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Les Petits Chefs learn to make cheese with Chef Martin Kouprie (Pangaea Restaurant)

We are so very very lucky, the Petits Chefs and I.

We’ve had so many opportunities over the past five years to work with some amazing chefs and food enthusiasts from around Toronto and for their generosity, I am so very grateful. This week, we were presented with a chance to do something no other school group has ever participated in to date: learning how to make cheese with Chef Martin Kouprie from Pangaea Restaurant.  Pangaea’s one of those restaurants that everyone has heard of – it’s been around since 1996 – and with good reason. The food is simple and seasonal and is plated like veritable works of art (I am lucky enough to have eaten at Pangaea a couple of times myself). Martin uses mostly organic ingredients and many of them are exclusively available to the Pangaea kitchens from farmers, foragers and other artisans that Martin has cultivated relationships with over the years. Recently, Martin even started making his own cheese.

Say what – cheese making? Yup, Martin is the only chef in North America who is making his own cheese and we were lucky enough to take part in a workshop with Martin to learn how some of our favourite cheeses are made (and all about mold!!) but we also got to make some Camembert-style cheese as well!

Chef Martin Kouprie explains cheesemaking at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comMartin is passionate about cheese in an endearingly geeky way. He is living proof that if you are truly “into” your subject, you can win over even the most skeptical of 11 year-old boys. On the way to the restaurant, the boys in my group were having a discussion about how you shouldn’t eat cheese with mold, how all cheese is made with mold and how it will make you sick. I could tell a few of them were not too sure what to expect from a cheese making workshop. I mean, many of them visited Cheese Boutique in term 1 this year but tasting cheese and making it are two completely different things!

Kids learning about making cheese at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.com(too many fun things on the table – a copy of the Pangaea cookbook and cheese moulds!)

Cheese moulds at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comI suspect with the promise of food, my boys are willing to sit through pretty much anything but I could tell they were encouraged to see that these “example” cheeses looked “just like real cheese“…

House made cheese at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comMartin’s equipment looked like part science experiment, part cooking class.

Cheese making equipment at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comIn fact, Martin made cheese-making look so very easy. He talked the boys through heating the milk, adding the “magic ingredients” (no, not mold but the much more magical-sounding “Mesophilic Cultures” and “Penicillium Candidum” and the less magical-sounding “Calcium Chloride” and rennet) and showed them how to gently cut the curds which had formed after the mixture had been heating at 29˚F for about 90 minutes.

Cutting curds to make cheese at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.com Kids cutting curds to make cheese at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.com Cheesemaking at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comThen we ladled the curds into the moulds…

Pouring curds into cheese moulds at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.com Filling cheese moulds with curds at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comand that’s it! (no, really – that IS it!)

Camambert style cheese at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comThe moulds drain off for a couple of hours until they are firm enough to flip then flipped every few hours until the curds are completely drained. Thankfully Martin took care of this for us.

Meanwhile, there was cheese to eat!

A cheese tasting at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.com Learning how to cut cheese at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comYes, Martin showed the boys “how to cut the cheese” (to the accompaniment of many snickers and giggles). “Who knew,” said one boy, “that there was a right and a wrong way to cut cheese?”

House-made cheeses at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.com Learning how to cut cheese properly at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comApparently they liked the cheese, the local honey, figs and fruit compote…

Aftermath of kids cheese tasting at Pangaea Restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comAfter a quick tour (and sniff!) of the “cheese cave” in the restaurant kitchen (the restaurant staff looked rather bemused at the boys’ excitement!) and a few questions (“Who eats out in a restaurant on a Monday evening?”) and a brief story about how Martin is, in fact, a certified rescue scuba diver (you can imagine how this captured the boys’ imaginations), we bundled ourselves and our cookbooks and our bellies full of cheese (and, in some cases, our latex gloves – you’ve never seen such excitement as when Martin told the boys they needed to wear those gloves!) into our waiting taxis and I’m sure I heard a “I’m gonna be a cheese maker when I grow up.” I do love that every week they change their tune about what their favourite food is, what restaurant they want to work in when they grow up etc… The possibilities of a childhood….

Through the week, Martin sent us updates on our “babies”…. Now they are just hanging out in the Pangaea cheese cave for four weeks and we’ll get to taste them just before school ends!

Camembert style cheese at Pangaea restaurant on eatlivetravelwrite.comChef Martin – THANK YOU. We cannot wait to taste our cheese at the beginning of June!

For more cheesiness, follow Martin on Instagram – @martinkouprie

Pangaea Restaurant
1221 Bay St, Toronto, Ontario,
Canada

Pangaea on Urbanspoon

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Let’s inspire governments to do the right thing: Sign It. Share It. Fighting for food education for every child #FoodRevolutionDay change.org/jamieoliver

Food Revolution Day is Friday May 15th – find out how you can get involved right here!

 

 

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4 Responses to Les Petits Chefs learn to make cheese with Chef Martin Kouprie (Pangaea Restaurant)

  1. Mr. Neil May 7, 2015 at 07:54 #

    OMG – I hope there’s one with Miss Michels’ name on it to bring home! 🙂

    What an absolutely wonderful session. I truly would have liked to tag along on this one. Then again, I often find myself thinking that…

    • Mardi Michels May 7, 2015 at 21:49 #

      There is definitely one with my name on it to bring home 🙂 I cannot wait – I don’t know who is more excited – the boys or me!

  2. Geoff May 7, 2015 at 20:04 #

    Hey, just a fantastic post. Lucky LPCs; generous of Martin Kouprie.
    When I’m next in Toronto, Mardi… your shout at Pangaea Restaurant.

    • Mardi Michels May 7, 2015 at 21:48 #

      Absolutely 🙂 Pangaea is fantastic – you’d love it!

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