Together with her colleagues, consultant Elouise Chin, 31, attended a cooking class at the recently opened CulinaryOn.
The team-bonding activity at the One Raffles Place cooking studio, which involved preparing dishes such as caramelised duck salad and pandan chiffon cake, opened her eyes to both the culinary arts, as well as the personalities of her co-workers.
She says: "We learnt who enjoyed cooking, who preferred to eat, who preferred to watch and who was cutting tomatoes for the first time.
"This event created opportunities for us to know one another in an after-office setting and we had a lot of crazy fun."
Cooking classes - from Thai food to fresh handmade pasta, either for groups or individuals - are heating up as a recreational activity in Singapore.
Two major international brand- name cooking studios have opened here in the past year - CulinaryOn from Russia and ABC Cooking Studio from Japan. CulinaryOn teaches both Asian and Western recipes, and ABC, whose studio is in Takashimaya, offers sessions on baking and Japanese food.
They join the slew of cooking studios already available in Singapore, each offering a variety of courses.
Cooking studio Coriander Leaf at Chijmes, which specialises in Asian cuisine, says it was one of only three studios in Singapore when it opened in 2001. Now, there are at least 10 of such studios around.
Although there are no official statistics on the number of people taking cooking courses here, all the cooking studios The Straits Times spoke to say that they have seen a rise in sign-ups in the past year.
In the one year since CulinaryOn opened here, it has organised more than 1,000 events and intends to double that by next year.
Over at cooking studio Palate Sensations at Biopolis, registration for classes has grown by at least 20 per cent year on year since it started a decade ago.
Some of these studios offer fully guided classes, where ingredients are measured out and prepped for students beforehand, on top of detailed, step-by-step cooking instructions from professionals.
Others offer cooking spaces for hire with only partial guidance - an option that has become popular for holding birthday parties and hen nights.
In any case, people want to learn how to cook and it has nothing to do with wanting to become professional chefs.
Mr Daniel Tan, 41, founder and managing director of cooking studio Food Playground, believes TV cooking shows have "made it glamorous for people to put on the apron and chef's hat and then post their cooking experiences on social media".
His four-year-old studio is in Chinatown and teaches various regional cuisines but with a strong focus on local delicacies.
Over at vegetarian cooking studio Little Green Kitchen, courses have become increasingly popular as Singaporeans are also "becoming more health conscious", says its owner and chef Shalu Asnani, 40.
Her six-year-old studio in the Upper East Coast area teaches international dishes.
She adds: "Cooking is a great skill to learn and a fantastic way to spend your leisure time. It can be a fun, therapeutic and rewarding experience when you cook great food for your friends and family."
What: This is a social enterprise, so the instructors are not your usual professional cooks. Rather, classes are facilitated by stay-at-home mothers or senior citizens who have been trained by the company to teach.
Founded in 2012, Food Playground has since been awarded a Singapore Service Excellence Medallion, which recognises great service in Singapore.
The focus here is on local delicacies, so students can learn to make familiar dishes such as curry laksa, Hainanese chicken rice, nasi lemak and char kway teow.
Cost: From $99 a person for each class, which typically features three or four recipes. Where: 24A Sago Street, Chinatown Open: By appointment only Info: Call 9452-3669
ABC Cooking Studio
What: This renowned Japanese import opened its first South-east Asian branch here in April last year, bringing with it its stable of authentic Japanese recipes for dishes such as gyudon (beef rice) and tempura (battered and deep fried food).
Classes are limited to only four students to one instructor, so participants get personalised attention from their instructors.
There had been some issues with over-subscription of courses when the studio opened, but it has since eased, so it should not be too difficult to book sessions now.
Cost: $1,091 for 12 cooking lessons, in addition to a $140 lifetime membership fee Where: 03-12 Takashimaya Shopping Centre, 391A Orchard Road Open: 10am to 10pm daily Info: Call 6694-6259 or 6694-6104
Culinary Art Studio
What: This Muslim-owned studio in Kampong Glam offers courses for dishes such as Malay kueh, mutton mysore and chapati, using halal ingredients.
The kitchen space can also be rented for private parties and team- bonding events.
Cost: From $96 a person a class Where: 735 North Bridge Road Open: 10am to 8pm daily Info: Call 9627-1921
What: One of the oldest cooking studios in Singapore - it has been around since 2001 - Coriander Leaf specialises in teaching Asian cuisine.
Classes offer recipes for dishes such as Sichuan kung pao chicken and Thai green papaya salad.
According to the company, the most popular classes are for Singapore and Thai food.
Cost: $160 a person a class, featuring a minimum of eight recipes of a single cuisine Where: 02-01 Chijmes, 30 Victoria Street Open: By appointment only Info: corianderleaf.com
What: This 2,000 sq ft space can accommodate events for up to 75 people, which makes it a popular venue for holding private cooking parties for large groups.
Beyond the standard one-off classes for international dishes such as French cordon bleu, Palate Sensations also teaches technical skills for home cooks such as knife and butchering techniques.
Credit from SkillsFuture, the government initiative where Singapore citizens are given credit to help pay for courses, can be used to offset class fees here.
Cost: From $80 a person for each class Where: 01-03 Chromos, 10 Biopolis Road Open: By appointment only Info: Call 6589-8843
What: This studio is from Moscow, Russia, and is known for its fun, party-like cooking class atmosphere.
Before participants begin a cooking class, they indulge first in a selection of canapes prepared by the studio's chefs where they can meet and socialise with their fellow classmates.
The spacious 7,000 sq ft studio located in the CBD is also available for hire for private sessions or cooking parties.
Cost: From $118 an adult and $88 a child for a cooking class while prices of private cooking sessions depend on customer needs. Where: 04-63 Tower 2, One Raffles Place, 1 Raffles Place Open: 11am to 9pm daily Info: Call 3108-0385
Little Green Kitchen
What: Specialising in vegetarian cuisine, this studio owned by lawyer-turned-cook Shalu Asnani (photo) aims to make meatless cooking both fun and tasty. When she started the business in 2010, it was intended to be a vegetarian cafe, but she switched to teaching recipes three years later when she realised that that was her passion.
Classes here offer recipes for dishes such as caramelised onion and spinach quesadillas, okra in coconut curry and vegetarian pad thai noodles. According to Ms Asnani, the Thai cooking classes are the most popular.
Cost: $85 for a two- to three-hour cooking session featuring three recipes Where: 1 Hacienda Grove, off Upper East Coast Road Open: By appointment only Info: Call 9763-1483
What: The Cookyn Inc kitchen space is open for renting for cooking parties and corporate cooking challenges, which are fully customisable depending on customer needs. Children's birthday parties and bride-versus-groom cooking challenges have been particularly popular activities here.
The studio teaches participants how to prepare various international cuisines, including Spanish, Japanese and Vietnamese.
Cost: On average, it costs $120 a person a class, but prices are negotiable depending on customer needs. Where: 31 Ah Hood Road Opens: 9.30am to 6.30pm on weekdays Info: Call 6748-4848
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2016, with the headline 'Cooking schools turn on the heat'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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