It started in, of all places, at a Whole Foods store in London. Dan Hayes was the Food Manager there and he was giving cooking classes. A young woman named Micayala seemed to be taking a lot of his classes. She finally got up the nerve to ask him out and the two realized their joint passion for fresh food – and teaching the world how to make it – was as strong as their passion for each other.
Dan Hayes had grown up in the London countryside in Buckinghamshire. His interest in food came out of the local tradition of fishing and hunting. He was the one who always wanted to prepare the catch at the end of the day. Hayes continued to polish his craft, working with renowned chefs throughout England and Spain, including the Michelin starred La Vinoteca restaurant in Ibiza. Finally, he was able to run kitchens of his own, becoming Executive Chef and cooking teacher at The Lodge in the Canary Isles.
It took some time, money and a lot of legal red tape, but Dan and Micayla married and came to her native Victoria, Canada, to open a cooking school. It started as a home business, but they wanted to be able to open a location where people could come and learn. Their dream became reality in April 2011 when The London Chef Cooking School opened its doors. Now, Micayla runs the place and takes care of all the administrative work while Dan is chef and teacher at the 12 cooking stations they have in their downtown location.
Fresh, local ingredients are the theme at The London Chef, with freshly clipped herbs and newly picked vegetables stocking his countertop. He’s also quick to point out the importance of the little things, like the sharp knives and real sea salt. This place is his passion and his face lights up when he talks about the fresh mint he picked or even the 16 1/2 foot Douglas Fir tree that he turned into a dining room table after it fell down in a local forest.
You will find a variety of classes at The London Chef aimed for beginner and advanced cooks. Some recent ones include, “French Bistro,” “Lunch & Learn North Africa” and “Al Fresco Italian.” They even have cooking classes for kids, singles, couples and families, focusing on teaching everyone a little more about the food they eat.
The London Chef is a great stop on a visit to the picturesque British Columbia city of Victoria, where the Hayes can put together a private cooking class for visitors. It’s also quite popular with locals who can pick up light food, bakery items, sauces and stocks to take home and prepare themselves. The London Chef also does catering and is working on introducing dinners with tasting menus that will give attendees more than food to think about. They are located on Fort Street in Victoria. Visit their website for details and hours.
By Marcia Frost