When I was invited to be a VIP at the first cooking class at the Northland Cultural Academy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. For me, ‘Norfies’ was the place I used to hang out at as a teenager when I thought I was a lot cooler than I really was, or a place to do a quick shop for some clothes or accessories before an event. I had never really thought of it as a ‘foodie’ place, despite its large food hall that I always used to find myself wandering in on my way out of the centre.
But given that Ben Milbourne of Masterchef fame was giving a Masterclass on ‘new’ Mexican, I was really keen to give it a go and see what Northland was serving up, and I was so, so pleasantly surprised by this fantastic cultural and foodie experience at what I had always just seen as my local shopping centre.
The Cultural Food Academy aims to highlight the wonderful cultures that co-exist in the Northland area, and the wonderful produce that occupies the busy fresh food hall at the centre. With Coles, Woolies, two butchers, a fish shop, a Green-grocer, an Asian grocery store, a Middle Eastern bakery, a Bakers Delight, a poultry store, Mediterranean deli and more, you really could get everything you need for most cooking adventures in one spot.
The cooking class itself was fantastic. Perched outside Woolies, myself and some other hungry novices sat at bench seating and watched Ben cook some of his favourite Mexican dishes and had a go at plating a dish and making tortilla’s from scratch with the very handy tortilla press we all received in addition to a class specific apron. Seeing Ben make these dishes that I never thought would be achievable in my own kitchen definitely encouraged me to experiment more with Mexican cuisine, a type of food I adore but always saw as being in the ‘too fiddly’ basket.
The snapper ceviche with pork belly was absolutely to die for, and getting to have a go at plating it with all the proper elements used at Ben’s restaurant was really fun!
My favourite dish we got to try was the traditional ‘hangover’ food in Mexico, Chilaquilles. The closest thing to what we know as nacho’s that actually exists in Mexico, the homemade tortilla chips with chicken, beans, tomato salsa and cheese and served with some soft feta cheese was so delicious and something I would so happily eat for dinner.
In addition to this, we also tried a few different types of tequila which was also super interesting… and felt very rebellious drinking tequila at Northland at 10am.
These classes are a great opportunity for food lovers and cooks in the area to try out a range of different cooking classes with fantastic chefs. And for $25 per person, these are an absolute steal (I have paid much, much more at places in the city for similar kinds of demonstrations). The cost includes a gift box, tastings and all recipes. And the best part? All proceeds raised go to SecondBite, a non-for-profit organization that rescues fresh, nutritious food that would otherwise go to waste and redistributes it to community programs that support those in need across Australia. So for $25, you get to learn how to cook and eat delicious cultural dishes, and support those in need!
For anyone who is interested, this is the schedule of cooking classes that will be taking place as part of Northland’s Cultural Food Academy over the following year:
Spanish Fiesta with Shane Delia (one of my favourite chefs!)
Saturday 23rd January
Greek Family Table with Travis McAulley
Saturday 2nd April
Vietnamese Fresh! with Miss Chu (Another personal fave!)
Saturday 9th of July
So go on, foodies… Contact Northland and help support SecondBite and discover a new cuisine for your kitchen! You may even get to hang out and learn off a very spunky chef!
Hoping you are having a delicious week,