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Cooking classes inspire culinary confidence

J.R. McMillan

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Most dinner parties start in the kitchen, and the better ones tend to end there. But some of the best in Columbus actually start in a dentist office—or what used to be one.

Tricia Wheeler, founder of The Seasoned Farmhouse, describes her passion project simply as a recreational cooking school. She arguably sells herself short. The dated dental office in Clintonville that once sat empty has evolved into a rustic, yet refined, community kitchen for ambitious home chefs or anyone seeking to hone their culinary credibility.

It was more than just a second act for the former home, restored to its original residential charm with raised beds of herbs and produce for a rotating slate of chefs. It was Wheeler’s second act as well. Following a short and unsatisfying stint in corporate security after graduating from Ohio State, she found herself at a fork in the road.

“I called my dad and said I was going to start a new business, either a catering company, or a background screening company,” she revealed. Her father played practical and asked which one would cost less to get going, and how much money she had on hand. “I told him the background screening company, and $400. He said, ‘That’s great, because the hungrier you are, the harder you’re going to work’.”

The fledgling screening company she started a decade earlier grew and was eventually acquired by an investor for a comfortable sum. Wheeler suddenly found herself out of work, but with an enviable second chance. So she relocated to New York to fulfill her long-deferred dream of going to culinary school—with her mother in tow to tend to her two-year-old, while her husband made the long commute back to Columbus.

“I figured out early on that as much as I loved cooking, I really wanted to share what I was learning with my friends,” she recalled. “They didn’t find cooking joyful as much as tedious, so I was the only one throwing dinner parties.”

The idea that would become The Seasoned Farmhouse started small—not even as a school, but as a series of classes Wheeler initially taught at the M/I Homes Design Center kitchen showroom. The concept was solid, but the space proved restrictive. And what started as nine tiny dental offices was reconfigured into an oversized kitchen and intimate dining room dynamic enough to accommodate several classroom formats.

“We have students who are straight out of college and love to cook, retirees who love to cook and are looking for something to do, and couples who love to cook and want to do something together,” she noted. “We don’t repeat a lot. I’ll teach my sauce class every other year, and we might do our knife skills twice a year. My curiosity has always been in trying things that are new.”

The Seasoned Farmhouse offers 42 classes, four times a year—an impressive schedule by even traditional culinary school standards. Yet there remains an unexpected mix of luxury and utility, with fundamentals flanked by classes in niche cuisines as well as options like sheet tray dinners, for those looking for creative ways to get a delicious meal on the table fast without the fuss.

One course that remains a perennial favorite is Wheeler’s kitchen fundamentals class, a two-night course taught over two weeks that teaches everything from sweet and savory crepes to how to make a pasta sauce from scratch with what you probably have in your cupboard.

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“I like giving students that foundation, that confidence,” she added. “I teach how to make a chicken piccata, it’s the perfect date meal. It’s what I used to make for every date I’ve ever had,” Wheeler confessed. “I started as the main instructor, but our growth has been organic. If someone comes to us, and we like what they do, we’ll give them the opportunity to see how their talents fit.”

This evening’s guest chef for “Thai Date Night” is no exception. Damian Ettish hails originally from South Africa. But his relocation to London, and extended adventures in India and Thailand before immigrating to Columbus, epitomize the unique expertise students have come to expect. He’s used to working solo, but tonight he’ll have more than a dozen sous chefs—some seasoned, some as green as the curry—but all eager to learn something new.

“Cooking for a dozen people is obviously different than cooking on the truck, when you never know how many people are going to show up. So when I teach people to cook, it gives me time to share tips,” Ettish explained. “No one is coming here to learn to slice an onion. But I’ll teach them how to cut one the way I learned to on the streets of Thailand.”

His renowned local food truck, “Fetty’s Street Food” and restaurant chops seamlessly pivot between tricks, like how to cut that onion into tiny boat-shaped slices that better hold the sauce, and his intriguing travelogue, peppered with wry humor and hands-on encouragement.

“I really love these intimate settings. It’s more my style, and you
can focus more on the food and flavors,” he noted. “It’s a lot like a food
truck versus a restaurant. If I can teach people how to do something on a smaller scale, as a couple, then they learn how to do it on a larger scale, like a dinner party.”

Among tonight’s students are Michael and Emily Berlin, who moved here from Chicago five years ago. Emily gave Michael a gift certificate for The Seasoned Farmhouse their first Christmas in Columbus, and they’ve been coming ever since.

