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One of my favorite activities during the shutdown was losing myself in cooking/travel shows.
Stanley Tucci’s “Searching For Italy,” stands out. It wasn’t just that he was in a fascinating place savoring fresh, incredible food. It was that he got to dive right into the cooking experience.
Sure, I could try cooking those dishes at home, and I did. I could also find similar items on menus of great restaurants once we got out again, which I did as well. But being able to enter the shiny kitchen of a gifted chef to talk about how the meal is made and what it means, all while sipping a glass of perfect wine — that’s the stuff of Hollywood.
Unless, that is, you discover a delicious Boston secret. I’m talking about the Westin Copley Place’s “Interactive Culinary Experience,” an evening of hands-on learning, cooking and eating; all peppered with socializing and signature cocktails.
My husband and I headed in from the South Shore on a rainy June Wednesday and decided to spend the night. While it’s not a requirement for the Culinary Experience, we decided to make it an urban escape.
First, the hotel. The Westin Copley Place (10 Huntington Ave., https://bit.ly/3NAIGOJ), while known as a great event/convention spot, is at its core a welcoming place. Shared spaces are bright and open; you always are a few steps from a comfortable place to sit.
Our room, on a high floor, looked out on Charles River, Cambridge and even the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square.
The Club level setting and food service is worth the upgrade, and the workout room has all the goods — like Peloton.
This rainy day, the hotel’s walkways to other spots like the Copley Plaza and the Prudential Center worked just right. We wandered around, shopped a bit, and then headed back for the main event.
The Culinary Experience is headed by The Westin’s Senior Food and Beverage Operations Manager, Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Roy Kaler.
Kaler doesn’t get to spend as much time with his hands in the actual mix now that he oversees so much, so these events are a joyful trip back to the place he loves — and it shows.
We meet first for amazing appetizers and signature cocktails (with edible flowers) in a private space tucked just behind the hotel’s Bar 10.
We head down into the heart of the hotel’s massive and impressive commercial kitchen. While it was a quiet night in our section, as we wound through staging areas and past massive shiny soup vats, I felt like Karen in “Goodfellas” when Henry winds her through the kitchen of the Copa on their first date. Impressive.
A cooking station is set up for each pair. My husband and I were joined by another couple, two work pals on a night out and a few singles who are teamed up with others.
We’re making two courses this night — lobster tortellini and a chocolate lava cake.
Chef talks us through each step, explaining technique, correcting us as we try, helping us learn the secrets of creating something “just right.” What’s even better is that this can all be replicated in our home kitchens.
Once we’re done, we head back up for our meal. Our creations are the second and fourth course of a delicious line up. Wines — and cocktails — are paired and the group bonds.
After dinner it’s just a few steps into Bar 10 where we have a night cap and enjoy the live acoustic music. Even on weeknights, Bar 10 has some great entertainment.
We are just a quick elevator ride away from our room. There, the lights of the city twinkling below, I feel like I lived that behind-the-scenes dream.
The classes are held regularly, with all kinds of themes and courses to make. (You can see the current line up here: https://bit.ly/3NFfiGV) Just like Tucci, I suspect I’ll have a season two.