Four years after pulling up a stool at the Simply Better Gourmet Institute’s communal table, I’m now four sessions in after having recently wrapped up Chef Charles Missick’s six-week Bahamian cuisine course. This was one of those courses that I went into with all expectations of just having fun exploring the foods that are standard in the average Bahamian kitchen, and I did just that, but at the same token the chef kept participants on their toes by upending some ingredients. This was certainly not a peas and rice, potato salad and macaroni and cheese kind of course – the Bahamian cuisine class morphed into cooking with Bahamian ingredients.
Sweet, first catch of the season lobster meat met the duff sans guava, for a lobster duff with lobster sauce; Missick’s savory take on the much-loved Bahamian dessert.
The chef actually reached back decades into the annals of his mind to recreate the lobster duff with lobster sauce that he had done for a presentation in his younger years. He showcased the spiny lobster which had just come into season with a duff, which most Bahamians think of as a sweet application, and turned it into a savory pairing.
Under his tutelage, Spanish paella took on a twist with the addition of Bahamian seafood – spiny lobster and land crabs with mussels, shrimp, and spicy sausage – for a flavorful one dish meal.
A garlicky, buttery, beautiful stuffed lobster which I think will be my go-to preparation going forward was also on the agenda.
In an experiment with conch, we added freshly pounded conch to a loaf that would have paired perfectly with a boiled fish or stew conch/fish breakfast; and we added lobster to a bread that was amazingly fragrant with lobster and herbs, which we ate hot out of the oven slathered with butter.
An amazingly tasty lobster spring roll joined the line-up as we continued to experiment with lobster.
A Bahamian staple, cracked conch, was also offered. It turned out to be the most amazing cracked conch I have ever had – tender and flavorful, and which we served with potato wedges that had the perfect creamy interior foiled by a perfectly cooked exterior.
Stuffed whole fish, an amazingly rich in flavor stuffed crab, chowder two ways (traditional and creamy), and a Cajun spicy conch rounded out the sessions.
Missick says he was inspired to offer the Bahamian cuisine course by his last group of students who after taking his Gourmet I and II courses encouraged him to go outside of his repertoire to stage an hors d’oeuvres course, and then challenged him to offer something else, hence the course featuring Bahamian ingredients.
“I was inspired by the last group of students I had who were yearning to learn more,” he said.
He decided to push their boundaries of what they thought Bahamian cuisine should be, and which he said is why he decided to include items like the lobster duff with lobster sauce in the course offerings.
“Years ago, I did creative ideas around our Bahamian cuisine, and it had been such a long time, I wanted to recreate them to see how they came out.”
While his student participants continued to broadened their culinary horizons, Missick said he, too, got things out of the course.
“This course really took me back to that creative side of me and reignited my passion,” said Missick. “I think one of the most fun classes was doing the lobster duff and the stuffed lobster because the lobster season had just opened, and they were freshly available.”
Whether you’re a budding home chef, just love food, taking courses taught by an industry expert can take your culinary skills to the next level. Whether you need to learn everything from scratch, or just want to develop skills in the kitchen, cooking classes help.
Before taking any of Missick’s sessions, I was already a person that loved to cook, but I’m always fascinated by the professional tips and techniques, and which I incorporate into my kitchen without even thinking about it, including correcting things I had been doing wrong since childhood.
I would encourage any amateur who loves to cook and wants to improve their skills to take a class; they are definitely informative. No matter how good of a cook you are, you will learn something new. And all of the hassle is eliminated, as Missick provides all ingredients you just need to show up.
The participants in my session had one thing in common, we all love food and were open to learning and trying new things.
Missick’s classes are small group, three hours, once-per-week and interactive experiences.
Whatever your motivation for wanting to take a cooking class, you can learn a great deal about food, ingredients, and preparation techniques while having fun.