Baltimore Chef Shop is Still Teaching and Cooking

By Monica I. Johnson

Don’t you love it when you find the right combination of a fun, educational and unique experience all rolled into one amazing package? It’s more than fair to say that this is what the Baltimore Chef Shop is. Owners/husband-and-wife team, Chef Scott Ryan and Gwynne Ryan, operate the shop, which is succinctly summed up on the Baltimore Chef Shop website as providing “intimate-sized recreational cooking classes, rigorous hands-on learning, and a focus on traditional culinary techniques from around the globe.” So if you make a reservation, remember that you are not going to a restaurant but rather you are going to have an experience and learn something great like Knife Skills 101 or how to make Korean street food. Intriguing, right?

The Baltimore Chef Shop is located in Hampden, and if you know anything about Hampden—home of Miracle on 34th Street and Café Hon—the location alone is a little slice of Baltimore’s eclecticism. The journey to open their shop was a decade-long process beginning with the fulfillment of Chef Scott Ryan’s education and occupational experience.

Chef Ryan graduated from Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Cambridge, MA. He always knew what he wanted to do—teach. He never had an interest in going into the restaurant business. In fact, before opening the Baltimore Chef Shop with his wife Gwynne, Chef Ryan began teaching classes at the recreational program at his alma mater, which is similar to the work they do at their own shop today. He also taught at the Art Institutes in Arlington, VA. and then at Stratford University in Baltimore, MD.

As many dreamers can attest, even when they are not pursuing the dream, the dream is pursuing them. It doesn’t just go away, and Chef Ryan’s dream to have his own kitchen never left his mind during the decade that he was teaching in other schools.

When Chef Ryan and his wife Gwynne Ryan moved to Hampden, the Baltimore transplants decided to pursue the dream sooner rather than later. Gwynne Ryan speaks about the experience of getting started, recalling that they wanted to see what the demand was so they put up a chalkboard sign on their front porch offering cooking classes in their home. Ryan laughs recalling, “And people started coming! We would sell out!” Their kitchen could only hold about six people but no matter, they had accomplished part one of their plan—establishing whether there was a demand. Check!

Now the rest is folklore, urban Baltimore legend…well maybe not but it is a good story. It was fairly obvious that with their newfound demand, they were going to need more space. So as the perfect coincidence in a feel-good story goes, there just so happened to be a space that opened up a few blocks from their home. Gwynne and Chef Ryan agreed to try it and see what happens.

In the beginning, they thought it would just be the two of them with Chef Ryan handling the teaching and Gwynne handling the administrative aspect of the business. Gwynne even kept her full-time job in D.C., but upon opening in 2015 they realized that this was going to be bigger than what they anticipated. They now have 30 employees and all the instructors are professional chefs. On a normal basis (before Covid-19) the Baltimore Chef Shop was offering about 80 cooking classes a month; they are now doing their classes online because of the pandemic.

When speaking to Gwynne, it’s evident that there’s a pride in the work that her and her husband are doing, and the details are very important to them. One such important detail was keeping the feeling of their home. “We realized, what was so desirable to people was to be in a space that they could feel comfortable and a space that felt like a home,” Ryan said.

She also spoke about the importance of how they wanted the students to be able to interact with each other as if they were cooking in their own home …not a cold, unwelcoming, sterile, industrial kitchen. Gwynne explains, “When we set up the kitchen space down the street in our shop, we very intentionally designed everything to look just like home.”

Although the kitchen space must have certain commercial grade equipment like vents, the equipment used for classes is all about attainability for the student (Those Ryans and their details).  The equipment at the Baltimore Chef Shop is home-scaled so any student can use the equipment from class at home as well. You can find the same blenders and mixers at places like Target or Sur La Table.

The total experience is everything! For instance, classes stay small and intimate so timid cooks can be empowered. Though there are those who are fierce in life, some of those same fierce souls can be timid in the kitchen. It’s something that Gwynne Ryan relates to, especially since she, unlike her husband, has no culinary background.

