The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Food Experiences
Posted by Jane De Graaff on October 31, 2011.
From bread making classes to chocolate appreciation courses, Food Guru asks why food experiences make such a great gift.
Christmas is coming. It’s enough to send any gift shopper into a panic. What do I get him/her/them? And will they even like it? At a time when so much is transient, when technology is updating every day and fashion changes with the winds, a new gift is emerging as a timeless classic- enjoyable in the moment and imparting knowledge and wisdom long after it’s gone. Food Experiences. Classes, lessons and hands-on workshops that not only taste good in the moment, but leave the participant with renewed vigour for a favourite food and skills that will inform future food choices. It’s a trend that’s been steadily growing but is still unusual enough that recipients often go on to recommend it to others. After all, anyone can eat a fancy cheese, but how many of us can say that we also know how to make it in our own homes?
“It’s certainly a growing interest.” Says Michael Klausen, head baker at Brasserie Bread (Sydney and Melbourne) where they run bread-making classes for both adults and kids.
“As soon as we started the adult classes we created gift certificates to go with them, and we saw straight away that people would buy them for someone else. They were just moving out the door when we suggested them in the store, now people ring up and order them as gifts. It’s wonderful to see.” Says the baker, pointing out that in the last two to three years interest has increased immensely.
Graham Redhead of Cheesemaking (Australia wide) has seen a similar rise in interest in his cheese making courses. Redhead started out running a commercial course for farmhouse cheese making, but soon found that there was greater interest for domestic classes. So the master cheese maker modified his hands-on lessons to have the same hygiene and safety protocols, but adapted for the home bench-top rather than industrial environments, allowing participants to make just two or three cheeses, instead of two or three hundred.
“More and more people were wanting to buy the gift certificates or send people along as a gift.” Says Redhead. “Its such a personal and unique gift, two whole days of intense cheese making. It’s very busy. But young, old, anyone can do it. Even better, you take cheese home with you. So then you’ve got a ripening Cheddar in the door of your fridge for 12 months. A handmade, cloth-bound gourmet cheddar cheese that’s ready in 12 months, but reminds you everyday of that fun you’ve had.”
Matthew Gee, co-founder of the Australian Chocolate Academy, finds the reasoning is similar when people buy gift certificates to his chocolate and coffee appreciation courses.
“What do you give some people when they have everything already? A food experience like a chocolate tasting lets them do something they wouldn’t normally do and leaves them with a new understanding of a treat they already loved.” Says the coffee and chocolate expert enthusiastically.
So why are food experiences becoming more popular as gifts?
“There’s a whole generation of people, aged twenty-four to about forty-five, who really want to know what’s in their food now.” Says Klausen, pointing out that a whole generation has missed out on their food traditions thanks to convenience foods.
“People want to be involved and be engaged with their food again. It’s different to seeing it on TV or reading about it in a book. It’s hands on and you’re having fun and a textural experience; that’s what people want, because they’re not cooking at home. That’s why cooking classes are so big now.”
And Redhead provides similar reasoning for the rise in popularity.
“It’s all part of the global crisis- where people are looking for productive hands-on experiences. There’s a plethora of TV cooking shows and people want to get back to their food roots, with more and more people interested in looking at true sustainable food. Its about viability and sustainability, not convenience.”
With specialty items like coffee and chocolate, Gee finds that the rise in interest can often be traced back to people’s personal experiences with the courses themselves.
“We get a lot of referrals from people who have already done the course themselves- maybe as a gift. They’ll call and talk and want to book in their dad or father-in-law and Uncle Jack. Quite a lot of people give the courses as a gift because they’ve done it, loved it, and want to send others along to enjoy it too.”So don’t panic this year as you stare down the barrel of Christmas shopping mayhem. Consider instead all the food you love to eat, and maybe the gift of a tasty, hands-on food experience will not only satisfy your loved ones palate, but keep them busy with new found food skills throughout the coming year as well. And who knows? You might even get some homemade cheese out of it.