Dim Sum and dumplings with Chef Vanessa Yeung (Aphrodite Cooks)

Les Petits Chefs again had the honour of welcoming Chef Vanessa Yeung of Aphrodite Cooks into the kitchen science lab this week. Vanessa came in the spring for a different group of Petits Chefs and showed them how to make dumplings and pot-stickers and she graciously agreed to come back this term!

For those who don’t know, Aphrodite Cooks is a cooking school bringing together like-minded singles (and couples) for cooking class parties in a relaxed and intimate environment.  Professionally trained chefs expertly and patiently guide participants through the preparation and presentation of a wide variety of dishes.  At the end of the evening the class gathers to share in the culinary experience they helped to create.  Vanessa trained at the Stratford Chefs School, graduating with the Award of Culinary Excellence.  She undertook a prestigious apprenticeship at one of Canada’s top restaurants, Scaramouche where she honed her skills and her palate, to understand that sometimes simplicity is the road to perfection.  Since opening her catering company (also offering personal chef services), Vanessa has catered to the Hospital for Sick Children, York University, University of Toronto and the Credit Union of Ontario. Vanessa has also worked as a private chef to some of Toronto’s most prestigious professional athletes.

Neil and I were fortunate guests at Vanessa’s cooking studio last weekend to participate in the Couples Dim Sum class (more on that later in the post) so I had a sneak peek of what the boys would be working on for Monday.  Vanessa chose Sui Mai (steamed pork and shrimp dumplings) and Mango salad(read: lots of chopping to keep little hands busy!).  She divided the boys into two teams: Team Salad and Team Dumpling and everyone just sort of got on with their assigned tasks once Vanessa had demonstrated how.

Team Salad peeled and chopped mangoes and cucumbers….

And julienned red peppers, sliced red onions and chopped mint and basil…

And were VERY eager to get mixing….

Meanwhile, over on Team Dumpling the boys got to chopping shrimp and mixing up the pork filling… (not even one bit of squeamishness – except when we found some “guts” in one of the shrimp…)

Now for the fun part – filling the wonton wrappers…

Didn’t they do an amazing job?

Meanwhile back on Team Salad, we were all done:

I was SO proud of the boys this week. Monday was our annual “Mistletoe market” and rather a lot of treats had been consumed. But the 10 Petits Chefs worked quietly under Vanessa’s calm guidance to complete these two dishes in around 50 minutes. Bravo Petits Chefs, bravo!  Many thanks to Vanessa for taking time out of her busy schedule to come in and teach the boys some new skills.

But Vanessa’s not just fabulous with petits chefs, she does an amazing job with adults too. Neil and I were invited to participate in the Couples Dim Sum class.  Twenty of us gathered in her cool loft space on Saturday evening to cook a menu of dim sum delicacies:

Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai
Bison and Pork Siu Mai
Har Gow – Steamed Shrimp Dumplings
Vegetarian Water Dumplings
Stuffed Eggplant with Shrimp
Green Onion Pancakes
Coconut Tarts

Wine was served and it was definitely a fun, non-intimidating way to learn some new-to-me techniques – Vanessa divided the tasks up and led one group of us through a few recipes whilst her mum (THE expert!) led the other group.  After a couple of hours, we sat down to a spectacular feast – I honestly couldn’t pick my favourite, but if I had to pick, I’d say the steamed dumplings and coconut tarts.  FYI, Les Petits Chefs did a better job forming the Siu Mai than we adults did LOL!

Here’s a glimpse of the evening’s proceedings (if you are reading this in email or a RSS reader, you will have to click through to the post to see the slides):

Thank you SO much Vanessa for two fabulous experiences in the kitchen this week. We hope you will come back to work with us again sometime in the lab. I know Neil and I hope to be back in your studio sooner rather than later!

Congrats to Michelle who won my Kudos Kitchen giveaway! I will be in touch shortly to put you in touch with Renée!

