Chef Mark Eastman teaches people everything about cooking, from the fundamentals of knife work to the delicate art of cake decorating, at his Hockessin cooking school and gourmet food store, Chefs' Haven.
Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but chef Mark Eastman would rather teach a man to cook fish, opening the door to endless culinary possibilities.
The versatility of seafood was the theme of a recent class at Chefs' Haven, Eastman’s Hockessin cooking school and specialty food store, which he opened in December.
It was one of a myriad of classes Eastman runs almost daily on wide-ranging topics including sushi, cake decorating, vegetarian meals, salad dressings and bread making.
“I really love to teach cooking,” he said. “I love to see how people can learn something and really enjoy it.”
During the two-hour class ($45 per person), Eastman prepared three different seafood dishes from start to finish, explaining each step in detail to a small group of students sitting a countertop away from the culinary action.
As he coated a bowlful of shiny shrimp with a spice rub, he shared food for thought. Shrimp are best when they are slightly undercooked, he said, and should be pulled from the pan the second they turn pink.
1304 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin
Classes range from $48 to $60 and a full schedule can be found on the Web site
Click here to see three of chef Mark Eastman's seafood recipes
With more than 25 years of experience in the food industry, Eastman, 46, of Landenberg, Pa., also has plenty of kitchen stories to share with his students.
While whisking egg yolks and clarified butter together over a double boiler to make hollandaise sauce, he told a story about a hotel chef he worked with who ran out of butter while making hollandaise for 1,500 Sunday brunches.
The chef had no time to clarify more butter and was feeling the heat from a banquet room full of impatient patrons, so he reached for the only alternative he could find, Eastman said, oil from the deep fryer.
“He hardened some arteries that day,” Eastman said, laughing. “The hollandaise tasted like French fries.”
Eastman’s own hollandaise had a unique flavor, too, because he chopped up a few smoked jalapenos and added some thin strands of orange zest to the sauce.
It may look fancy, but cooking is a lot easier than people think, he said as he heated up a heavy frying pan, and it can take even less time to cook fresh meals than make something from a box.
“Cooking is limitless,” he said. “Once you learn how to make the sauces, you can adjust them to make whatever you want.”
Eastman dropped each shrimp into the pan with a sizzle as a spicy aroma filled the small store, which holds shelves of specialty foods and spices, cookware and a refrigerated case of fresh ingredients.
The shrimp cooked in a flash and he was soon spooning hollandaise, shrimp and rice onto tasting plates for his students, who received generous platefuls of all three dishes Eastman demonstrated that evening.
Between mouthfuls of buttery shrimp and creamy hollandaise, students praised Eastman, but he stressed that each of the dishes can be easily reproduced at home.
Cooking at home is cost effective, he said, because ingredients are far cheaper than meals at a restaurant. It takes practice to become a good cook, Eastman said, so he sent his students home with three recipes to try on their own.
“Cooking is almost like a therapy for you if you have a really stressful job to come home and prepare a meal that everyone enjoys,” Eastman said. “It’s limitless to what you can prepare.”