At APB Cook Studio we like to say that we curate experiences with food, not merely do classes. And an important part of any of these is our instructors. We take our time in picking them out of a crowd, understanding their relationship with food and then work with them to best to showcase their expertise. We do not require our instructors to be formally trained or have culinary degrees (although we are not averse to it). What we do need is passion for food and for the field of expertise they have chosen. Excellent technical knowhow of their subject is mandatory of course and an ability to communicate with students, share their love for food and connect with people. Because APB is all about the people that are part of the team and the people that chose to be part of our world.
Even before APB became reality, one instructor Rushina was very clear about having on board was Saee Koranne Khandekar. This passionate food blogger who authors the beautiful blog My Jhola had her entranced with her lovely recipe videos and beautiful photographs! Many lovely classes later Saee’s is our resident baking expert and conducts most of our baking classes. And in a stray moment after her last class (an X’mas Goodies Masterclass, which was hugely successful) we took a moment to ask her how she felt about teaching here.
Here’s what she has to say about her experiences at APB Cook Studio:
“When Rushina first asked me if I’d like to take the baking classes at APB, I was absolutely thrilled. With fancy ovens and stand mixers, and a pantry full of exotic ingredients to play with, the studio was designed to be a baker’s delight. I’d be an idiot to refuse.
I began obsessing over bread when I realized that over the years, the quality of breads we buy off the shelves has gone down considerably—there are so many preservatives in a standard white loaf that it never catches mould—almost like a plastic loaf that stays as it was for years. Whole wheat breads contain plain flour and loads of caramel to make it browner—I learned this at the confectionery course I took for two whole years, so that is authentic information! I was so put off by the commercialization of simple bread making that I decided to demystify the task for people like me who want to eat better. So, when I design the recipes for the breads class, I try to make them as easy to do as possible so that participants go home swearing never to buy bread again. I try to show them the beauty of bread making—the sweet smells of bread rising, the sounds of the yeast popping, the nuttiness of a ready loaf—it is my way of sharing the therapy that is bread making.”
Since the inauguration, I’ve taken quite a few classes on baking—breads, cakes, gourmet cupcakes, (even done a charity bake sale of over 400 cupcakes) etc. My absolute favorite thing to teach at the studio, though, is the breads classes—we do two kinds, a basic and an advanced class. In the basic class, we concentrate on basic technique and ingredient information—what flours to use, what yeast to use and where to buy it, how to identify whether or not the yeast is good enough to use, etc. At the end of the class, participants sit down and sample some of the breads they made and carry all the rest home. Invariably, I get tweets and text messages the next day, telling me how the families enjoyed the breads.
In the advanced class, we cover all the above and do a few more complicated breads. These are equally welcomed with suitably loud ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. When the first bowl of yeast froths and the first dough rises to double, the expressions on participants’ faces are priceless. When they pack up their breads to take home, I look at their proud faces, and no matter how tired I am, I go home with a glow inside. The idea is to take the stress and the science out of bread making and make it an easy, accessible and relaxing thing to do.”
As a little surprise for Saee we asked a few of her students to share their experiences with us. Here’s what they had to say:
“A touch that can persuade dough to rise, and get ready to be shaped and baked. The magic that seems to suddenly transform mere ingredients to be on their best behaviour and turn into breads, which are a delight to watch proving, bake and eat. And the comfort of knowing that you have been taught well, and capably. Saee’s baking.” Varsha Varadarajan
“Saee has a thorough knowledge of her subject. She is extremely knowledgeable and shares plenty of information with her students. What is so special about her, is that she is able to lead a group with flair and bring us all together to create delicious food.” Jyoti Agarwal
It’s beautiful to see this exchange happen, and it’s good to know that Saee is as moved by the process as we are.