Ryan says, “My contribution is actually that of the perspective of the client. I’m the type of person that when in the kitchen I get so overwhelmed, everything is happening so fast and I need to read through the recipe and really understand…I’m the one that gets really, really anxious.” She adds, “I’m always trying to make sure we are approaching people like me. If I read this recipe is it going to make sense to me or is it all written in ‘Chef-speak.’

Her contribution is invaluable to Chef Ryan.  It goes a long way in helping him when he’s developing classes and forming the curriculum and recipes for the classes. Why? Because Gwynne is the Beta-tester. She makes all the recipes and gives feedback about whether it is accessible enough for the students. The students are making the recipes themselves and need to understand what to do.

Chef Ryan really enjoys teaching the Asian (Chinese and Vietnamese, among others) and Spanish cuisine classes. When the Baltimore Chef Shop opened, the classes were heavily geared in that direction. As the staff has expanded and more chefs were added to the mix, they now offer an impressive myriad of classes with a ton of variety in cultures from East to West.

They now offer classes in Indian cuisine, Cajun, Creole, Moroccan, vegan and there’s even a class in making southern fried chicken. Those interested in baking can take classes like Classic French Dessert, Puff Pastries, Mastering the Art of Chocolate and so much more. Take a look!

The Baltimore Chef Shop has had to make some shifts during the time of the pandemic. A month before the orders were given to shut down, the shop had just expanded to include another kitchen, double the size, one door down from their primary location. Gwynne admits that they were reeling, like many other business owners, trying to figure out what it meant for their business.

After a few weeks of panic, they went into action-plan mode to determine what they needed to do. Like any major change, you either adapt or wither away. Although it’s been challenging and a learning experience, this time has made the little local neighborhood spot spread its wings. With online classes, and summer camps online, they have seen their reach grow past the borders of the Baltimore area to places far beyond.

The Baltimore Chef Shop will continue to operate in this manner until restrictions have been lifted. Although, pre-pandemic, students went to the kitchen location in Hampden, for the summer camps and hands-on classes, now their first online summer camp has ended but one can still join a class or reserve a class with friends via Zoom.

The ongoing implications of running a business with Covid-19 restrictions, has also changed how they work with their students. Typically, a Baltimore Chef Shop class provides the ingredients for students but with restrictions in place, classes are remote. So the question is ‘What to do?’

Now, these eager students can do one of two things. They will either be provided the list of ingredients ahead of time to shop on their own, which may not be as easy as it sounds when it comes to finding some of the more unique ingredients. Option number two is —and here’s where that adapting comes in—students can purchase a Make-At-Home kit.

This is an entirely new effort to help students to be confident that they have what they need. Plus, they may not want an entire bottle or batch of the ingredient. Make-At-Home kits come with all the ingredients partially measured out for the recipe. (The chefs still like for students to participate in the process of measuring—it’s an experiential thing.) The response to the Make-At-Home kits was so good that they will continue making them after the restrictions are lifted.

Other moments of adaptation were based on filling a need.  Although, totally out of their wheelhouse, Baltimore Chef Shop started providing take-out meals for a period of time. Also, as many of us remember during those first couple of weeks of the pandemic, grocery stores were like war zones so the shop filled another need by providing pantry items like flour, yeast and sugar—precisely the items that people could not get.

Gwynne explains, “It was really week by week changing our whole operations and everything…that first month was just exhausting…as things started to settle down, we were able to go back to what we do, which is teaching.”

The pandemic has taken the Baltimore Chef Shop to new and unexpected places but most assuredly it has also inspired new ways of thinking about the business. Find out more about the Baltimore Chef Shop and its classes, summer camp options, Make-At-Home kits and pantry items at BaltimoreChefShop.com.

Rosh Hashanah Sangria

Apples, Pomegranates, wine- Photo from Tori Avey Website

This recipe is from the Tori Avey Website. We encourage to check out the recipe there. Click For Recipe

What better way to celebrate the Jewish New Year than with a sweetly symbolic beverage – Rosh Hashanah Sangria! This delightful drink is tasty, refreshing, and visually lovely. It will make a beautiful presentation at your Rosh Hashanah gathering. It’s also a fun way to discuss the symbolism of the holiday with your guests, because it includes many traditional Rosh Hashanah ingredients.