“Watching how everything goes together as a home chef is different than just following directions,” Michael observed. “Columbus has an up and coming food scene, so this is what a lot of people are looking for.”

 Technique is tough to teach on a recipe card, or even YouTube. Ettish imparts insights more than instructions, like how to cut a bell pepper upside down to leave the seeds behind, slicing a chicken breast for even cooking in a curry, or holding a knife properly to ensure the pungent peanut and cucumber dip for the corn cakes ends up with more pickles than knuckles.

“We’ve done more of the dinners than the classes, but we always pick up a new tip,” noted Emily. “It’s the small things you don’t know unless you’ve been trained in a restaurant or gone to culinary school.”

That first gift came full circle with a birthday party at The Seasoned Farmhouse with family and friends Michael planned as a surprise for his wife. Though Wheeler’s better known sister company, Flowers & Bread, also hosts events, the breadth and depth offered by The Seasoned Farmhouse draws a line between the two as distinct as the difference between a café and a restaurant.

“We’re a gift couples give each other. Then they invite their friends to come with them next time,” Wheeler explained. “It’s why I love being in the experience business. It feels like I’m always throwing a dinner party.” •

For more details and a schedule of upcoming classes, visit theseasonedfarmhouse.com

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Food & Drink

Big Cat Energy: Watch Brio Asst. GM channel Joe Exotic in new video

Mitch Hooper

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At this point, the Tiger King references are all but inescapable. And it's for good reason; the show somehow gets more and more detached from reality as it goes on.

That being said, no one expected this video when Brio took to Facebook to announce its still doing carry-out orders at its Easton location.

https://www.facebook.com/brio.easton.9/videos/118240286484197/

"Hey! Do y’all have the hunger of a large jungle cat?" the post said. "Y’all tired of being caged up all day? Can’t find meat in the grocery store? Well, git yerself down to the Brio! Hurry, and try not to git bit!"

But this isn't the first time they've used a unique approach to announcements.

https://www.facebook.com/brio.easton.9/videos/117821209859438/UzpfSTEwMDA0ODk0Njc3ODUzNDozMDYwNjExMjk0OTk0MTQ6MTA6MDoxNTg4MzE2Mzk5Oi03NDQ0OTc1OTI2Nzk2MDk4MzQx/

Visit this link to place a pick-up order.

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Food & Drink

Katalina’s owner leading charge for independent restaurant owners

614Now

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Known for her famous Pancake Balls (ridiculously delish, BTW), Katalina Day, the namesake behind Katalina's, is urging Gov. DeWine to consider emergency financial lifelines for her industry.

Restaurants were among the first and most devastated industries impacted by the coronavirus. Many notable local brands, such as Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, have closed most operations. According to Day, the industry needs immediate government intervention to survive.

Day started a Change.org petition which articulates the unique and specific challenges faced by the industry and the people who rely on it for their livelihood.

Addressing Gov. Dewine for relief, the petition is closing in on 1,000 signatures

"We have followed orders to close our doors to protect our communities, knowing what it would mean for our businesses, and we are grateful as citizens that you were one of the first to foresee that necessity. We did so without protest, and those of us who remain open are providing a valuable service through delivery, despite it being increasingly less profitable (as delivery services infringe on any profit)." said Day in the petition.

The petition closes with: "Bottom line: From our employees to our vendors and landlords to the burden on the healthcare industry and government, there is not a part of society that will not be touched by this crisis. "

Given these unprecedented challenges, please immediately consider:

  • Emergency grants for immediate business needs such as payroll and crucial operating expenses including food orders and utilities. 
  • Commercial and residential rent abatement and a moratorium on evictions both for owners and employees. 
  • Immediate cash relief for current and laid-off employees.
  • Abatement of payroll and sales tax.
  • Temporary commercial and government loan payment relief.
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Food & Drink

Carry Out Guide to help support local restaurants

614Now

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Local restaurants provide more than just nourishment - they're where we get together with friends, celebrate our special moments and provide a cultural window to the world through food. They've added to your life experience in ways you may have never thought about until now. They are an integral part of our way of life.

Right now, they need you more than ever. Please do everything you can to support our neighbors and friends by calling in to order pick-up or online delivery.

We've put together the Carry Out Guide to help you find quick ideas for your next meal along with updated hours of service and easy ways to contact them. The Guide features six of each restaurants top to-go items and we provide links to their full carry-out menus.

Please open the Daily (614) email for new restaurant additions for the Guide.

Stay safe and thank you for stepping up for the people who need you most right now.


View the Guide

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