With 13,000 guests a year attending classes, Sydney Seafood School is Australia’s leading cooking school.
It was established in 1989, when Sydney’s food obsession was in its infancy; French was the largest category in leading restaurant guides and Asian flavours, taken for granted today, were still considered exotic. The NSW fishing fleet caught plenty of whiting, bream, snapper and flathead to supply the local market. But in doing so, they also netted octopus, squid, red mullet, crabs, mussels and other species with which shoppers weren’t familiar … at least not familiar enough to take them home and cook them. A large part of the fishermen’s catch was unwanted and sold as bait or for next to nothing to those who did appreciate it.
Initially established to create a demand for these more unusual species, the School has slowly broadened its reach to teach local, interstate and overseas food-lovers how to cook a huge variety of cuisines. While seafood is still its raison d'être, there's no longer any need to convince most people to try cooking with mussels, octopus or crabs, in fact abalone, sashimi, pipis and sea-snails don't daunt many of the food-savvy guests who now fill classes most weekday evenings and weekends. Asian flavours are in demand, with a class beginning in the Thai shops of Chinatown among the most popular; and leading Australian chefs, including Christine Manfield, Matthew Moran and Guillaume Brahimi, are among the School’s presenters.
All classes commence in the School’s tiered auditorium with a demonstration of the dish or dishes to be prepared. It may look easy in skilled hands, but recreating it later in your own kitchen can be quite another thing. This is where Sydney Seafood School is unique … after watching the demonstration, guests roll up their sleeves and, in groups of five with guidance from the presenter and assistants, recreate the dishes, preparing a delicious seafood meal which they then sit down and enjoy with a complimentary wine tasting.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2009, the School underwent a major refurbishment by leading designer Michael McCann of dreamtime australia design, making it Australia’s most beautiful cooking school with a stunning sandstone entry wall by award-winning sculptor Michael Purdy, Icelandic fish leather lining the auditorium, and wild ‘blackboard graffiti’ on the hands-on kitchen walls. Rich oak wood panelling, an aubergine-hued marble demonstration bench, sleek stainless steel and lots of glass complete the look.
Guests cook at custom-made, stainless steel cooking islands fitted with state-of-the-art Fisher & Paykel appliances, including a gas cooktop, oven, refrigeration unit and extraction system. Hettich soft close drawers, hinges and runners ensure all cabinetry opens and closes smoothly and silently and 46" High Definition LCD Sharp television screens above the demonstration bench ensure a perfect view of all the cooking action.
Once the cooking's over, guests adjourn to the dining room which features a 360-degree photomural of Blackwattle Bay and fishnet chandeliers with over 6,000 gently glowing globes. It's casual but comfortable with cloth serviettes, Villeroy & Boch china and Spiegelau glassware, plus coffee from the School's Nespresso coffee machines.
Sydney Seafood School conducts a wide range of classes for all skill levels, from a simple paella or stir-fry to the more complex weekend workshops with leading chefs. A vast array of cuisines and cooking styles are covered, including the School's most popular class, Seafood BBQ, using built-in 5-burner Beefeater gas barbecues and scheduled five or six times a month to keep up with demand!