Cooking in the vines (Hunter Valley)

By Louise Johnson
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Urban Graze is Sydney's premier hands-on cooking school

Urban Graze is Sydney's premier hands-on cooking school [©Urban Graze]

Urban Graze is Sydney's premier hands-on cooking school

Wine and food lovers heading to the Hunter Valley will have the opportunity to experience alfresco cooking classes when Urban Graze takes its cooking school on the road.

Two new mobile kitchens mean the Kellyville based business has the ability to take its cooking school anywhere that offers a simple power supply. The Hunter Valley classes, which run on the weekend of the 4th and 5th of October, will be held at the Waverley Estate Aged Wines in Pokolbin and include a class each day, with a five course regional themed dinner on the Saturday night.

Owners Joel Owen and Tarrah Laidman both have long backgrounds in hospitality and strive to bring something different to the cooking school experience.  "We've been going for about two years now and we've had a very successful start to the business. We're booked a month in advance these days," says Joel.

"We pay particular attention to doing different and new things that perhaps a lot of other cooking schools won't do, or even a lot of restaurants won't do. We both have backgrounds in fine dining and have worked in some of the great restaurants around the world and we wanted to take that experience and make sure all our food is spot on."

The idea for a mobile cooking school came from their corporate clients who often want the experiences brought to them, whether to conferences in hotels or in the workplace. Combining it within a winery environment is just a natural next step, says Joel.

"What we can do now is take everything on the road. We can go to wineries, we can go to olive groves and we can do catering with a difference and make meals more interactive and add a new dimension to eating. The kitchen can go pretty much anywhere," he says.

The October classes cover four courses with an alfresco theme over lunchtime, with classes held on the winery veranda. Each class of 8 to ten people will make a fabulous antipasto platter, BBQ prawns and asparagus salad with fresh goat curd and peas, and ocean trout, dill and sorrel quiche with local greens,  and to finish, warm peaches with lavender cream and sugar biscuits.

The five course evening meal, prepared by Joel and Tarrah, will be matched to Waverly Estate wines. "We're going to really try and keep the ingredients local for the evening meal, locally grown duck and venison and matched to their wines."

The Waverley Estate building, where the October weekend will be held, is a traditional grey sandstone homestead, built using materials from heritage damaged buildings as a result of the 1989 Newcastle earthquake.

Waverley Estate Aged Wines was established in 1989 and built on an existing vineyard dating back to 1971. With extra plantings over the ensuing years the vineyard has expanded and currently boasts 40 acres, with the varieties of Semillon, Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

From the first vintage in 1989 the wines were placed in storage for 10 years and allowed to slumber and mature within a temperature-controlled environment to gain bottle experience. Upon completion of the building and cellar door the wines were released for the first time in March 1999.

Joel says he hopes the vineyard based classes will become a permanent event for the school, which runs regular classes from its Kellyville kitchen, north of Sydney.


  • Hunter including Newcastle (NSW)
  • Hunter Valley (NSW)
  • Sydney (NSW)

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