North

Hungry for knowledge: Whitehorse cooking school attracting new chefs

This January, Cat McInroy fulfilled a dream by opening the Well Bread Culinary Institute in Whitehorse. She's offering evening cooking classes and the interest is astounding her.

Cat McInroy opened Well Bread Culinary Institute this month and is astounded by the interest

Cat McInroy is the owner of the Well Bread Culinary Institute Inc. in Whitehorse. She says there is a wait-list for some of her classes. (Submitted by Cat McInroy)

Cat McInroy is the youngest of seven kids, and if she wanted to see her mom when she was growing up, she says she had to hang out in the kitchen.

"So I spent a lot of time there," she said. "Making pasta, breads, everything. Everything was homemade in our house."

McInroy has noticed that each generation seems to be losing culinary skills because "we're not in the kitchen as much anymore."

So, after retiring from a 20-year career with the RCMP, this month McInroy fulfilled a dream by opening the Well Bread Culinary Institute Inc. in Whitehorse. She wants to keep the skills that she learned from her mom alive by passing on her knowledge to anyone who wants to learn how to cook.

The cooking school is now open and classes started this month. (Submitted by Cat McInroy)

The institute is in downtown Whitehorse in a building covered with graffiti and corrugated steel, which used to house the Boys and Girls Club and, before that, an industrial steel supply store.

But now, open the door and behold a chef's paradise — height-adjustable marble tables with conductive hot plates, stainless steel sinks, fridges and an oven, and storage units on wheels. The room isn't that big, but everything has its place.

"I've been thinking about this place for years," she said.

McInroy and her husband bought the building a few years back. Last January they started renovating.

Students pay close attention as they learn how to make pasta. (Submitted by Cat McInroy)

"It's taken me almost a year of very much sweat equity," said McInroy. "We were jack hammering the floor to put in new sewer pipes, the whole bit. So it's pretty special."

This January, McInroy is offering evening cooking classes. So far, she's done pasta making, pastry making, cocktails and appetizers. 

The interest astounds her. The upcoming dairy class filled in three days, and there's a 15-person wait-list.

"I knew there was a foodie community," McInroy said, "but I didn't realize how big of a gap there is that needs to be filled."

Products of the pasta class. (Submitted by Cat McInroy)

The gap, as she sees it, is teaching people how to be home cooks with food that is grown in and around Whitehorse. For example, coleslaw is great, says McInroy, but she wants to teach people what else they can do with a cabbage.

She also wants people to be smarter about how they use food, and not to waste so much.

"We chefs need to teach people," said McInroy. "We quite literally need to put that information in their mouths."

She mentions the floods in 2012 that closed the Alaska Highway, shutting the Yukon off from the rest of the world. Grocery shelves were bare. "People freaked out … that's not something that has to happen," said McInroy.

Cheese squeezing in a fridge. Cat McInroy aims to teach people how to make basic food with equipment they already have at home. (Submitted by Cat McInroy)

The culinary institute has only been open for a few weeks, but McInroy has enough plans to keep busy for years.

She wants to bring in a whole pig to teach butchering and using the entire animal, and smoking and curing meats. She'll have a series of classes to teach kids cooking basics, and another about how to plan, pack, and cook for a backcountry trip.

"I'm going to be building a greenhouse," McInroy said. "We'll be dining in the greenhouse on the things that the people are making for themselves."

The more classes she offers, the greater chance McInroy says she has to "light that fire" in someone.

Once you start learning about food, she says, it opens even more doors.

"You never know everything, and there's always something new to taste."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.