Recipe for romance: Cooking schools, supermarkets cater to singles
Maybe you're searching for Mr. or Ms. Right, and the club scene isn't your thing. Maybe you're newly divorced and would prefer to find that...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Maybe you're searching for Mr. or Ms. Right, and the club scene isn't your thing. Maybe you're newly divorced and would prefer to find that special someone without blind dates, hiking trips with strangers or church mixers. Maybe you just like to cook — but think it's more fun with company.
Whatever the reason, cooking schools and supermarkets around the region are adding classes and events crafted with singles in mind, hoping to appeal to a demographic on a perpetual quest for new places to meet people.
Seattle's Blue Ribbon Cooking & Culinary Center held its first singles cooking class earlier this month and has added more after drawing a crowd. Whole Foods Market in the city's Roosevelt neighborhood is holding its second singles night and wine-tasting party Friday evening, with a cooking class geared toward singles the night before.
PCC Natural Markets recently launched a series of date-night cooking classes, and Space City Mixer, a social networking group, says attendance at its cooking classes for singles at a Mercer Island cooking school is growing.
Bonding over baking
Food is a great unifier, organizers say. Not everyone is comfortable chatting over cocktails or swing dancing. But everyone has spent time in a kitchen at some point, and has a story or two to share.
Cooking helps you "let your guard down," said Chef Jemil Aziz of Blue Ribbon. "Here, your hands got dirty, just like the pretty lady next to you."
"It's giving everyone something to do together ... you're going to create something together. And then it gives everybody something to talk about," said Andrea Martin, founder of Space City Mixer.
Energy, fun, passion
Cooking up love
Have a date coming over for dinner? We asked local chefs for some tips on how to pull off a successful meal.
Cook what you know. This is not the ideal time to experiment with new cuisine. Cooking a tried-and-true meal leaves you more time to socialize with your date rather than stress over a sunken soufflé.
Focus on presentation. Whether you go for a family-style meal, fondue or a dinner with several courses, pull out your prettiest dishes. Light candles. Have some music in the background to stimulate conversation and fill in any gaps.
If you're truly strapped for time, don't feel badly about ordering in or cheating a bit with some items from, say, Trader Joe's. "I'd rather spend time on presentation, because we eat with our eyes," said Vanessa Johns-Webster, director at Blue Ribbon.
Consider cooking together. Chefs say this is a great way to get to know another's interests and talents. And you never know what creation will end up gracing your table.
Making salad dressing and learning to cook steak au poivre as a team sure seemed a recipe for camaraderie at Blue Ribbon's recent inaugural singles cooking class.
On this night, more than two dozen smiling would-be cooks at the $85 class are sizing each other up, wine glasses in hand. A handshake here, a joke there, and soon the room is buzzing with the chatter of strangers becoming friends.
They range in age from late 20s to 60s and span professions from musician to plumber to project manager to aspiring bull-rider. One woman came after the end of her 22-year marriage, hoping to re-learn how to date. Some of the guys received gift certificates from well-meaning in-laws and friends as a gentle nudge to go out and meet people.
Most say cooking together seems less threatening than trying their luck at a bar. And rather than go home with a hangover, at least they're learning something new to boot.
"I don't do online stuff. I wanted to do something I enjoy. For me, it's not just about meeting a date. I might meet new single people or a friend," said Cynthia Cole, 40, of Seattle. "It's been fun to watch people learn. It's the energy, it's the fun, it's the passion about the food."
Meeting at markets
Whole Foods Market in Roosevelt is offering a chance to shop for dinner and companionship simultaneously. Shoppers can signal whether they're looking for a man or woman with a blue or red ribbon tied to their basket. Later on, they'll gather for wine tasting in the store's kitchen.
"People meet here all the time, whether they're meeting friends or family for a cup of coffee or a meal, and we think it's a great place to meet someone special, too," said Michele DeAnda, a Whole Foods spokeswoman. "We like to create events in the store that kind of make it unique and fun and a positive experience other than just coming in and getting groceries."
PCC Natural Markets hopes to come to the rescue with its Table For Two date-night cooking classes, which begin March 8 at Green Lake and then at other locations throughout the region. On the menu: wild mushroom and prawn risotto, handmade rolls with herb and truffle butter, pan-seared medallions of beef and French cheeses.
"They joke about how the best place to meet someone is in a grocery store. Meeting when you're choosing your lettuce, that idea has merit," said Marilyn McCormick, manager of PCC Cooks, the market's cooking program. "I just think it's not the same as meeting in a bar. It has a different context and kind of a nice feel to it."
Space City Mixer started holding cooking classes with Chef Anita Myfors on Mercer Island four years ago and has seen attendance grow ever since. Each meal ends with the class gathered around a candlelit table sharing each others' creations. It's like having a dinner party without the planning, Martin said.
"We do mingling events all the time, but this event in particular, by the end of the event, the amount of conversation, socialibility the warmth among everybody is a lot higher than one of our pub nights," Martin said. "Everybody has a kitchen. Everybody feels at least somewhat comfortable in a kitchen."
Food, folks and fun
Back at Blue Ribbon, the crowd around the flaming frying pan howls with laughter as Aziz adds more heavy cream to his "low-fat" sauce. Across the kitchen, Noel Burbridge, 32, of Maltby raises his mashed-potato-covered hands to ask a question. Carlette Carumbana, 33, of Issaquah squeezes butter and flour together with her hands while chatting with neighbors who are slicing bread.
Cooking turns out to be a great way to meet women, said Burbridge, who came with a friend and whose outgoing nature kept a crowd around him most of the night.
"The fact that it was cooking broke down the barrier," he said. "It was the attitude, it was the environment. It wasn't a bar, it wasn't a club."
The ladies outnumber the men probably by almost 3-1. And Bob Frazier of Seattle (via Los Angeles), a 62-year-old trumpet composer and teacher, said he sure wasn't going to complain.
"Nobody's gonna have more fun than me," Frazier said before merrily smashing peppercorns with a mallet and flambéing shrimp in a brandy sauce on the stove. "It's always good when you've got more women than men."
"I met some wonderful people tonight," Frazier said. "This is the most fun I've had since I moved to Seattle."
Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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