It must have been good karma to take over the former Wave Hill bread kitchen in Wilton, because the AMG Cooking School, which opened it’s doors in July, has truly found the right ingredients for success.
Alison Milwe-Grace and her partner, Olivia Savarese, are not new to cooking having run a catering and event planning business for years. When the professional kitchen space at the old Wave Hill Breads came on the market, they saw an opportunity and jumped at the chance to open a cooking school. They have been hosting both adult and kids classes ever since.
The good friends added their own personal touch to the space. Gone are the wooden bread racks and flour dusted floors. A cozy candlelit living room and dining area serves as the entrance, while the kitchen features a huge work area complete with famous chef quotes on chalkboards to serve as inspiration.
We had the treat of “crashing” a couples cooking class recently, and saw first hand the personal touch both Alison and Olivia provide in a very hands on cooking experience. The class, a Valentines gift from wives to husbands, was BYOB. The five couples provided their own wine, and mixed up martinis and Cosmos on site...a nice touch.
Alison, professionally trained and the winner of a James Beard Scholarship, introduced the class and explained the menu she had put together; Deconstructed beef Wellington, Chicken Scarpiello, and Mixed greens salad with caramelized shallots and Dijon vinaigrette.
“Lesson #1”, instructed Alison, “ Always stand when you are cutting….gives you better accuracy and balance."
The couples were shown how to cut perfect pastry circles from sheet of puff pastry…admittedly some more perfect than others. In no time, they were popped in the nearby oven.
Next we got down to seasoning the filet mignon with just the right amount of salt and pepper.
“Lesson #2, always use Kosher salt, throw out that Iodized stuff you have at home, as it adds an aftertaste to everything.”
As one of the husbands, (who had come prepared dressed in chef’s coat and hat from an amateur cooking competition he had won), volunteered to sear the filets, the rest of the group chopped mushrooms and stripped thyme from their stems to make the duxelle mixture, critical to beef Wellington.
“Lesson #3," sear on high heat using mostly Canola or other cooking oil. Olive oil burns quickly.” Explained Alison.
Two of the wives volunteered to sauté the mushrooms and thyme, with Alison adding in pate ( from Trader Joes!) creating a wonderfully fragrant mixture. We felt our taste buds come alive with anticipation.
A balsamic and wine reduction was easily prepared to dribble over the filet.
Some fresh spinach was sautéed as a side to add color to the dish.
I glanced at my watch and saw only 45 minutes had passed and this beautiful dinner was ready to be plated!
And then I realized why Alison was SO good at this….she has been a Culinary Arts Instructor at Staples High School in Westport for over eight years, and teaching comes naturally! Her classes are among the most popular and most difficult to get in to. I can attest to this as a parent of a former Staples student..my kids never got in to her class!
It is an amazing thing to watch a good chef cook. But to meet a chef that can teach as well as cook, while making the experience simple and fun is quite remarkable.
Alison and Olivia, who runs the children’s cooking program, both have that ability to engage and delight their students, and a class at AMG Cooking School is sure to be fun for all.
Cooking classes are available for both adults and children and a Cooking Summer Camp is in the works!
196 Danbury Rd, Wilton, CT 06897 (203) 227-5535
[Photography courtesy of Amy Peck]