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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

The Culinary Lab Combining Technology and a Hands-On Curriculum

We visited as a guest of the venue

IMG_9613In the lower level of Anaheim’s Packing District, tucked in the back through a camouflaged door is a space known as Cooks Chapel. The roomy open white space is the perfect canvas for showers, parties, and events.

Offering…

IMG_9462An elegant marble bar…

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IMG_9486Modern fixtures and design…

IMG_9412And a large professional kitchen.

It is also home to Chef Ryan Wagner’s new concept, The Culinary Lab.

The Culinary Lab will offer students interested in pursuing a career in the culinary arts and sciences a “hands-on” 28-week program beginning January 2016, incorporating apprenticeship rotations through some of Orange County’s top local restaurants with video demonstrations and an on-line curriculum. The 9 to 1 student to instructor ratio will give students greater access to their instructors and more time actually practicing.

Beyond being home to the cooking school, The Culinary Lab will host cooking demos by some of the area’s top chefs, including an upcoming four-course demo, tasting menu, and wine pairing with Old Vine Café’s, Chef Mark McDonald on Sunday November 8. Having just attended a five course dinner and wine pairing at Old Vine Café, I can promise an incredible as well as educational experience to everyone attending.

Recently I received an invitation to preview the space and attend several instructor-led cooking demos with a little sampling along the way. The demos were not only educational they were delicious!

IMG_9417Goli shared with us her passion for using fresh locally farmed ingredients incorporating all parts of the product into dishes. From fennel bulb, to seed to frond, with unused portions going to the compost bin for future planting.

IMG_9420And she shared with us a shaved fennel and fuji apple slaw with honey mustard dressing and fennel frond garnish.

Chef Ryan demonstrated two dishes each prepared two different ways for comparison of technique.

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IMG_9443Fresh local yellowtail from San Diego was served with sliced squash and asparagus and topped with gorgeous, red amaranth microgreens. The sample on the right was sliced and rested on softened kombu seaweed prior to removing and serving, imparting a fresher more oceanlike flavor to the yellowtail in comparison to its non-kombu treated counterpart. This is a tip I will remember for the future and it wouldn’t be difficult to replicate at home.

Chef Ryan’s second demo highlighted the sous vide cooking method versus searing and finishing in the oven and its impact on flavor and texture. Sous vide is a slow cooking method using vacuum sealed food cooked slowly in a warm circulating water bath.

IMG_9593This sous vide short rib was first seared, which not only provided a nice flavorful caramelization to the outside of the meat, it kills pathogens that may develop at low cooking temperatures. The sous vide process on this rib took three days at 134°.

IMG_9598Comparing the short rib prepared by simply searing and roasting in the oven you can see a clear difference in texture, with this technique delivering a more shredded result. While I loved the tenderness and the texture of the sous vide method on the short rib, I actually preferred the flavor of the roasted one, which seemed deeper to me. And according to Chef Ryan, there really is not necessarily a better technique here. It more depends on what result you are going for.

IMG_9498Finally for the sweet tooth, we watched a dramatic dessert demo. Liquid nitrogen was used to freeze a bacon-infused ice cream topped with walnuts in maple syrup.

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While I think I will leave the liquid nitrogen to the pros, this was fun to watch and of course the tasting was fun too!

All in all it was a delicious and educational evening and while I often associate creativity with cooking, these demos certainly highlighted some of the scientific aspects.

The Culinary Lab in Cooks Chapel is located at The Anaheim Packing District at 440 S. Anaheim Blvd in Anaheim.

Dana Wilde grew up playing “sous chef” for her father as he churned out one amazing meal after the next for family and friends. She inherited her father’s life long passion for cooking and has spent the past two decades studying, reading, practicing, experimenting, and creating in the kitchen.
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