Selena Gomez Ups Her Cooking Skills on New HBO Max Show

Colorstream Media

Yes it screams gimmick, pop star Selena Gomezups herculinarygame in Selena and Chef, a new series on to HBO Max. The pop star and actress attempts to make delicious meals while stuck at home in quarantine and receiving instructions from acclaimed master chefs.

Gomez takes her lessons remotely from A list chefs including Tanya Holland, of Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen fame, as well as Angelo Sosa, Antonia Lofaso, Candice Kumai, Daniel Holzman, Jon & Vinny, Ludo Lefebvre, Nancy Silverton, Nyesha Arrington and Roy Choi.

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Politics Aside: Let’s Cook Masala Dosa with Mindy Kaling & Kamala Harris

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Before Kamala Harris was chosen as the VP to Joe Biden, she did a little cooking segment with actress Mindy Kaling.  The women talk about their share South Indian heritage while cooking a traditional dish.  Masala dosa or masale dose or masaldosa is a variation of the popular South Indian food dosa, which has its origins in Tuluva Mangalorean cuisine of Karnataka. It is made from rice, lentils, potato, methi, and curry leaves, and served with chutneys and sambar.

Southern Style Key Lime Cake Recipe

Cake by Ollis Wright

Cake by Ollis Wright

Facebook has quite a few impressive groups where food lovers gather sharing recipes or simply images of foods they’ve prepared.  And it was the Urban Soul Kitchen where I laid eyes on a innovative take on key lime pie only it wasn’t a pie, it was key lime cake.  The talent behind the work was Ollis Wright.  I had to reach out to him.   Maybe his cake brought me back to a childhood where my maternal grandmother prided herself in making grand cakes to please her grandchildren.   Wright’s cake warmed my heart and tempted my tongue with the promise of citrus tang balanced with sweetness.

When I caught up with Wright, he shared, “Baking for me just kind of slipped upon me. I’ve always enjoyed cooking as a kid. I would always be in
the kitchen with my mother and helping her cook and prepare meals or just simply sit and observe.”  I asked him how does it make you feel to bake?, ” Baking makes me feel
good just like cooking in general makes me feel good. It puts me in another world
where nothing else but my creation at that time matters to me.”

As for now, Wright is working on building his business and clientele.  The Atlanta based baker plans to move to Texas soon.  His baking talents are garnering part-time money for now.   However, ultimately he’d like  to have his own restaurant in multiple locations and possibly have his own cookbook too! – Written by Crystal A. Johnson MCCN Editor

Contact Ollis Wright:

My Savory Creations
IG: SavoryCreations_87
Facebook: SavoryCreations (Ollis Wright)

Now let’s dig into Olliis’  Southern Style Key Lime Cake Recipe: 

Ingredients:

3 cups of all purpose flour

2 Cups of buttermilk

2 1/2 cups of sugar

2 cups of vegetable oil

3 eggs 

1 teaspn of baking soda

3 tble spns of green food coloring

1/2 teaspn of salt

1 teaspn of vinegar

1 1/2 tbl spn of lime zest

1 tabl spn lime extract

1 1/2 tbl spn vanilla extract

1 tble spn almond extract

Cream cheese frosting:

2. 8oz of cream cheese room temp

1 lime squeezed for juice

4 cups of sifted powder sugar (confectioner’s)

1 1/2 tbl spn of lime zest

Directions

Prepare 3. 7″ cake pan by layering with crisco, be sure to fully coat and leave no dry spots. Then follow behind with all purpose flour be sure to cover entire pan on inside to add protective coat, this will cake from sticking to pan when time for removal.

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Apply flour, buttermilk, sugar, and oil. Mix batter until thick and smooth. Next add eggs then blend again until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. Use all three cake pans to prepare batter and be sure to distribute evenly. Place pans with cake batter in the oven for 30-40 minutes.Use  wooden tooth pick or wooden skew to check that cake is done. Device should be clear of cake batter if cake is done.

Let cake layers cool for about 1 to 2 hours then cover the top of each with thick layer of cream cheese frosting. Once they have all been cover and neatly stack on top of each other. Proceed to apply thick coating of frosting all around cake until completely covered. Then garnish with lime zest and candied limes wedges to your discretion.

