There isn’t much that Caren McSherry hasn’t seen in her 40-year tenure teaching cooks from all walks of life. Here, McSherry dishes on dishes, celebrity foodie culture and the most striking differences between men and women in the kitchen.
You’re in the same room with a group of people for three hours. How do you keep each lesson interesting?
You must maintain a level of humour, while mixing in learning and not making it too pretentious. You have to mix all those ingredients together and not take yourself so serious. At the end of the day, it’s just food.
I’m a terrible cook. How can I change this and make my mother (even more) proud of me?
Take on one dish. If your favourite thing is salmon, let’s teach you how to make the best damn salmon you’ve ever made so that you know it and you do it. When you nail it, you move on to your next dish. Then you’ve got two dishes in your repertoire, then three and you’re building confidence. Make it something that you love to eat, because you’re more inclined to be more interested. You need to do it over, over and over again.
Who’s your favourite cook in today’s topsy turvy world of celebrity foodie culture?
I love Jamie Oliver’s approach. I think he makes things really approachable and really fun. It’s non- intimidating. These days you’ve got to be able to get your groceries on your way home from work, go home, throw something together to make it delicious and yet easy to prepare and serve.
What’s the biggest difference you see between male and female cooks in the kitchen?
Men don’t have that chronic inhibition that women do, in that it has to be perfect. They’ll add a bit of garlic, or if they like chili, they’ll throw some extra hot sauce in. Whereas, women freak out and say, “That’s not what the recipe says.” Men now make up at least half of my classes and they love it. They’re very, very anxious to get in and they want to get their hands dirty.
You’ve weathered the advent of the Food Network, Martha Stewart and even certain Instagram filters when it comes to food. How do you explain your longevity?
When the food network came into being, we took a hit. People wanted to do the cooking in the privacy of their own home. Now there’s no learning. It’s watching a guy with mayonnaise dripping down his face eating another burger in another town in the U.S. You’re not learning anything. There are some really good teachers on TV but they’re not prolific enough, so it’s now come full circle that customers want to come in, sit down and do it.