Aphrodite Cooks, a Toronto-based event catering business is owned and operated by Vanessa Yeung and Stephenie Summerhill, two women who have always had a passion for cooking with the panache for hosting a successful soiree. Yeung is the chef who leads the group (anywhere from 10-20 participants), while Summerhill acts as the host for the evening. The two connected while working for NHL goalie Ed Belfour. Summerhill was his personal assistant and Yeung was his private chef. After learning Belfour was moving out of town Yeung approached Summerhill with the idea for the business she'd been contemplating after a former culinary school classmate suggested it. "My friend, Angie MacRae, host of This Food, on FoodTV mentioned how she used to teach recreational cooking classes,” says Yeung. “She noticed the social interaction there and thought it would be a great platform for people to meet."
Joining the cooking classes is as simple as registering online, where you can create an account and sign up for whatever satisfies your appetite. Currently the singles classes are tailored to age and sexual orientation, but any request will be catered to. If your single status is up, explore the couples' classes, in home family cooking or group sessions.
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Are you a people pleaser?The night begins at a downtown eatery, Mengra Thai by Sasi (412 Richmond Street, W, Toronto), with a non-alcoholic cocktail mingling session. It may sound like an awkward way to start the evening, but once you get chatting -- especially with a planned seasonal menu of herb gnocchi, roasted lamb and apple strudel – you won't miss the buzz. The house rules: booze and knives don't mix. "Conversation is easily sparked," says Summerhill. "A task, such as putting a dish together, allows singles to concentrate on something else and therefore, their natural personality comes out."
After the welcome speech, everyone is split up into smaller groups. They are divided evenly between men and women, based on a randomly selected number. Each group has a separate workstation where they get to prepare their recipe. This is where the fun begins. Finding cooking tools, ingredients and deciding who does what is chaotic, but it creates many an opportunity to casually flirt and chat up whatever cutie you have your eye on.
Above all, don't sweat your skills. Whether you're a culinary connoisseur or a microwaving maven, Yeung is there to answer any questions and demonstrates the more difficult tasks -- such as tying a leg of lamb or rolling out gnocchi – so be prepared to surprise yourself. "I go around and work with each group on the recipe," explains Yeung. "One-on-one interaction is very important to the progression of the evening."
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Back on the dating circuitWhile you may be hoping for a George Clooney look-a-like circa 25-years-old, expect a wide range of people – with varied tastes – to attend. Keeping an open mind while eating delicious food and meeting new people is the point; a romantic connection is an added bonus. Paul Price, a 50-year-old single account manager in Toronto agrees: “It was great to meet a group of single women,” he says, “but there's no pressure, no expectations and if you meet someone that's not for you, then you can just keep mingling and have fun.”
And remember, go to the singles event single, not with your best gal pal. A wing-man is not putting your best available foot forward. "We want people not to feel pressure of going to a singles event," explains Summerhill, "but rather look at it as a social gathering, where great food, good wine and new friendships are bound to flourish."
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