Former Chefs with Viking Cooking School Offer Classes at Whitton Farms Cannery

Participants learned how to make four mother sauces at a cooking class by Memphis Cook's Exchange. Up next: Fall Pasta Workshop on Sept. 28.

The first thing I learned to cook in eighth-grade Home Ec class was white sauce. The sauce was a base for creamed chipped beef on toast. The chipped beef looked disgusting, and I wouldn’t eat it.

Forty years later, I decided to tackle my disdain for the most basic mother sauce in cooking with help from chefs Sue Hall and Wendy Rylee, who offer cooking classes at the Whitton Farms Cannery through Memphis Cook’s Exchange. Happily, my second attempt was more successful. Calling the sauce Béchamel helped. So did the affable encouragement of class members and the chefs’ hands-on demonstrations.

One of four sauces we made during the afternoon’s Classic Sauce Workshop, the Béchamel was a lead-up to Hollandaise, Buerre Blanc and a simple but spectacular Pomodoro. (The secret ingredient in the tomato sauce: one or two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.)

Simply put, these women could cook, tossing out advice and flavor combinations with easy aplomb. Consider these tips from class, all well-worth remembering:

  • If tomato sauce is too sweet, add more tomatoes, a little water or chicken stock.

  • Always save the rind ends from Parmesan cheese. Add them to soups for extra flavor. They freeze just fine.

  • Roast soup or knuckle bones at 350 degrees for 30 or 40 minutes and toss the bones into Sunday gravy.

  • Store a four-pack of individual serve wine in the kitchen for cooking.

  • You can’t reheat Hollandaise, so keep it warm in a thermos until ready to serve.

  • Toss pasta with a little sauce to keep it from sticking together.

  • Cut butter into slices and refrigerate before making Buerre Blanc. The cold slices make for easy and uniform whisking.

It’s no wonder the class was so informative. Both women are culinary-school trained, and Hall still helps with the catering at her parent’s longtime restaurant Valle's Italian Rebel, located in Whitehaven. The friends met at the former Viking Cooking School in Park Place Mall where they worked as instructors. When the school closed, they decided to keep teaching.

“We missed teaching together, because we always had so much fun,” Hall said.

For now, the team teaches classes at the Cannery about once a month. Students cook and sample, so be sure to bring an appetite. For the sauce workshop, we lunched on pasta tossed with Pomodoro, lightly steamed asparagus with Hollandaise, and mini crab cakes drizzled with Buerre Blanc (which is white wine butter sauce, btw.) The recipe from Chef Richard Grenamyer of the former Blue Fish was an outstanding combination of jumbo lump crab, torn French bread, green onions, fresh dill and corn.

Expect similar culinary treats at the Fall Pasta Workshop Sept. 28, when participants will make pasta from scratch, including pumpkin ravioli with sage butter, three cheese manicotti with Pomodoro Sauce and fettuccini with Gorgonzola cream. A Homemade Soups Workshop follows on Oct. 5 with classic French onion soup, Italian minestrone, seafood bisque with sherry cream and broccoli cheese with lemon-pepper croutons.

Is anybody hungry yet?

Memphis Cook’s Exchange also stages cooking parties for home cooks and corporate clients. For more information on private events or to register for upcoming classes, go to the Memphis Cook’s Exchange Facebook page or email Hall and Rylee at

Fall Pasta Workshop, Sept. 28, and Homemade Soups Workshop, Oct. 5, at Whitton Farms Cannery, $60. Classes run from noon to 3 p.m.


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