NEWSFLASH:  Les Petits Chefs are featured on the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution website today – so proud!

33 thoughts on “Dim Sum and dumplings with Chef Vanessa Yeung (Aphrodite Cooks)”

  1. Well Emily, I can certainly say Chef Vanessa takes ALL the intimidation out of it. She also helps with suggesting some alternate ingredients (where feasible) for those who might not have all the traditional Asian things handy.

    Yes, it was a fun night, and great to see LPC have as much fun Monday.

  2. Oh wait – I didn’t provide a wine pick. I sort of forget when we’re talking LPC… 😉

    None of this Dim Sum was terribly spicy, there instead being traditional chili paste and sauces for you to (selectively) dip into.

    But generally, I always go for something that’s a little off-dry, not bracing; and lower in alcohol. So no Sauvignon Blanc or Chablis, thanks. Gewurztraminer or an off-dry Riesling are traditional. If you’re aiming for something a little less aromatic, a not-too-crisp Pinot Blanc or Viognier would be my alternates.

    But frankly, a nice India Pale Ale would be my preference here.

  3. Chef Vanessa is awesome to have come work with Les Petits Chefs and the first picture in this post is an incredible shot. I love it.

  4. I found you through Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution site. Congratulations on being featured there 🙂 Your story about your cooking class with the boys is wonderful! I too was inspired by Jamie Oliver & had to help in some way, that’s why I became an activist in my community to promote education about healthy eating & learning to cook from scratch 🙂 It’s a journey I’m on and why not share what I’ve learned with others? It’s the least I can do to help JO Food Revolution. Looks like you are doing an AMAZING job & your work is truly inspiring. Hope someday I get to go to one of these adult cooking classes, these dim sum looks sooo yummy! I love making & eating them! Your blog is beautiful I’ll definitely be back 🙂 Oh I’ll be sharing your story on my FB page (Noodleonthat Food Revolution) Keep up the awesome job you’re doing, so proud of you!

  5. Wonderful post! And what gorgeous dumplings! 🙂 I loved dim sum when we were in China this summer, thanks for bringing back memories!

  6. I saw you tweet that mango was involved with the petit chefs this week and I KNEW i had to to check it out! And ok… if a bunch of 10 yr old boys can work with wonton wrappers then I need to get over it and try it myself!

  7. Mardi
    Given the so-called helicopter over-protective parents who these days will not allow their offspring to do anything in case they get hurt… how do you overcome any anxiety in respect of the kids chopping and so forth? Has it been an issue?
    Mango salad is the only salad for which the (mostly) oxymoronic phrase “exciting salad” is true. Nectar of the gods.

    • Dad – I am very lucky with the amount of support I receive from the boys’ parents – both in relation to the French and the cooking. Sure, there are a few cuts (there was a “gushing” cut on someone’s finger this week but he survived!) and there certainly have been a few onion fingers and jalapeño fingers in people’s eyes – suffice to say they never do that more than once 🙂 For sure these are not serious chefs’ knives they are using but they ARE real paring knives – I think we all agree that it’s easier to NOT cut yourself on a sharp knife than on a blunt, dumbed down one. The parents of the boys in this club are phenomenal and I am so grateful 🙂

  8. Congratulations on the feature on Jamie Oliver. Although a regular visitor to your site, I hadn’t realised the extent of the Petit Chefs idea and the inspiration behind it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article and applaud your achievements wholeheartedly. It’s easy to feel powerless about the provenance and standards of food under corporate control – and what you are doing brings hope and makes a difference. Bravo.

  9. Mardi, this “science lab” does look so much fun – both the children and adult version. I also love the wine being served while learning. Just as well you share these sessions with us, since if I was there I would have forgotten everything but enjoyed the experience. Lovely wine suggestions from Mr. Neil.

  10. Mardi
    I think it’s probably true that some of the parents are eating better as a result of LPCs’ activities. It’s good they’re supportive.


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