Top Japanese cooking school opens here

One of Japan's most popular cooking schools, ABC Cooking Studio, will open a branch here this Friday on the third floor of Takashimaya in Orchard Road.

More than 1,200 people have signed up for its two-hour trial lessons, which run till May 31.

Students can choose to learn how to make gateau au chocolat, a rich chocolate cake; ham mayo and cinnamon rolls; or a Japanese-style hamburger steak with onion soup.

Instead of the original lesson price of $48, students pay $28 if they sign up at the ABC Cooking Studio booth outside Books Kinokuniya by April 23, or $35 if they click "like' on the ABC Cooking Studio Singapore Facebook page.

The school started as a small studio in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1985. It now has 134 studios in Japan and 14 studios in Asian cities including Taipei and Beijing.

Its 3,500 sq ft branch here is the first in South-east Asia and can take 64 students at a time.

Besides the trial lessons, it will be offering lessons under five courses - the Cooking Course, which teaches both Japanese and international cuisine; the Bread Course; Cake Course; Kids Course, for children aged four to eight; and Wagashi Course, which teaches people how to make the Japanese traditional confectionery of the same name.

Although prices are quite steep - starting at $75 for a cake lesson ($450 for a package of six) and $120 for a cooking lesson ($960 for a package of eight) - the class sizes are kept small at just four students, so that the students receive maximum attention from the teacher.

Lessons are conducted in English or Japanese by teachers such as Ms Asami Miwa, 27. She is also the studio manager and has five years of teaching experience at ABC Cooking Studio's other outlets.

Different lessons are offered in different months. For example, croissant lessons are offered in February and August in the Bread Course, while pork steak with pineapple is offered in January and July in the Kids Course.

General manager Itaru Nagao, 29, said: "Singapore was clearly the first destination in South-east Asia for us, as people here are affluent enough to cook not just for practical reasons, but for leisure too."

He decided to open the studio in Takashimaya, as most other cooking schools are located in the heartland. But he declined to reveal the costs of setting up the school.

He held discussions with the studio's local staff to tailor classes to Singaporean tastes. As a result, they decided to offer chocolate cake in the trial lessons.

He is confident that even the Wagashi classes will be popular here, citing the popular Tsujiri Tea House at 313@Somerset, which serves Japanese green tea desserts.

"We will open a branch in Bangkok later this year. We hope to open more branches here, but we will concentrate on making this one a success first," he says.