“This is a chef’s playpen—I even come to cook here on my day off,” declares Christopher Covelli, executive chef and general manager of the breathtaking new Viking Culinary Center in Lakewood Ranch. Indeed, the 4,000-square-foot center’s gourmet retail showroom, Presentation Theater, and hands-on kitchen are all feasts for the eyes.
Sign up for a class at this foodie paradise and you’ll test drive state-of-the-art Viking ovens, ranges, pots, pans, knives and more while preparing mouth-watering recipes. “The top equipment any chef could want is right here; we sell everything from fine wine to kitchen gadgets,” Covelli says.
A graduate of the French Culinary Institute, Covelli trained under legendary chefs Andre Soltner, Jacques Pepin, Jacques Torres and Alain Sailhac. With five Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence and four James Beard Foundation Dinners under his toque, Covelli leads classes that sizzle.
Viking Culinary Center, 8130 Lakewood Main Street, Suite104, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 366-2665.
cook like chef chris
What are the most important techniques you teach? “Knife skills are essential. Our basic ($69) and advanced ($79) workshops are really popular. So are classes in classic and contemporary sauces ($49). When you master classical culinary skills, you can cook with confidence.”
What this town needs “What we needed we now have: a cooking school for everyone, even kids. It was long overdue. Local supermarkets hold cooking classes, but they’re not designed for this level of hands-on instruction. Here we have Date Nights with chateaubriand and wine, family pizza workshops and Great American Steakhouse classes.”
Can’t live without “My heavy-gauge sauté pan and Viking’s Professional hand blender ($132). It’s a powerful immersion blender you can hold right in the pot to blend soups and sauces.”