn a whole lot more along the way. You may find out why some dishes only get prepared by the head of the household for example. Or which dishes are served for special and royal occasions and why they are significant. You might learn how food is stored and eaten by the native families and in what order is it served at mealtimes. You might learn about the regional differences of ingredients and recipes available in the country. You could learn about how politics and historic invasions played their part and influenced food in the townships near boarders. You’ll learn which are the brands of ingredients to buy and why, and which ones you are most likely to need in your pantry. You may listen or share travel stories with others about past journeys or plan or enquire about journeys still to come. You’ll take home a wealth of knowledge and an ignited passion to heighten your future cooking experiences.
The owners wanted to create a space where people could comfortably linger and be inspired by the sights and surrounds as well as learning about the cuisine.
Claire says, ‘sometimes inspiration comes from a feeling or a vibe and therefore being in a place that it is conducive of feelings is very important. I invite people to come into Sticky Rice even if they don’t think they would enjoy a cooking class. Just come into the reception area and shop and just linger.
It’s like a foreign market place where the atmosphere, the ambience, the people watching, the unfamiliar combination of sounds, sights and aromas create a new and interesting place to be. You don’t necessarily have to do anything to gain enjoyment. You’re just there, feeling the vibe and exercising your senses beyond their normal routine.
You can come into Sticky Rice and the sounds, sights and aromas will be around you. You can touch and discover the texture, smells and tastes of the ingredients on the display table; you can pick up the information cards and learn all about the facts of the ingredients you see. How is fish sauce made? What is tamarind and how is it prepared? What is kra chai and what family of spice does it belong to. What does shrimp paste smell like?
You can view the gallery of food and travel inspired photos that don an entire wall of the dining area. You can sit down with some recipe books and browse through the inspiring food travel stories or you can watch the recipe demos playing on screen. You may be inspired to know more, and you may want to peek at the cooking school class in action. You’ll hear the chatter, smell the aromas and imagine yourself there, involved and participating. It’s inspiring in that way.”
The interior renovations were designed to create a stimulating, cultural, and inspiring space. The reception area features a unique waxed texture wall finish that you can’t help but touch and in the shop you will find Asian antiques and giftware from the 1800’s. Along one entire wall of the dining area you will find a gallery of food and travel pictures that will inspire you. Stunning shots of street hawkers, crops being harvested, colourful food markets, children and spiritual lives captured on camera. The images are absorbing and stimulating.
Overall the decor and choice of style that has been created compliments the sense of enjoyment, contentment and discovery that people can expect to feel when they are participating in the fun and social classes.
Classes start in November 2008 and will be available all year round. Classes will be offered in primarily the Asian cuisines such as Thai, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Laos, Cambodian, Malaysian, Japanese, Indonesian and Indian but also some interesting Middle Eastern cuisines such as Moroccan and Lebanese will be explored in 2009. The online booking calendar at www.stickyricecookingschool.com.au shows an up to date schedule of planned classes or you can Tel 08 8339 1314 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for enquiries.
The cooking school is set to evolve over time and will be influenced by the chefs that visit and what the customers want. As a customer, it’s a good idea to let them know if you have a particular cuisine that interests you and be aware that private classes are also offered for group bookings.
Stirling in the Adelaide Hills is a popular destination and a beautiful spot for the cooking school. The owners are local to the hills and when the property at 96 Old Mt Barker Road went up for sale, they knew that it was well suited to the renovations and their proposed business use. The property is steeped in history and many of the local customers will have visited it as the old deli and post office and may even remember it as the place where they bought their weekly allowance of sweets as children. The building was built in 1940 comprising a shop and residence and was looked after by the original owners for many years before being used for a variety of community and retail uses. The entrance now boasts a gigantic stone Buddha statue towering over 2m high and symbolising the spirit of Asian cuisine and the friendly welcome to be found at the Sticky Rice Cooking School.
Located only 18 km from Adelaide via the South Eastern Freeway, Stirling is a village and district of extraordinary charm. In many ways it captures the essence of the Adelaide Hills. Being quite unlike the typical Australian town it is middle class in temper, European in vegetation, and Mediterranean in its ambience.
The township came into existence as a very conscious act of real estate selling. In 1854 Peter Prankerd, a close friend of the South Australian politician, Edward Stirling, laid out the town (he named it after his friend) and on 27 February, 1854 the firm of Samson, Wicksteed & Co auctioned the lots with the advertisement that the area 'approximated to the spring temperature of our native land'.
At the time Stirling had natural advantages as the area around it was ideal for market gardening and orchards and the route running through the village was the main road through the Adelaide Hills.
Today Stirling is by-passed by the South Eastern Freeway. Consequently it has been left as a delightful, elegant small village in the hills.