Old Montréal is known for fine dining, so it’s no surprise that popular cooking school Ateliers & Saveurs calls this neighborhood home (though the concept has proven so popular that there’s now a second branch open in the Plateau neighborhood). With everything from sushi-making to tapas, you’ll get hands-on experience and time to enjoy your meal or cocktail creations after class. Workshops range from fantastic lunchtime express classes ($22) to a three-hour meal class with wine pairings ($115). It’s worth noting that classes are normally offered in French, but translation and explanations can usually be provided in English if necessary.
Cookbook lover? Well, Westmount cookbook store Appetite for Books has shelves full of delectable titles, and offers popular workshops in-store. Demonstration classes by the talented chef Jonathan ($95-$130) are usually based on one of the books for sale (except for the knife skills class), so on any given evening you could be introduced to fruity preserves, South-East Asian fare, or vegetarian classics. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a class presented by one of the cookbook authors.
And for die-hard pizza and pasta fans, you’ll love Mezza Luna. A long-standing institution in the Little Italy neighborhood, this cooking school is hosted by mother and son team Elena and Stefano, plus a few famous guest chefs such as Martin Picard (Au Pied de Cochon) and Nick Hodge (Icehouse). Here, you’ll find everything from traditional pasta classes to fish preparation (call to ask which are in English). Classes ($80 to $140) consist of a demonstration – arrive early to snag a front-row seat – followed by a tasting.
For those with an undeniable sweet tooth, The Lincoln Apartment Bakery is a hidden gem tucked away in a beautiful red-brick loft kitchen in the Griffintown neighborhood. Classes at this ‘boutique baking school’ are focused on simple, delicious desserts (and breadmaking) – perfect for beginner bakers, families, and competent bakers who want to pick up extra tips and tricks. The feel is relaxed and intimate, and the 2-hour themed workshops such as “Chocolate Heaven” and “Pretty Pies” are all hands-on, and will have you mixing, sifting, and frosting your way to the much-anticipated tasting session at the end. Classes ($45-$74) are in English (French available) and everyone goes home with a box full of freshly baked treats.
If you’re already pretty skilled at the sweet stuff however, and have decided to up your pastry game (and your French skills), then you’ll want to be in the front row at the “serious amateurs” classes at renowned fine patisserie Maison Christian Faure. You’ll love the historic 17th-century house, where you’ll spend 6 hours both observing a demonstration by the chef and trying your hand at the dessert of the day. Classes are $250, for a tantalising introduction to professional pastry techniques.
And if you’re still not completely sugared out, head over to Patrice Pâtissier and see if one of the rare baking classes are taking place while you’re in the city, because the 3-hour demonstration classes ($120, in French) featuring three different desserts by celebrated pastry chef Patrice Demers are the ultimate in French perfection.
Don’t let the foodie reputation fool you: Montréal also has a thriving coffee scene, and you can dive right in at Montreal Coffee Academy. Whether you want to perfect your morning cup of Joe or are thinking about working in the field, the academy has something for everyone. You can try the ‘Professional Barista Techniques’ workshop, go niche with ‘Espresso Theory and Technique’, get versed in the history of coffee from seed to cup with coffee tasting, or join the ever-popular ‘Latte Art’ class (look, mom, a swan!). Most classes are in the $80-$95 range, are hands-on, and feature small groups of 8-10 people.
As for spirits, remember Ateliers & Saveurs? Well, if you fancy yourself an amateur mixologist you can perfect your cocktail game here too! The two-hour classes, where you prepare and taste three cocktails, are $35-$45, generally in the evenings, and include delicious tapas to keep you from getting too peckish (or tipsy!). Think of it as a hands-on happy hour!
After all that, you’ll definitely want to pick up a few tools of the trade, and you’ll be inspired and impressed by the selection at Les Touilleurs – a beautiful store that could double as a gourmet-inspired art gallery. Les Touilleurs also hosts cooking workshops ($95-$110) Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and there are plenty to choose from, especially if your French kitchen vocab is up to scratch (which it should be by now!).