Until recently, my experience with formal cooking instruction has been limited to a single semester of high school. It’s not for lack of interest—cooking has always been a fun thing for me and my partner to do together, and in the early days of the lockdown, we were those people suddenly learning how to make bread and pasta from scratch. But something about taking a class seemed intimidating (is everyone going to see how unskilled I am at chopping an onion?) so I never really got around to it. That’s why, when I got a chance to try a free Chef Dan Hayes’ Cooking School class online, I was kind of excited.

Each class offers a different meal, often themed (think Spanish tapas or Thai green curry). The one I selected was the Al Fresco Italian, because the ingredient list was mostly things I already often have on hand (we’re big on Italian food in my house). If you live in Victoria, you can pick up the ingredients or have them delivered to you for an extra fee, otherwise, they were more or less ingredients available at your local grocery store. Utensils-wise, I was also pretty well equipped—though it was only by chance that I owned an immersion blender, and I can imagine that being something many people may be missing.

It is suggested, and I also strongly recommend, that you measure and lay out the ingredients beforehand. This way, you can relax a bit as you move through the steps and enjoy a sip of your drink every now and then. That being said, the class was very easy going, and the pace wasn’t too fast or slow. If you were falling behind, instructions were repeated or clarified in the chat, plus it was an environment that welcomed questions. Things did get pretty real for a second in the beginning, as I transferred a scolding cast iron pan with a sizzling hot chicken breast from the stove to the oven (“You’ve just mastered pan roasting,” Chef Dan Hayes told the class) but after that, I pretty much coasted.

The only thing I messed up—and this could have been worse—was near the end, when I got distracted with thinking that I really wanted to add extra cheese to my salad. While I was gleefully grating more, I completely forgot about the chicken that’d been moved back to the stove, and the result was an ever-so-slightly charred chicken breast. Not to worry, though, it still tasted good (and I managed to hide it when I did my plating, which you can see below).

Brits Chicken Al Fresco

You can book individual classes at Cooking School, or you can also purchase a membership that includes 6 classes a month and on-demand access to their content library. If you want to try a free class, you can use the code #COOKWITHDAN.