 

 

The Next Food Show Host: Food History & Communications

Media Educators & Teaching Artists

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When watching your favorite cooking shows,  it’s apparent chefs, food critics and judges usually can do two things other than cook. What do you think they are? Demonstrate knowledge of food history and use various adjectives to describe taste and texture.

Knowing the history and broadening vocabulary will help the student not only be a better food show host, writer, critic, better waiter, waitress or restaurant manager.  In life they will become better conversationalists about food.  Students will analyze food every day life, in videos, research foods and increase their vocabulary.  Students will submit a blog post and video project.   This course is taught by Crystal Johnson, a long time food critic and food blog editor.  Enrollment Open to Grades 3rd to 7th. 

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Sangria Recipes: Red, White & Blush

aerial Sangria

Photo by Rebekah Lewis

When sangria comes to mind often our first envisioning is a deep bugandy red wine contrasted with the color of oranges wedges.   I remember my first sip of a white sangria experience came after perusing the choice on the menu while dining in Toronto one summer.  There’s nothing quite like a chilled glass of sangria.   How fun I thought, white sangria’s is a change andCrystal drinking sangria
how delicious was the experience.   In later years I’d earn the reputation of the family sangria concocter at family gatherings.   People always ask me how to make it.  It’s fairly simple and doesn’t have to cost a lot money to make and serves quite a few.  In a conversation with  Chef Jay Bonilla, he once told me,  “…the bottle of wine does not need to be expensive.”   While making a glass of sangria for me, he used the famous inexpensive wine from Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw red wine, affectionately called Two Buck Chuck, Triple Sec and orange juice.  There’s no one way to prepare a pitcher of sangria .  Each color of wine deserves it’s own special treatment.

Intro by Crystal A. Johnson, MCCN Editor

See the full article

Red Sangria – In red sangria, citrus juices such as freshly squeezed orange, lemon or lime juice complement the sweetness of the wine and liqueur. However, cranberry juice cocktail can add a welcome tartness for those with less-sweet tastes. If you want a bit of fizz, choose a lemon-lime soda to finish or a soda water with a splash of lime and garnish with citrus wedges.

White Sangria

Photo by Crystal A. Johnson

White Sangria – Lemon juice always works in white sangria, but consider adding sweeter juices such as white grape juice or apple juice as well. Finishing white sangria with a sparkling cider instead of soda gives it additional sweetness and makes it the perfect complement to spicy sauces and appetizers.

Rose Sangria – Well Blush was cooler for our title. Use juice blends such as mango-peach or pineapple-orange to complement the sweetness of rose sangria without overpowering the delicate blush wine. Chop strawberries and fresh mangoes to soak in the cocktail, and finish with plain soda water if carbonation is desired.

The Unique Style of Top Chef Katsuji Tanabe of MexiKosher and Barrio

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Before, Chef Katsuji Tanabe made it big, MCCN met him at the Taste of Mexico Event in Los Angeles back in 2012.  Not only did he dazzle us but he dazzled everyone causing long lines with word of mouth.

Chef Tanabe, was born in Mexico to a Japanese father and Mexican mother.   If not being unique was not enough, he brought creativity to his cuisine mastering Kosher Mexican.   The charming and talented chef would eventually go on to win the bragging rights of Top Chef on the Bravo competition.

He’s closed the doors to his Los Angeles establishment and set up shop at 100 W. 83rd in Manhattan, NY.   He also helms a restaurant in Chicago called Barrio at the corner of Clark and Kenzie.

Let’s Flashback to our 2012 interview and check the chef’s Kosher tequila sorbet creation by way of liquid nitrogen technique.

 

Please Click to Donate toward arts funding scholarships for youth taught by the META program.

Strawberry Lemonade Recipe

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Directions: Place strawberries in a blender; top with 2 tablespoons sugar. Pour 1 cup water over sugared strawberries. Blend until strawberry chunks transform into juice. Combine strawberry juice, 6 cups water, 1 cup sugar, and lemon juice in a large pitcher; stir until blended. Chill.

Serve and enjoy!