Wednesday, November 5, 2014

le Gateau - Pizza Class

I was invited to attend a pizza class at le Gateau, located north of New Albany, ( a while back. What a fun and rewarding experience!

Le Gateau is the brainchild of Sue Larson, a premier pastry chef and wedding cake creator in the Central Ohio area. Her cakes have been featured in numerous publications and she has received many prestigious awards, including one from "The Knot".

"The Gathering Guide" has this to say about Sue: "Sue Larson, owner of le Gateau, has been creating cakes for 26 years in Columbus, Ohio. Everything is made from scratch with the highest degree of craftsmanship. Wedding cakes, birthdays, anniversaries, corporate events, and cake sculptures are all created at le Gateau. A passion for excellence and a love of chocolate, caramel, and raspberries makes a happy baker. le Gateau is now offering hands-on pizza classes. These are great for family, friends, corporate parties."

The course is taught by Sue and her good friend Dianne Williams. Dianne brings her own pastry expertise, catering experience and general love of food to the table. Both Sue and Dianne have studied at the French Pastry School in Chicago. Dianne has a strong background in teaching all kinds of culinary classes in and around Columbus.

The pizza classes (they also do bread making classes as well) are hands-on and the pizzas are baked in an amazing wood fired oven that Sue's husband, Mark built for her just outside of her studio.

Mark and his pizza oven

We began the evening with an assortment of delicious appetizers and wine. That gave us an opportunity to talk with each other and become acquainted with our classmates.

Sue (on the left) and Dianne chat with us before we began.

After we mingled, Sue gathered us in her studio to lead us through the process of making pizza dough. We began by adding yeast and water to flour. And thus began our adventure! 

I'll be honest with you; I'm a pretty good cook, but I'm scared of yeast! There's some ugliness in my past, and it involved yeast. Here's what happened (in class, not my past)...

We mixed and kneaded; forming the dough, becoming one with the dough, and this is what happened...

Yeah, that's what happens when you go messin' with yeast. I tried to warn you! And then this happened...

It was totally awesome! And the aroma! 

We set our dough aside to rise and moved on to the sauces. Dianne was beginning to make a béchamel sauce and engaged one of the students to assist her while she educated us on the "Mother Sauces". 

In addition to the white sauce that Dianne was conjuring up, Sue's son had made a red sauce. It just so happens that Sue's son is a chef! Chef Chris Larson from the New Albany Country Club was an unexpected treat!

It was such an added pleasure to work with Chef Chris. And about that sauce? Well I'll be brutally honest; I could have grabbed a big spoon and just polished off that pot myself. 

Chef Chris Larson

Chef Chris gave us a lesson in knife skills. We learned about different knives and and what they were used for. Chris showed us how to wield a knife like we knew what we were doing!

At that point Chef Chris let us loose with knives and vegetables! We divided into groups and started slicing and dicing as if our lives depended on it!!!

(Isn't she a doll???)

By then we were having a great time! It was really comfortable and fun. There was a wide range of cooking skill level among us. From the never cooks to a professional chef (who just happened to have previously been Chef Chris' boss!), we were a mixed bag of students. It was perfect.

Mother and son explained to us the process the dough goes through, and how we were going to turn it into our pizza. And then it was our turn :-)

Chef James Decker and daughter Lilly.

No actual students were harmed in the making of this class.

So we had our dough, we had our pizza crust. All we needed were toppings!!! Sue and Dianne had thoughtfully prepared a variety of toppings for us, as well as the vegetables we had prepped. Oh my gosh, I don't think I can even remember all of the toppings. I know there was bacon, ham, sausage, pepperoni, roasted vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, red onion, asparagus, fresh peppers, eggplant, olives, and a variety of cheeses including fresh mozzarella along with basil and fresh tomatoes. If you couldn't find something here to put on your pie, then you had no business eating pizza period. Here, let me show you:

The critical moment had arrived. Assembly. 

Sue showed us how to put the pizza dough on the peel...after it is sprinkled with cornmeal. (The peel is the big flat shovel that is used to slide the pizza into the brick oven.) From that point we were on our own. After making the choice of the béchamel, the red sauce or naked (the pizza, a naked pizza) we could go wild from there. We'd been advised to limit the amount of toppings on our pizzas. Since we were making our own, we quickly realized the whole thing didn't have to be the same, did it? Boy howdy, we had a blast making those pizzas. 

It was interesting to see the different ingredients and combinations that we came up with. It really was difficult not to overload the pizza. I went half and half on the sauce. With the toppings I did it in quarters. That way I could have more toppings, just less of them. Worked for me. 

I made a delicious concoction with caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, bacon, fresh mozzarella, and a variety of other cheeses. 

The next step was to take our humble pies to Mark. He had the oven stoked and ready to bake our pizzas to wood fired perfection.  That oven is where the real magic happens.

Lizzie carried that pie more carefully than she had her first born, as onlookers gazed in admiration.

Chef Chris' pizza
I wish I could show you pictures of everyone enjoying their pizza, but I was too busy enjoying my own pizza. I know, but what can I say? 

But wait! There's more! Just when we thought we couldn't eat another morsel, Dianne came out with dessert pizzas! Oh my. And Sue followed with vanilla bean gelato. Heaven.

From the left: Sue's vanilla bean gelato, raspberry and blackberry pizza with a sweet mascarpone topping, and a strawberry and rhubarb sauce pizza. 

As I enjoyed my dessert, I sat back and took a look around. Sitting with me was a group of people, all very different. We entered as strangers, for the most part. And there we were sharing our meals with each other; laughing and feeling a camaraderie for another that can only be felt after an evening in the trenches together. It felt honest. It felt good. This had been more than a cooking class. It had been much more than that. We had fun, and we also learned a great deal. We created our very own masterpieces, and we shared them with our new friends. Yes, it was much more than a cooking class.  It was more an "experience".

I started thinking about ways the le Gateau classes could enhance many events and my mind reeled with the possibilities.
  • Corporate team building
  • Girls' night out
  • Bridal showers
  • Birthday parties
  • Date nights
  • Cooking with kids
  • Christmas gifts
The list could go on and on.  Check out the class schedule at!classes/ccqx

"Contact Sue at 614-939-1930 for details and to reserve a class. All classes are $75.00 per person and last  three hours. A minimum of 8 students are needed to book a class.  Email Sue on the contact page for information and to reserve a class.  We reserve the right to cancel a class without a minimum number of students, you will receive a full refund . A full refund will be made if you cancel 48 hours before the class begins. There is no refund given with fewer than 48 hours." (from the le Gateau website)

* While I participated in the class gratis, all of the opinions are mine...and we all know I have opinions!