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Wok and play

By Sun Yuanqing (China Daily)

08:50, April 18, 2012

Zhou Chunyi (right), owner of Hutong Cuisine, teaches her students how to make Chinese dishes. (Provided to China Daily)

Chinese chef teaches 'home kitchen' classes in capital

In a traditional courtyard house or siheyuan right in the heart of Beijing, Zhou Chunyi peers over the shoulder of one of her students as she wrestles with a wok. "More oil! And stir faster," calls Zhou, whose students are mostly Westerners. She is teaching them how to make moo shu pork, a classic Chinese dish.

"I want to teach them authentic Chinese cooking. Those who come to me for the first time usually marvel at how delicious homemade Chinese dishes really are. That's my proudest moment," Zhou says.

Zhou, 39, operates what many consider to be the longest-running "home kitchen school" in the Chinese capital. She offers a "genuine taste of Chinese home cuisine and hands-on experience" with a three-four hour class for about 250 yuan ($40, 30 euros).

"I keep coming here because I can learn new and practical things that I can actually try back in my own kitchen," says Liliana Torres, from the United States.

Zhou's lessons can be traced to the hands-on cooking classes for travelers and expatriates, which are said to have taken off in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s following the popularity of the chef Julia Child, who launched her L'cole des Trois Gourmands, also known as the School of the Three Food Lovers.

Zhou's students and many others say it only seemed natural that the trend found a place in the capital of the country with one of the greatest culinary traditions.

Brought up in Guangdong province in the 1970s, Zhou majored in chemistry in college and was supposed to live a nine to five routine as a chemist in a decent company.

"But I never liked chemistry. I found it to be dull and tedious," Zhou says.

In 2003, having worked in the sector for nearly a decade, Zhou decided to visit Sichuan province to shrug off the "mounting resentment" she had developed for her job.

During her travels in the southwestern province, the local fare, famous for its spicy and strong flavors, ignited Zhou's love for food.

"You know us Chinese people. Wherever we go, we think first about what to eat," Zhou laughs.

After returning from Sichuan, Zhou was reluctant to go back to the life of a chemist. "Sichuan food is so tasty. Why not take a break and learn to make it?" she thought.

She soon resigned from her job and took a three-month course in Sichuan cuisine, becoming a certified chef along the way.

"The more I learned, the more fascinated I was," Zhou says.

Returning to Guangdong, Zhou sought to continue her studies with a part-time culinary school while she looked for a proper job.

"But all the training institutions were for full-time chefs. What I needed was some part-time course as cooking was only my hobby at that time."

Zhou decided to invent one such course for people like herself.

"There must be many others who love cooking but only have time for part-time courses," she says. She went online and did her research. Her questions were finally answered when she discovered the concept of "home kitchen classes".

The trend had reached Asia from the West in the 1990s but it was not until the last decade that similar "home kitchen schools" were reported in big Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

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kfSYDlNT at 2012-05-15188.143.232.*
Hello ~ Thank you for stopping by my blog and lenvaig kind comments. I enjoyed looking at your pictures. It allowed me to take a virtual tour of your country. I had never seen a persimmon tree before and I am not sure if I have eaten one!
  

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